Leaving school at 16, she made her debut in 1936 as a music hall performer at the Floral Hall, Bridlington. Before and during World War II, she took part in variety shows and pantomimes.
She had no formal training but later appeared at the Royal National Theatre in London as a comedy actress. Her first big success came in the BBC radio show Educating Archie as naughty schoolgirl Monica and later as the Brummie, "Marlene". As St Trinian’esc Monica, Beryl would always appear in her gym slip which she claimed was the one she actually wore at school. She said it helped her with the character portrayal. One of her well known catch phrases was, “Oh Jolly hockey sticks”
Her many film and television roles as a character actor were usually well received. She reprised her Tony Award-winning performance of a lesbian soap opera star in The Killing of Sister George for the screen version and was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture Actress in a Drama. The tour of the play was not a success, people in shops refused to serve her and other performers due to the gay characters in the play.
She was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1976 when she was surprised by Eamonn Andrews in the car park of Thames Television’s Teddington Studios.
In both Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Smiley's People Reid played Connie Sachs. For Smiley's People she won a BAFTA for Best Actress on Television. She also wrote an autobiography, So Much Love, which was well received. She played the part of an elderly feminist and political subversive in the 1987 television drama, The Beiderbecke Tapes.
She married twice but had no children.
Beryl died on October 15th 1996