Hugh J Ward

  • A Child Among You (Part 2)

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    Arriving in Australia to play the male lead in the British farce Tons of Money for Hugh J. Ward Theatres Pty. Ltd. opposite Dorothy Brunton, English comedian CHARLES HESLOP continues his account of his adventures Down Under in the second instalment of his articles originally written for the London theatrical journal The Stage.

    If Fremantle is Australia then the Paris confection was right, but I think it has been called the Back Door of the Continent, and certainly no great country has a less imposing gateway. Perth, eight miles inland, may be a more representative town. It may be. I own freely that my outlook is soured. It was this way. I had got up at six; hurriedly, because my cabin steward told me the doctor and the passport official were waiting for me. I queued up for both before breakfast. We meant to have a few hours ashore before sailing, but there came a knock at the door and Mr. Carlisle stood before me. Mr. Carlisle is Mr. Hugh J. Ward’s representative in the West. Arrangements altered—production put forward—must leave boat, travel overland by trans-continental train and save two days. All arrangements made. Reception in Perth arranged for Dot Brunton, wife, and self. Car waiting. Ready now? Good heavens, no! All right, how long?

    Great Scott, how long? Packing—farewells—tickets endorsed—PACKING—tips—re-dress for four days in train—and nights—PACKING—how long? Oh, about a fortnight at the present rate of exchange. Where's Peter? (Peter’s the child.) Peter emerges black from games with the stokers, apparently. Packed the soap. Go on without me. We’ll catch you up! Must get those tickets endorsed. Yes, the tickets are packed. Where's the purser? Don't say we've packed the purser! Knock at door. Come in, steward!  Not steward—two gentlemen of the Press. Welcome to Australia—your past life, please—your opinion of Australia? —no, better not—photograph? Ah, yes. Packed in prop basket. Prop-basket? Ah, yes. In hold. Reminds me, must get things from hold. Steward!!

    2 Fremantle Harbour

    Telegrams of welcome awaited at Fremantle, making us feel a little less like strangers in a strange land. One from Mamie Watson, at present in Sydney with the Melbourne record-breaking “O'Brien Girl.” [1]Mamie figures in my Brownie souvenir book, so that we are naturally delighted at her success. We are hoping to pop over to—there we go again. Or, rather, there we do not go. It's these distances. Melbourne to Sydney on my map looks like a pleasant Sunday afternoon stroll; whereas pass me my calipers, my compass, and my ready-reckoner and lo! it is nearly 600 miles!

    3 Savoy HotelThe Savoy Hotel (and Barton’s Ltd., drapers) Hay St., Perth—Savoy Hotel dining room c.1920. State Library of Western Australia, Perth.

    Perth seems a Woolworth sort of town (but, as I said, my outlook is soured at present.) We dined at the Savoy Hotel, and there met—with great pleasure Walter George and Georgie Martin, still running the Smart Set Entertainers (much elaborated), [2] who were so well known in England at about the same time that I was starting my Brownies. [3] They open for a six months’ summer season on October 27 at Perth Olympia—an al-fresco theatre, I understand. The company, twenty strong, and including our old friends Kennedy Allen and Georgie de Lara, had arrived shortly before from Wellington, N.Z. The transport (I mention this to give pause to those record-breakers of your Concert Party pages) cost Mr. George round about £500. [4] Almost a whole fortnight’s C.P. profits in England gone bang! One is apt to over-look the distances out here. And once I travelled from Ayr to Ilfracombe and felt hard done by!

    4 Locomotive posterA locomotive on the Trans-Australian Railway, Western Australia, c.1924. Photo by Michael Terry & poster. National Library of Australia, Canberra.

    We boarded the train in a jovial spirit at 9 p.m. on Thursday, and with only just enough time to change trains at Kalgoorlie, Port Augusta, and Adelaide, emerged in a chastened spirit at Melbourne mid-day the following Monday. Ayr to Ilfracombe, indeed! Thousands of miles with nothing to look at but sunshine and scrub, goats, aboriginals (one came along and obliged us with a boomerang performance, but I don’t think he was in the Aboriginal First XI.), desert sand pervading everything—chiefly one’s eyes—a monotony of corrugated-iron shacks (the “stations”). No wonder we thought wistfully at times of the comfort of the boat—in spite of the Bight, which may not be so bad as the Bark, but which I am assured is frequently worse than the Bay. Still, here we are, speeding along and saving two days. Time is Money. Let’s hope Time is Tons of Money.

    5 Rail haltsImmarna Halt and a track-side shack on the Trans-Australian Railway line, 1924. Photos by Herbert Fishwick. National Library of Australia, Canberra.

