May Betteridge – Los Angeles Pinup Model

Posted on Posted in Bizarre Personalities

May Isabel Betteridge (1905-1984) was one of the most photographed models in Los Angeles from 1927-1935.  She later became an amateur archaeologist.

She was born in Rhode Island in 1905. Her father, John Thomas Betteridge, came to the U.S. from Ireland and her mother, Mary, immigrated from Britain. The Betteridges married in Massachusetts and had nine children. May was the eighth child. Her family moved from Rhode Island to Portland, Oregon, when she was five-years-old.  Sometime in the 1920s, the family moved to a modest dwelling in Los Angeles. Five of their children, including May, moved with them.

As a teenager, May Betteridge took singing and dancing lessons. When she was 20-years-old, she won a beauty contest that promised a screen test. Although she did not test well, William DeMille hired her as an extra for his film The Splendid Crime (1925). Before long, newspaper photographers began hiring her for cheesecake type photos around town. She proved to be a reliable (if not fearless) model that took on unusual assignments.

 

Betteridge (left) and Eva Parkin cleaning the Selig Zoo‘s totem pole in 1926. Photo: LAPL

 

“The Bees Knees” at the Alhambra apiary of A.L. Boyden, c. 1927. LAPL 00066602

 

May Betteridge at the Alhambra apiary of A.L. Boyden, c. 1927. Bizarre Los Angeles

May Betteridge at the Alhambra apiary of A.L. Boyden, c. 1927. Bizarre Los Angeles

May Betteridge at the Alhambra apiary of A.L. Boyden, c. 1927. Bizarre Los Angeles.

More photos from her photo op at the Alhambra apiary of A.L. Boyden, c. 1927. (LAPL)

 

May Betteridge

In 1928, she appeared in a supporting role in a stage play called “Mojita” performed by the Cordova Street Play Shop. It was an unusual bit of casting, given that the play was about the Mexican Revolution.

 

May Betteridge Pirate
Dressed as pirate for the Pacific-Southwest Exposition in 1928.

 

May Betteridge
On board Commander George Vibert’s Scaramouche yacht, the “flagship of the Newport Yacht Club’s fleet” in 1928.

 

May Betteridge dog and cat
A new dog and cat grooming service in Los Angeles, circa 1929.

Following the Stock Market Crash (and start of the Great Depression) of 1929, Betteridge disappeared from the newspapers for a couple of years. According to the 1930 U.S. Census, she still lived with her mother (Note: Her father had died in 1927). She also stated that she worked as a dancer for motion pictures. Then in 1932, newspapers across the U.S. announced that she had won the “western division of a nation-wide smile contest!” Although the announcement claimed she was 21-years-old, she was really 27.

 

May Betterton Smiling Contest

 

May Betteridge 1932

 

The contest reignited her modeling career. in 1933, she received a major endorsement from Los Angeles photographers, who lauded her brains and beauty.

 

May Betteridge 1933

 

May Betteridge
Modeling a political swimsuit in the early 1930s. In case you are wondering, she was a registered Democrat all of her life.

 

May Betteridge

May Betteridge avocados

 

Miss Gladioli

In 1933, she became the “mascot” of the Gladioli Flower Show in Los Angeles. The following year, she was chosen as Queen of the National Orange Show. Although the crowning took place in San Bernardino, the Orange Show took place in Pamona. At that time, newspapers reported that she was a singer as well as a beauty queen.

 

Orange Show 1934
The defining moment of May Betteridge‘s modeling career: being selected Queen of the 1934 National Orange Show.

 

May Betteridge 1934

Betteridge spent the remainder of the year, making special appearances to share recipes made with oranges. She also modeled for Mobil Oil!

 

May Betteridge Motor Oil

 

By the end of 1935, Betteridge had quietly slipped out of the public eye. According to the 1940 U.S. Census, she worked as an interior decorator. She also claimed that she was 26-years-old despite the fact that she was now 30.

In 1945, during a visit to Mexico, she became fascinated with archaeology after a small girl had given her an ancient doll that she (the child) had found at an excavation site. Betteridge quickly enrolled as a student at the National University in Mexico City during her vacation. She next visited the Valley of Mexico to acquire “authentic clay figurines which…were more than 2000 years old.”  She then brought them back to her apartment at 1131 S. Bronson Ave. and began to make clay replicas of  each figurine for sale and exhibition. Although she returned to Mexico the following three summers to grab more ancient pieces, Mexican law made her amateur archaeological searches cost prohibitive. However, she had already amassed approximately 300 pieces, most of them trinket size.

May Betteridge artist

May Betteridge

In 1959, Betteridge brought her art collection to Bend, Oregon, near where she grew up as a child. She told a local reporter that following her modeling days, she had worked for two years as a food critic for a New York magazine and was keenly interested in possibly investing in health foods. She also said that she had dabbled in real estate, taught ceramics in veteran hospitals, made and sold Mexican jewelry, and collected paintings of Latvian artist Paul Puzinas.

 

May Betteridge, c. 1962.

May Betteridge 1962

 

Betteridge never married nor had any children. In fact, there are no records of her ever being romantically linked to anyone. She passed away in 1984 and is buried in Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills. She was 79-years-old. The whereabouts of her collection of “pre-Mayan” artifacts is unknown.

 

Little God

 

MAY BETTERIDGE RECIPES:

ORANGE FLOWER SOUFFLE

Ingredients:

8 macaroons, crumbled (well-flavored with almonds)

1/2 cup orange blossoms or buds

5 oz. powdered sugar

7 eggs

3/4 cup milk

1 cube butter

Directions:

Place macaroons and orange blossoms or buds into a bowl, pounding them well together. Stir in powdered sugar; set some aside. Add milk slowly. Beat the yolks and whites separately. Add yolks to other ingredients and then stir in lightly the stiff whites. Pour slightly browned butter into the batter, mixing well to color. Transfer to buttered souffle dish and bake in moderate oven. Sprinkle with powdered sugar that was set aside. Serve at once.

NOTE: Make sure orange blossoms or buds have not been sprayed with harmful insecticides.

CRYSTALLIZED ORANGE BLOSSOMS OR BUDS

Ingredients:

1 cup fresh orange blossoms or buds

1/2 tsp. water

1 egg white

Granulated sugar as needed

Directions:

Pick blossoms or buds early in the morning, while fresh. Wash carefully in cold water; allow to dry on absorbent paper. Add water to white of egg and beat until light and fluffy. Dip blossoms or bids in egg white, then in sugar. Place of waxed paper to dry. May be eaten immediately. Place in tightly covered jar to keep fresh.

ORANGE BLOSSOM HONEY SALAD DRESSING

Ingredients:

1/2 cup orange blossom honey

1/2 cup salad oil

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 tblsp. orange juice

1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:

Combine and blend. Serve.

 

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One thought on “May Betteridge – Los Angeles Pinup Model

  1. Great article. I did a little searching and found that in 1925 May attended the Paramount Pictures school. Her name comes up in an article about the school but I cannot find the exact entry because there is no search function for free viewers. The article provides a listing of attendees but her name is not listed (though it appears that the class was in some state of flux with people coming and going). I believe that the smile contest error as to her age is due to the newspaper printing a photo of her at the beach from 1925 during Paramount training. It’s possible she appeared in the movie Fabulous Youth which starred many Paramount graduates. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3814998

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