© National Portrait Gallery, London
by Bassano Ltdwhole-plate glass negative, 1914Given by John Culme, 1996NPG x103060
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Jennifer Linley Taylor
28 October 2015, 19:57
This series of photos are of my Great Aunt Betty Linley. She was born in Malmesbury, England in 1890 as Elizabeth Mouat-Biggs. There is an error here in the spelling of her stage name Linley. I came across this particular photo this morning during a visit to New York City. Last night I went to a play at The Helen Hayes Theater. It got me thinking about my Great Aunt Betty who had been an actress here for many years, and had been in a play with Helen. I decided to google her, and to my surprise I found that her last name had been spelt wrong in quite a few places. I also saw that a number of people seemed to be curious about her and were questioning who she was, but could get no further information, probably because of this error. Betty was 24 in the photo’s that are posted here. I have never seen them before, and although I have many photos and articles about Betty and her career as an actress, these are especially captivating. She was best know for her role in the movie “The Heiress” (1949) and was the only actor from the original cast of the Broadway show asked to be in the film version. Olivia de Havilland won an Academy Award for best actress for her role. I have corresponded with Olivia and she sent me a very lovely letter about her experience's with Betty whilst filming together.
Betty and my Grandmother Mary Linley were both actresses. They left England to tour with a theater company in East Asia at the onset of WWI, probably soon after these photos were taken. It was in Japan that Mary met my Grandfather Albert. They fell in love, and he eventually bought out both of their contracts so that he could marry my Grandmother and Betty could go to New York to pursue her Broadway dreams. Mary moved to Seoul, Korea where her new husband lived. She wrote a book about her adventures called "Chain of Amber".
Betty and Mary chose their stage name Linley after ancestors from the 1700's, a famous musical family, the Linley's of Bath. Elizabeth Linley, a beautiful world-class soprano was married to Richard Brinsley Sheridan and her sister Mary Linley, also a singer, to the poet Richard Tickell. There are several portraits by Gainsborough of them and their younger brother Thomas at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, The Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Clark Museum. Betty and Mary used to dress up in gowns that had been passed down through the generations from Elizabeth Sheridan and Mary Tickell. My Grandmother lost one gown in a fire in Korea and eventually donated the other one to the Fashion Museum in Bath. I still have in my possession one of Elizabeth's shoe's from the 1750's.
Mary's son my Father Bruce Tickell Taylor recently passed away at the age of 96. He wrote a book about his life called "Dilkusha by the Ginko Tree", which was the name of our family home in Seoul, Korea. One of my current projects is that I am working on bringing Mary's book "Chain of Amber" from book to film.
I am so thrilled to have stumbled across these delightful photos of Betty. My Grandmother always used to tell me that I reminded her so much of her elder sister. I regret that I never had the pleasure of knowing her. Betty Linley passed away on May 9th, 1951 in New York City.
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