    The man who had the job of christening those twenty-nine “stations” between Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta had a pretty formidable task. You see, like crows, they all look alike to me. There's the corrugated-iron affair in duplicate—even in triplicate—there’s a dog or two, a goat (with its back to the shack), and a black-eyed Susan or Sam, revelling in “sin, sand, and sunshine” in the foreground. Sand, of course. Don’t let’s forget the sand. We never did, I must say. Well, then, to call these places something characteristic was a super-man’s job. He started off gaily with Cook and Deakin and Fisher and Hunter—so far, so good, and no doubt a neat way of scoring off political opponents—then Hughes, Haig, and Forrest came fairly easily. After that he wobbled, Rawlinna and Loongana were his last gasp. When the next corrugated-iron outburst in the desert came along, he called it “632 Miles” and passed away.

    6 300 milesNational Library of Australia, Canberra

    It is on a long stretch like this—for 300 miles the railway is one level straight line without bridge, embankment, or culvert, can you picture that?—that one realises the value of trifles. A blue-shirted stockrider galloping on the horizon Tom Mix-like lasted us as a topic of conversation for nearly fifty miles. He was displaced by a sun-set effect which reduced most of us to silence. Yes, it is the little things that tell. If Julius Caesar hadn’t been ordered a change of climate and recommended to try Hastings—if Napoleon hadn’t indulged in a surfeit of lampreys or lampoons or something on the eve of Waterloo—and so on. I myself broke a tooth three days out from Colombo, and realised the same moment that my dentist lives in Adelaide Road, N.W.—not Adelaide, S.A. Who knows what great effects—ah, well! It’s a sore point in any case.

    It is claimed for the trans-continental that it is the finest train in the world. I can well believe it. There are a library, a restaurant, a lounge, and shower-baths aboard. And there is a music-room, complete with piano. Most of the trip there was a young woman heavily involved therein with “The Battle of Prague” (or some such masterpiece of our forefathers), so we’ll say, in the words of Sir Herbert Tree, “BUT a music-room.” Still, it is a wonderful train, although I am not prepared to admit that it is quite the finest in the world. [5]Personally, I much prefer the Hampstead and Highgate, although I have to admit a lack of shower baths on the Highgate branch. In spite of these luxuries time passed slowly. I compute that in the course of this journey across the desert I read twelve novels and the Encyclopaedia Britannica, as well as Peter’s “Jester” and “Merry and Bright” from cover to cover, I ate dozens of meals, had twenty-five shower-baths, two shaves, and a sleep or two. I have discussed with several Australian gentlemen sheep, the Suez Canal, the Gordon Riots, Ned Kelly, and back to sheep. And it’s eight o’clock. No, it’s 8.45. We must put on our clocks three-quarters of an hour each night to make up the difference between Perth and Adelaide time. A pity we can’t put our clocks on the two days that we are here to save!

    7 Dining car

    8 Lounge carNational Library of Australia, Canberra

    I find people get very confused over this difference in time business. Almost each night during the latter half of the sea voyage we pushed our watch-hands on for niggardly amounts. The explanation is, of course, simplicity itself, and if you would like me to show you, I will. You see, it is spring in Australia at present and we left England at our summer’s end. So our watches have to make up six months between Tilbury and Melbourne, the little beggars. Well, then, if your watch says “September 15” at Tilbury—or, put it another way. Say the sun goes down in Dixie a shade more quickly than it does in Brixton. It stands to reason that when your poor mutt of a Waterbury points to sunset, our richly inlaid Ingersoll says 12.30 a.m. or 4.30 or 5.30 or—or even 5.15, as the case may be. It depends chiefly on whether we remembered to wind it up the night before. That once granted, the rest is simple, as Mr. Drage himself. I would explain it to you in two ticks, but unfortunately my watch has stopped.

    9 Port AugustaNational Library of Australia, Canberra

    Between Port Augusta and Adelaide—a Sabbath day’s journey—we occupy wicker basket-chairs in a train which seems to me an infringement of the Swansea-Mumbles Railway copyright. The guard comes along inquiring, not tickets, but whether we prefer beef or mutton. This seems cryptic until at some “halt” (I forget its name) all the passengers make a dash for the doors. We do the same (we are now in the sheep district), and find ourselves sitting down in a farm-like building confronted by three plates of soup—the beef—or mutton—to follow. Twenty minutes heavy work, the bell rings, and we are all fed and smiling and jogging along in the train again. The scenery here is very pastoral, and the long range of low, green hills which accompanies us for miles reminds me irresistibly of golf on the Eastbourne Downs. Five-thirty and out we dash to find the plates of soup waiting for us again. Excellent meals, if rough, and I can't help thinking I am back at one of the “Harvest Hawkies” of my youth, and wondering why the red-faced agriculturist opposite me doesn't burst into “Two Little Girls in Blue, Lads,” or “Goodbye, Dolly Gray,” entirely unaccompanied except by his own confusion. But I expect he’s a millionaire squatter if one only knew the truth, and gets his music out of a gramophone.

