Betty Bronson was an American television and film actress who began her career during the silent film era. She was a famous actress in silent and sound films who is mostly remembered for her role as Peter Pan in the 1924 silent classic “Peter Pan”.
She was born Elizabeth Ada Bronson on November 16, 1906 in Trenton, New Jersey to Frank and Nellie Smith Bronson. She began her film career at age of sixteen with a bit part in the film “Anna Ascends”. At age seventeen she was hand-selected by author J.M. Barrie to play the lead in a film of his work Peter Pan which would be released in 1924. Bronson beat out several Hollywood superstars for the part, most notably Gloria Swanson and Mary Pickford. “Peter Pan” also starred Mary Brian (Wendy Darling) and Esther Ralston (Mrs Darling), and the three of them became very close friends for the rest of their lives. The movie was a huge sucess and propelled Bronson into superstardom. For a few months following “Peter Pan”‘s release, Bronson-mania easily equaled the sort of hysteria previously reserved only for superstar Mary Pickford. Bronson had a major role in the 1925 silent film adaptation of “Ben-Hur” with Ramon Novarro, Francis X. Bushman, and May McAvoy. But her superstar status was short lived after she starred in another Barrie story “A Kiss for Cinderella” (1925), an artfully-made film that failed badly at the box office. Bronson was still popular but never again reached the level of stardom she achieved with “Peter Pan”.
Bronson had moderate success for the rest of her career starring in a few more silent movies before making a very successful transition into sound films. Her first sound film was in “The Singing Fool” (1928) with Al Jolson, and she also starred in the follow-up film “Sonny Boy” (1929) with Davey Lee. She was the leading lady opposite Jack Benny in the romantic drama “The Medicine Man” (1930). 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 “Yodelin’ Kid from Pine Ridge” (1937), starring Gene Autry after which she retired. Bronson resumed acting In the 1960s appearing in episode television roles such as “My Three Sons”, “Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre” and “Grindl”. Bronson also had roles in a couple feature films with her last appearance being an uncredited part in the television biopic “Evel Knievel” (1971).
Betty Bronson died after a protracted illness on October 19, 1971, in Pasadena, California and was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale.