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Biographical Register

ROLAND, Betty (1903-1996)

B. 22 July 1903, Kaniva, Vic. M. Ellis Davies, 1922 (separated 1932); de facto wife of Guido Baracchi, marxist scholar and activist (q.v.), 1932-42. 1d. D. 12 February 1996, Sydney.

Spent childhood in Mallee district, writing poems and playlets. Journalist on Sun News-Pictorial before writing first and most acclaimed play, The Touch of Silk, first peformed in 1928. Formed association with wealthy marxist intellectual Guido Baracchi in later 1920s, leaving husband in 1932. With Baracchi, visited Britain and the USSR in 1933-4, working as a journalist on the Moscow Daily News, sharing room with Katherine Susannah Pritchard (q.v.) and keeping diaries which became basis of first volume of autobiography; smuggled literature into Nazi Germany. Returned to Australia 1935; with Baracchi lived in Melbourne for two years, then Sydney, buying land and building a house in Castlecrag and living with Baracchi until relationship broke down. Immersed herself in left wing politics, establishing the New Theatre League; from 1942, wrote radio serials. 1952, to London with daughter, writing television drama and five children’s books. Returned to Aust. in early 1960s, settling in artists’ colony, Montsalvat, outside Melbourne, developing friendship with artist Justus Joegensen and continuing to write for radio. Founding member of Australian Society of Authors, 1963; member of ASA management commmittee; treasurer, 1965; re-elected to committee 1981; honorary life member, 1993.

Plays, radio and movie scripts: The Touch of Silk (play, 1938; 1975); The Spur of the Moment (claimed to be Australia’s first talking movie); 52 episodes of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (radio), A Woman Scorned (radio); Granite Peak (1952); autobiographical: Caviar For Breakfast (1979), The Eye of the Beholder (1984), An Improbable Life (1989), The Devious Being (1990); five children’s books; travel books

ABD, 13 (Baracchi); Australian, 16 Feb. 1996; information from Tom Thompson, 1996.

 

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Editor: Mark Hearn
Editorial committee: Terry Irving, Harry Knowles, Greg Patmore, John Shields

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