Tributes have been paid to a star of stage and screen once described as Wednesbury’s answer to Gracie Fields.
Dorothy Davis, whose stage name was Bebe Terry, was a famous music hall star and regularly rubbed shoulders with the likes of actress Binnie Hale, comedian George Robey, and entertainer Jimmy Clitheroe.
Known to friends and family as Dolly, she was born Dorothy Minifie in 1917, in a flat above what was thought to be the first fish and chip shop in Wednesbury, on Alma Street. Her mother Diana had opened it in 1903.
A lively child, she took her first steps towards fame when she started classes as a local dance school to build up strength in her legs to help her recover from diphtheria.
Her teacher thought she was so talented that she arranged an audition with famous child dance troupe Terry’s Juveniles, and the young Dorothy was signed up straight away at the age of 12.
She made first appearance on the North Pier Show in Blackpool for the 1930 summer season at the age of 13.
Bryan Goodwin, the husband of Mrs Davis’ niece Dianne Minifie Goodwin said: “Her speciality was tap dancing and singing the songs of Shirley Temple, and being so tiny, she was never taller than 4ft 10in, she soon won the hearts of an adoring public.”
She became a local star and was likened to Gracie Fields. Her first film was Alexander’s Ragtime Band in 1938, a black and white musical, and a civic reception was held in Wednesbury for her later that year.
As a child she was known as Baby Terry, but later changed it to ‘Bebe’ as she grew up in the spotlight. She became lifelong friends with a host of stars which included Hale, Robey and Clitheroe but also Sir Roger Moore and Harry Secombe.
Mr Goodwin, who lives in Woodford, Cheshire said: “She also appeared in several Royal Command performances, and remembered being admonished by Queen Mary for dancing on stage in trousers.”
It was however following her marriage to pianist Howard Davis in 1952, that Mrs Davis decided to retire.
Mr Goodwin, aged 72, said: “She was only 32, but had been in showbusiness for 20 years. It was the thing you did when you got married, and being on the stage meant she was travelling all over the country, and she wanted to stay with her husband.”
Mr Davis had a teenage son, called Norman from his previous marriage and Mrs Davis spent her time both working in the post office near their home in Bristol, and helping to raise him. When her husband died in 1972 she remained in their home until around 10 years ago when it was damaged by a fire. She then moved to a care home. Sadly her stepson died three years ago, but she had regular visits from her four nephews and her niece until she died.
Mr Goodwin said Mrs Davis was regularly taken out and she was delighted when she met Barbara Windsor backstage at the Bristol Hippodrome where the actress was performing in the 2010 pantomime.
She died, aged 95, on February 2, after a short illness in a care home in Bristol.
Mr Goodwin said: “Doll was bubbly and full of laughter. She will be very greatly missed.”
Her funeral was held at Sandwell Crematorium last Wednesday.Subscribe to our Newsletter