    10 Spencer St panoramaA panoramic view of Spencer Street Station, Melbourne, 1923. State Library of South Australia, Adelaide.

    Melbourne! I put on my last remaining clean collar, and there is Mr. Hugh J. Ward on the platform, and cameras and notebooks are snapping and deputations are advancing (I told you Dorothy Brunton is with us, and she's “Our Dot” here, you know!), and reputations are receding and hands and knees are shaking, and it’s Monday, October 22, and we're there!

    Then up speaks Harry Hall, “Say, now: no excuse! Eleven o'clock to-morrow, please. Saturday, we PRODUCE!”

    That will be five weeks since we left London. Some hustle, bo!6


    Compiled by Robert Morrison

    [1]The American musical comedy The O’Brien Girl (music by Louis Hirsch, book and lyrics by Otto Harbach and Frank Mandel) was the inaugural production staged by Hugh J. Ward Theatres Pty. Ltd. and received its Australian premiere on 26 December 1922 at the newly-remodelled Princess Theatre, Melbourne, where it enjoyed a highly successful run of 202 performances over the following 5½ months. The title role of ‘Alice O’Brien’ was played by English musical comedy star, Mamie Watson, who made her Australian debut in the show and subsequently played the female lead of ‘Shirley Dalton’ in Hugh J. Ward’s premiere production of Tangerine (music by Carlo-Sanders, lyrics by Howard Johnson, book adapted by Guy Bolton from a play by Philip Bartholomae and Lawrence Langner) at the Princess from 9 June to 5 September 1923 (closing on the night of its 100th performance.) Ward’s musical comedy company then travelled to Sydney, where it opened in The O’Brien Girl at the Grand Opera House on 15 September and played through to 15 December 1923. The company then returned to Melbourne for the Australian premiere of George M. Cohan’s Little Nellie Kellyat the Princess from 22 December 1923, with Mamie Watson in the title role.

    [2]Walter George’s concert party was billed as the “Sunshine Players” during their Australian and New Zealand tour and the company members included Miss Linda Dale (soprano). Miss Eileen Daglish (soubrette), Miss Kitty Crawford (soubrette), Miss Diana Tabers (solo dancer), Miss Georgia de Lara (dramatic and comedy actress), Miss Georgie Martin (comedienne), Mr. Kennedy Allen (comedian), Mr. Gus. Dawson (dancer), Mr. Fred Moore (bass). Mr. Tubby Stevens (vest-pocket comedian), Yorke Gray (baritone), Robert Raymond (tenor), William Butler (musical director). Tom Belsey (mechanist), and Mr. Walter George (producer). (Ref.: Everyones(Sydney) Vol.4, No.190, 24 October 1923, p.31)

    15 Sunshine PlayersNewspaper advertisement for the commencement of the concert party’s 1923 Perth season. The Call (Perth, WA), 26 October 1923, p.3

    [3]The Brownies concert party was co-founded by Charles Heslop and Ernest Crampton and commenced performing in England in May 1908 at the Castle, Richmond (followed by other British seaside resorts, including Yarmouth and Norwich) with Miss Dorothy Webb at the piano and vocalists, Miss Maud Gardener, Miss Maidie Field, Ernest Crampton (aka Crampton Bryant) and vocalist/comedian, Charles Heslop (joined variously throughout the year by Arthur Longley and Victor Kerr Davidson).

    16 The Brownies smlThe Oriental Room, Bridlington, c.July 1908—(l to r) Dorothy Webb, Maude Gardener, Ernest Crampton, Maidie Field & Charles Heslop

    The Brownies continued to play the British seaside resorts in succeeding years, with various changes of personnel (other than Heslop and Field) and made their London debut in A Yuletide Revel at the Ambassadors’ Theatre for a matinee season from 21 December 1916 to 6 January 1917, after which the company disbanded for the remaining duration of the war when Heslop joined the R.F.A. (Royal Field Artillery.)

    The concert party was revived by Heslop post-war following his return from army service and made sporadic appearances throughout the early 1920s whenever Heslop and Field were otherwise free of engagements in the ‘legitimate theatre’.

    In 1923, Heslop published a “Brownies’ Souvenir”, which included a brief history of the concert party and listed the various performers who had been members of the company down through the years.

    (Ref: The Stage: assorted articles and adverts from 1908 to 1923. With thanks to Tony Liddington of the British Music Hall Society for additional information.)

