Chancellor, (Lilias) Betty (1910–84), actress, was born 9 January 1910 at 8 Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin, the younger daughter of John William Chancellor, a Dublin clockmaker, jeweller, and photographer, and Cicily Chancellor (née Granger). Educated in Dublin at Nightingale Hall and Alexandra College, she later trained as a secretary. She made her stage debut in 1914 as a fairy in a benefit performance at the Gaiety Theatre, and again performed there as Gweenie in F. Ansty's ‘The man from Blankley's’ in 1922. Having studied drama with Frank Fay (qv), she appeared in the Dublin Drama League's productions in the Abbey Theatre throughout the late 1920s, though it was not until she joined the company of the Gate Theatre that her career took off in earnest; by the early 1930s she had established herself as one of the Gate's principal actresses. In October 1931 she played Naomi alongside the young Orson Welles in a production of ‘Jew Süss’ (based on the novel by Lion Feuchtwanger). Welles was for a time infatuated by her and in later years described her as ‘the sexiest thing that ever lived’. She made her London debut as Biddy Henley in J. B. Fagan's (qv) production of ‘The new gossoon’ by George Shiels (qv) at the Apollo Theatre in 1931. Her most successful roles with the Gate included performances as Ophelia (1932), Laura in a popular production of ‘Carmilla’ (1932, based on the novella by Sheridan Le Fanu (qv)), Toots in ‘Youth's the season’ (1932) by Mary Manning (qv), and Cicely in ‘The importance of being Earnest’ from 1933. She toured with the company and in 1935 played the part of Stella in its production of Lord Longford's (qv) ‘Yahoo’ at the Westminster Theatre, London. Though she appeared in the female lead opposite James Mason in the Gate's 1937 production of ‘Pride and prejudice’, the season was something of a disappointment, and in response to a shortage of rewarding parts she joined Lord Longford's first provincial tour, much to the annoyance of Hilton Edwards (qv) and Micheál MacLiammóir (qv).
In the period that followed Chancellor worked increasingly in London. She received excellent notices for her portrayal of Baby Furze in ‘Spring meeting’ (1938) by M. J. Farrell (Molly Keane (qv)) and John Perry (1906–95) under the directorship of John Gielgud, and in that year was nominated ‘Star of the Future’ by the Daily Mail. In 1940 she appeared with Alec Guinness and Peggy Ashcroft in Clemence Dane's ‘Cousin Muriel’ at the Globe Theatre, yet by 1941 was again acting alongside Hilton Edwards in a production of ‘Caesar and Cleopatra’ by George Bernard Shaw (qv) to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin. Her subsequent return to the ranks of the Gate was welcomed by the press, but aroused tensions within the company as she was then living with Denis Johnston (qv), the husband of Shelah Richards (qv), who was a fellow member. Following his divorce they married in Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, in March 1945, after which she partly withdrew from her acting career to concentrate on bringing up their two sons, Jeremy and Rory Johnston. Chancellor was by then increasingly affected by hearing difficulties which had begun in her teens. She did, however, appear in Johnston 's ‘The moon in the yellow river’ at the Arts Theatre, London (1947); in November 1948 she and her children joined her husband in the USA. There she performed in the title role of Shaw's ‘Candida’ at Amherst College, Massachusetts, c.1950. In 1969 she and Johnston settled in Dalkey, Co. Dublin. She died 27 April 1984 in Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, and was buried in the close of St Patrick's cathedral, Dublin. Her sister Joyce O'Donovan was also an actress.