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Betty Bronson

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Betty Bronson as Peter Pan
Betty Bronson as Peter Pan

Betty Bronson (November 17, 1906 – October 19, 1971) was the actress who played Peter Pan in the 1924 silent film Peter Pan. She began her career during the silent film era, made the transition to talkies for a while, then resumed acting in the 1960s, doing television and film work.

Film career

She was born Elizabeth Ada Bronson in Trenton, New Jersey to Frank and Nellie Smith Bronson. She began her film career began at age of sixteen with a bit part in the film Anna Ascends. At seventeen, after she had pleaded with every friend she had at Paramount studios, she finally got an interview with J. M. Barrie, who chose her to play the lead in the 1924 silent film of the play. This role had been sought by both Gloria Swanson and Mary Pickford, but Bronson won the role through her natural lightness and grace, probably refined through training with the Ballet Russes Company. Though she was with them for only a short time, perhaps a couple of weeks, it proved helpful in enhancing her portrayal of Peter Pan, especially in the flight sequences.

Bronson became an instant success in the year following the release of Peter Pan. She had a major role in the 1925 silent film adaptation of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. She had moderate success for the rest of her career. She made a very successful transition into sound films. Her first sound film was in The Singing Fool (1928) with Al Jolson. She also starred in the follow up film called Sonny Boy in 1929. She was the leading lady opposite comedian Jack Benny (in a rare dramatic role) in the 1930 romantic melodrama The Medicine Man.

Bronson continued film roles until 1933 when she married Ludwig Lauerhass, with whom she had one child, Ludwig Lauerhass, Jr. She did not appear in films again until 1937 in Yodelin' Kid from Pine Ridge, starring Gene Autry. She resumed acting in the 1960s appearing in episode television roles and feature films. Her last film role was uncredited part in the 1971 television biopic Evel Knievel.

On October 19, 1971, Bronson died after a protracted illness in Pasadena, California and was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale.

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