    [4]Heslop’s quotation of around £500 (British) spent on transportation costs from Wellington, New Zealand to Perth, W.A. in late 1923 would be of equivalent value to £24,388 in today’s currency, or $45,782 (Australian.) (Ref: )

    [5]The following facts and figures were reported in a newspaper article published in late 1923.

    The Trans-Australian Railway

    The Trans-Australian Railway, which was opened for through traffic on 17th October, 1917, runs for a distance of 1051 miles across Australia connecting the East with the West. The length of the line is practically the same as that of the combined railways from Sydney to Adelaide, and it is the only railway in Australia the plate-laying of which was carried out by machinery, “Roberts” tracklayers being used for the purpose. Being essentially an Australian railway, it is appropriate that the first rails manufactured in Australia should have been used in its construction. Of these rails-of which 140,000 tons were absorbed—16,000 tons were made by J. & C. Hoskins Limited at Eskbank. The Broken Hill Proprietary Limited also supplied from its Newcastle works 42,000 tons. The fish-plates, spikes, bolts and nuts, crossings, etc., were all of Australian manufacture, and two and a half million sleepers were the product of Australian forests …

    The Trans-Australan “through” passenger trains make three trips each way per week, and a very high standard of comfort and speed is maintained. World-wide travellers are not sparing in words of praise, and of the hundreds of expressions of appreciation the following may be taken as typical:—

    The Prince of Wales, in writing of the Trans-Australian railway, said: “The railway struck me as being extremely well managed and equipped, and the journey interested me very much.”

    17 Observation carEdward, Prince of Wales (centre) on-board in 1920. National Library of Australia, Canberra.

    General Birdwood said: “I do not think I could have been more comfortable. The trip was full of interest.”

    Another traveller said: “I have travelled in many parts of the world, and I do not know in any service more careful attention to the travelling public, or more efficient working.”

    Another: “I have travelled in most of the famous European expresses, and this year crossed North America by the N.Y. Central and C.P.R. Your cars exceed anything I experienced in America in comfort.”

    The trains are electrically lighted throughout, and first-class sleeping cars have a special reading lamp at the head of every berth, and there is also an electric fan in each compartment. The first class sleeping cars have two berths in the compartment, and the second class four berths. There is a shower bath on each train for the use of first class passengers free of charge. Undoubtedly a feature of the train is the beautiful lounge car with smoking and non-smoking saloons, each fitted with writing and card tables, stationery, etc. Every day a telegraphed summary of important news is made available in the lounge car at certain stations. A piano with music and songs is provided in each of the lounge cars, and the convenience is much appreciated by the passengers. This is a unique provision not only in Australia but in the rest of the world; and a famous pianist who journeyed across the railway recently wrote:-- “I have played in many extraordinary places, but never in a train before.”

    The design of the train permits of passengers moving about freely, and it is not long before all are on good terms with each other. There is a commodious dining car on each train, where first class meals throughout the journey are provided at reasonable rates. After dinner, coffee is served in the lounge. Early morning tea is brought to each first class sleeping car compartment, and afternoon tea is provided for first class passengers in the lounge car. Mail steamers from the United Kingdom arrive at Fremantle fortnightly. Passengers may leave by rail on the same day for the Eastern States, arriving in, say, Melbourne it least 48 hours earlier than by continuing the journey by steamer. Passengers for the United Kingdom may leave Sydney on Sunday, arriving at Fremantle on Friday in good time to connect with the steamer. The Sydney passenger thus saves three days by travelling on the railway.

    In journeying from Brisbane to Perth the disadvantages and the expense involved in the break of gauge are brought home forcibly to the travellers. The Trans-Australian railway provides an illustration of what would be possible if the lines were all of one gauge. At the present time all goods, mails, etc., have to be transhipped at Wallangarra, Albury, Terowie, Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie. Fortunately the passengers shift for themselves, but the inconvenience of leaving a comfortable compartment and perhaps being separated from friends made on the journey are nevertheless apparent. This, of course, will have to be rectified, and with that rectification will come a considerable saving in time and money, and an increase in the comfort of travelling.

    The climate of the country traversed by the Trans-Australian railway is undoubtedly good. There is probably no better winter climate in the world, the sun, which shines from a cloudless blue sky, imparting a gentle warmth to the body. The summer days are inclined to be warm; but if the day temperature in the middle of summer is high, the nights are invariably made cool by the breeze from the Antarctic which sweeps the Nullarbor towards the close of the day.

    The Horsham Times(Vic.), Friday, 2 November 1923, p.4 [extracts],

    [6] With the premiere of Tons of Money set for Saturday, 27 October, Charles Heslop, Dorothy Brunton and Maidie Field (Mrs. Heslop) had less than a week in which to join with the rest of the cast for the final rehearsals before the opening, as noted in the following newspaper item.

    "Tons of Money"

    Dorothy Brunton’s Return

     A season of quick-action farce comedy will be entered upon at the Palace Theatre on Saturday, when Mr. Hugh J. Ward will present the London laughter-maker, “Tons of Money.” Everybody in the play makes money, and it has brought fortunes also to its authors, Arthur Valentine and Will Evans, and its backers, one of whom was Tom Walls, well remembered in Australia as the original Peter Doody of “The Arcadians.” From the first performance in London considerably over a year ago, “Tons of Money” has never flagged, and is still going strong. At least four companies are also playing it on tour.

    Dorothy Brunton has come back to Melbourne for the new production. She arrived from London on Monday after a lengthy absence spent at work and holidaying in America and England, during which she played in the piece in which she is to make her reappearance here. With her is Charles Heslop, a young English comedian, who is to play the leading role. “Tons of Money” is not a musical comedy, so that the interest in Miss Brunton’s return is not only in seeing her again on the stage, but in observing how she is suited to a class of play that she has not previously done in Australia. A particularly strong cast has been rehearsing the comedy under Mr. Harry Hall’s direction, but as both the principals are already familiar with their parts, everything will be in readiness for the opening on Saturday.

    Harry Hall, who is producing “Tons of Money” for Mr. Hugh J. Ward, is just as much at home in handling straight comedy as he is with musical shows like “The O’Brien Girl,” “Tangerine,” and “Rockets.” Before coming to Australia, he directed a number of plays of the lighter type, including “Turn to the Right” and “Potash and Perlmutter.” “Tons of Money” is taken at a much faster tempo than either of those comedies; in fact, speed is the essence of its humor. But Mr. Hall is experiencing no difficulty in getting hold of the technique of the piece.

    The Sporting Globe,(Melbourne), Wednesday, 24 October 1923, p.13, 


  • Little Wunder: The story of the Palace Theatre, Sydney (Part 10)

    IMG 0761 palce theatre no 3

    In Part 10 of her history of Sydney’s Palace Theatre, ELISABETH KUMM focusses on the year 1909, which saw the return of several favourite drama companies, numerous premieres, and a ‘mixed bag’ of melodramas, comedies, films, songs, sketches and concerts.

    With thepantomime season over, Edwin Geach’s Premiere Dramatic Organisation continued their season at the Palace on Saturday, 16 January 1909 with the drama The Broken Home by Lingford Carson, for the first time in Australia. Though advertisements called it ‘the very latest London and American success’, this seems to be something of an exaggeration. The only noteworthy performance of the play was at the Pavilion Theatre in London’s East End in 1902 where it played under the title The Drama of Life and with different character names.1

    With a somewhat conventional storyline, the plot sees the heroine, Myrtle Denton, tricked into believing that her former husband (a bad lot) is alive. As a result, she forsakes her husband and child. Though it all works out in the end, her son ends up in the hands of slavers and her second husband seeks solace in drink.

    Over the past five months Edwin Geach had experienced a run of personal misfortune. In September 1908, his manager Adam Cowan died following a short illness, and in December 1908 his business partner J.F. Sheridan also died. Now it seems he had ‘lost’ his leading man. On opening night Jefferson Taite, who was to go on as the hero of the drama, was injured in a traffic accident. Although he was not badly hurt, he was not fit enough to perform. By chance, Geach met W.J. Montgomery in the street and persuaded him to go on in Taite’s place.

    Mr. W.J. Montgomery had not seen it [the script] until half an hour before he came on the stage. And yet he managed to throw so much vigour into the parts that called for it—so much anger into the quarrels, so much fight into the struggles—that the piece hardly suffered. Once in the throes of some awkward passage, with his eyes on the book, he shook his wife’s hand politely when he left her for a minute. But the audience understood. It cheered him again and again during the piece; and called up the curtain for him and the heroine at the end. To read at sight a long part on a first night was a plucky thing to do; and it succeeded.2

    Montgomery was on his way to Tasmania with Harry Robert’s company, so he was unable to remain in the role, and on the Monday night, the part of Harry Denton was assumed by Harry Diver ‘with much ability’. Other roles were played by Nellie Fergusson (Myrtle Denton), with Kenneth Hunter, Thomas Curren and J.P. O’Neill as the chief villains, and Helen Fergus as Mother Flanagan, the child-stealer. The Broken Home played to capacity audiences until the 29 January.

    The final week of the season saw a revival, ‘by special request’, of A Modern Adventuress, for four nights, and East Lynne for the last two nights.

    On Friday, 5 February, a Grand Complimentary Matinee was tendered to Harry Diver by Messrs Geach and Marlow, with principal artists from all the Sydney theatres participating. Harry Diver performed a ‘powerful dramatic sketch’ with his wife, Helen Burdette.

    Saturday, 6 February saw a performance of Flotow’s opera Marthaby the Mosman Musical Society, under the baton of A.H. Norman.

    The Sydney Muffs returned on 11 and 12 February with Romeo and Juliet. Romeo was played by Mr. Cam Marina. Juliet was performed by Sara Collins on the first night and Elsie Prince on the second night. The cast included the special engagement of Clara Stephenson (Mrs. Henry Bracy) as the Nurse. The Muffs would return, on Friday, 12 March, with As You Like It, with Elsie Prince as Rosalind. As You Like Itwas repeated on the Saturday matinee, and Romeo and Juliet was performed in the evening with Sara Collins again as Juliet.

    Meanwhile, on Saturday, 13 February, Clyde Meynell and John Gunn took over the lease of the theatre. They opened their season with the first Sydney production of The Old Folks at Home by J.A. Campbell, first performed in England in 1907. Campbell was also the author of The Little Breadwinner, performed by the M&G company in Perth and Melbourne during 1908, but yet to reach Sydney.

    The cast for The Old Folks at Homewas headed by Beatrice Holloway and Conway Wingfield. In a title suggestive of the 1851 Stephen Foster song, the play, a story of the ‘old South’, featured a special musical number performed by the children of the ‘Tin Can Band’ (originally featured in The Fatal Wedding), including Little Queenie Williams with a ‘coon melody’ and Maggie Dickinson with a ‘banjo song’. This play had first been performed by the Meynell and Gunn company during their New Zealand tour (September 1908) and had been given its Australian premiere in Hobart (November 1908).

    The Old Folks at Home proved popular with Sydneysiders and held the stage until Tuesday, 9 March.

    In the months that followed, Meynell and Gunn made final arrangements for what was publicised as ‘the most important theatrical event in the history of Australia’: the tour of Oscar Asche and Lily Brayton and their entire London company. Sadly, two and a half weeks into the opening season, on 20 October 1909, Oscar Asche announced from the stage of the Criterion Theatre, the cancellation of the performance due to the unexpected death of John Gunn. He was only 39 years of age. A nephew of the celebrated Dublin-based theatre manager Michael Gunn, he had first visited Australia with comedian J.L. Toole’s company in 1890. Returning to England, he worked for Richard D’Oyly Carte in London, and during 1894/95, managed the London and New York stagings of W.S. Gilbert’s His Excellency. Thereafter he worked as stage manager for George Edwardes, and in 1904 he returned to Australia as General Manager on behalf of Herbert Beerbohm Tree, with The Darling of the Gods and other plays starring Julius Knight and Maud Jeffries. In Australia, in 1905, he partnered with Clyde Meynell to produce The J.P. with J.J. Dallas and Florence Lloyd. The following year, they presented the highly successful drama The Fatal Wedding. Since March 1908, Sir Rupert Clarke and John Wren had joined Meynell and Gunn as joint directors.

    The following week, on Wednesday, 17 March, for five nights only, Charles MacMahon and E.J. Carroll presented a short return season of their latest attraction, the film-version of For the Term of His Natural Life. This was the first of many motion pictures based on the Marcus Clarke novel. Filmed over four months in early 1908, it comprised a collection of highlights from the novel, beginning in England with the wrongful conviction of Rufus Dawe of murder, his transportation to Van Diemen’s Land, his escape, his reunion with his long-lost sweetheart, and their deaths when the boat they are in sinks during a storm. Following a private viewing at the Standard Theatre in Sydney on 18 June 1908, the film toured throughout the states, beginning at the Adelaide Town Hall on 4 July 1908 (under the direction of J. & N. Tait). It reached Sydney in August 1908 where it enjoyed an eight-week season at the Queen’s Hall. The bill at the Palace was augmented by the addition of other short films being screened for the first time.

    nlnzimage 21908 tour program. National Library of New Zealand.

    On Wednesday, 24 March, Leo, Jan and Mischel Cherniavski commenced a short farewell season as part of their British Empire Tour, under the direction of Edward Branscombe. Described as the ‘Russian Wonder-Children’, the brothers played violin, piano and ‘cello respectively. They performed works from the classical repertoire, including Bach, Liszt, Grieg and Schubert, with a complete change of program each evening. In addition, the contralto Madame Marie Hooton and the baritone Mr. Percival Driver, also appeared.

    The theatre remained dark for a few nights pending the appearance of The Dudley Dramatic Club on 1 and 2 April. The company performed a new four act comedy-drama, A Secret Weddingby Joseph L. Goodman, for the first time on any stage. Joseph Goodman was a manager for Spencer at the Sydney Lyceum and brother of George L. Goodman, business manager at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Sydney. The piece was well received, notably Harry Whaite’s fourth act set which depicted the Thames at Maidenhead. Reviewing the play, the Sydney Morning Herald (2 April 1909, p.8) noted:

    The new piece, though evidently the work of a clever man, suffers from a want of homogeneity, the first half of it taking the form of a drawing-room melodrama, and the second half of sentimental comedy. The latter portion was the better written, containing more than one pretty love-scene.

    Included among the cast of players were two interesting names: Nellie Wilson and Harald Bowden. The first performed with Pollard Juvenile company as a youngster, and the second would become a senior director of J.C. Williamson Ltd.

    From Saturday, 3 April, Allan Hamilton took up the lease of the Palace launching his new dramatic company in a seven-week season. The leads included George Cross, G.P. Carey, Ada Guildford and Maud Chetwynd. George Cross and Ada Guildford, formerly with William Anderson’s company, were husband and wife. They married in 1905 following a sensational divorce, when Ada’s former husband, William Mount, sued her for ‘misconduct’ with Cross. Sensation on stage and off!

    The company opened with the first Australian production of Queen of the Night. Described as a ‘Romantic Sensational Drama of Exceptional Power and Interest’ by F. Thorpe Tracy and Ivan Berlin, the play, first performed in England in 1897, told the story of a bigamous adventuress.

    The cast included Ada Guildford as Pauline, the adventuress; George Cross as Ralph Featherstone, a man of ‘sterling qualities’ who falls into the clutches of the ‘Queen of the Night’; and Wilton Power as the villainous first husband. During the second act, Maud Chetwynd sang a ‘couple of catchy songs’, including, for the first time in Australia, ‘Who’s for England’ composed by Frank Eugarde, with words by W.T. Goodge. The play featured elaborate scenery by Harry Whaite, and spectacular mechanical effects including a storm and a train at full speed.

    Queen of the Nightwas performed until 23 April. It was replaced by a revival of In the Ranks. A stirring military drama by G.R. Sims and Henry Pettitt, first performed in the UK in 1883 (and in Australia in 1884), it was anticipated that it would ‘come out as almost a new work to the present generation of playgoers’. Presented by arrangement with George Rignold, who produced and starred in the first Australian production, the lead roles of Ned Drayton and Ruth Herrick were played by George Cross and Ada Guildford. Harry Whaite’s scenery was praised for its beauty, particularly his tableau of Dingley Wood by moonlight, and although the stage resources at the Palace ‘could not quite furnish one of the great productions which George Rignold used to provide in the palmy period of his rule at Her Majesty’s … the whole thing was surprisingly well done on the smaller stage’.3

    In the Ranks was played until 11 May. A Message from Mars was revived for the final two nights, with George Cross as Horace Parker, Wilton Power as The Messenger from Mars, and Rosemary Rees as Minnie Templar.

    On Saturday, 1 May 1909, at the matinee, a performance of Out on the Castlereagh was performed by J. Clarence Lee’s Australian Company. Written by Lee, this new play, ‘a story of Australian country life’ was well received, with the Sunday Times (2 May 1909, p.2) observing that ‘the varying types and scenes and incidents of the bush are well worked out, and were very creditably acted by the artists engaged’. The cast was made up of members of the Playgoers Dramatic Club, including Reginald Goode, Lilian Booth and Sidney Buckleton. An enthusiastic audience packed the theatre, and in response to demands, it was restaged at the Royal Standard Theatre for a further five performances from 31 May. It seems the Playgoers Club had been founded by Lee in 1908 and in an interesting aside, the secretary was Agnes Chambers, sister of the playwright Haddon Chambers, and she also conducted the orchestra. Lee would return on 18 September with his play The Marrying of Ma, which he also directed, first performed at the Palace back in 1906. The cast included Lilian Booth, Reginald Goode, and Elsie Prince of the Sydney Muffs.

    From Saturday, 15 May 1909, West’s Pictures returned for the winter season, with new films screened every week.

    After four months of films, melodrama returned to the stage of the Palace when George Marlow’s dramatic company commenced their season on 25 September 1909. They opened with the sensational Married to the Wrong Man by Frederick Melville.

    Edwin Geach had recently sold his interests to Marlow, and as such the company now bore his name, making him, at 33 years of age, the youngest theatrical manager in Australia. He had re-launched the company in Adelaide during August/September 1909 when Married to the Wrong Manwas given its Australian premiere.

    The company included many old favourites and some new faces. Nellie Fergusson and Kenneth Hunter played the lead roles of Ruth and Captain Gladwin, while J.P. O’Neill appeared as Jasper Skinner, with Hilliard Vox, making his first appearance in Sydney, as Captain Deering. The plot revolves around Ruth, the heroine, who, forced to marry a man she does not love, is eventually sold to another man, and finally accused of murder. The play ends with a dramatic trial scene at the Old Bailey.

    Married to the Wrong Man played proved a crowd-pleaser and played until 29 October. Notching up five weeks, it set a record for any one piece of melodrama at the Palace, auguring well for Marlow’s venture into management.

    East Lynne was revived for the final week of the season, from 30 October to 5 November.

    Marlow’s company then left for a short tour to Mugee and Newcastle. During their absence, Edward Branscombe’s Scarlet Troubadours began a two-week farewell season prior to their return to England. The ‘merry costume entertainers’ opened on 6 November 1909 with ‘new music scenas, travesties, and humorous sketches’. Since they last appeared at the Palace, the line-up had been reinforced by the addition of Gertrude Parker (soubrette) and Claude Leplastrier (art humourist), while Maude Fane and Edgar Warwick were warmly welcome back.

    The 20 November saw George Marlow’s company back in residence, having returned from a brief tour of country NSW, bringing with them another new melodrama, The Heart of a Hero by Lingford Carson. Advertised as the ‘Story of a Woman’s Sorrow and a Man’s Devotion’, this piece contained the usual ingredients of melodrama: abduction, murder, arrest of an innocent girl, the self-accusation of the hero, and a dramatic prison escape. Edwin Geach’s company had been performing it throughout New Zealand and Australia since May 1908, and this was the first Sydney production. The principal roles were performed by Kenneth Hunter (Jem Resdale), Nellie Fergusson (Nell Resdale), Hilliard Vox (Wilfred Marle), and Ethel Buckley (Susie Slack).

    The Heart of a Hero was performed until 3 December.

    This was followed on 4 December, for the first time in Australia, The Wedding Ring, a ‘great military and domestic play’ by Ben Landeck, presented in sixteen tableaux painted by scenic artist Ray Phillips (brother of vaudevillian Nat Phillips). With a story of love, conspiracy and revenge, The Wedding Ring proved popular, particularly the railway smash ‘in which the collision is vividly shown, with the wreckage and subsequent sufferings’.4 The cast included Nellie Fergusson as the heroine, Kenneth Hunter as the hero, and Hilliard Vox as the chief villain. To promote the show, Marlow distributed ‘ten thousand gilt wedding rings (packed in little boxes)’. As indicated by a notice in the daily papers, the gold ring sent to him as a memento of the original London production was mistakenly given away among the souvenirs. A £5 reward was offered. A reward was still being offered when the play reached Adelaide in February 1910, but the finder’s fee had been reduced to £2.

    Wedding Ring DT 4 Dec 1909

    From The Daily Telegraph, 4 December 1909, p.2

    The Wedding Ring played until 17 December. Married to the Wrong Man was revived, 18–21 December. And East Lynne saw out the season, being playing for two nights on 22 and 23 December.

    Marlow’s first season as manager of a company was a huge success, with suggestions in the press that he would need ‘a specially armoured train’ to cart away all the gold he had made. And to ensure his continued success, Marlow had purchased new dramas from England, and ‘is building up a fine repertoire for his Sydney and Melbourne audiences’.5


    The year ended with the first appearance of Hugh J. Ward’s company (under the auspices of Allan Hamilton), bringing with them the much-anticipated comedy A Bachelor’s Honeymoon. The piece had its Australian premiere in Perth in May 1909, the troupe having toured India and China with much success. Thereafter, the play had been seen in Melbourne and New Zealand, prior to reaching Sydney at Christmas time. It had first been performed in New York in 1897 at Hoyt’s Theatre, with Max Figman, M.A. Kennedy, W.J. Ferguson, Isabel Waldron, Berenice Wheeler and Eleanora Allen as the key mirth makers.

    At the Palace, A Bachelor’s Honeymoon opened at the matinee on 27 December to a packed holiday audience. The story involved the misadventures of much married widower, Benjamin Bachelor, who wishes not only to keep his former marriage from his new wife, an actress, Juno Joyce, but also keep his family, including his two grown-up daughters, ignorant of his betrothal. The company boasted a ‘brilliant’ line-up, with Hugh J. Ward as Benjamin Bachelor, Grace Palotta as his new wife, Celia Ghiloni as his sister, Ruby Baxter and Florence Redfern as his twin daughters, and Rose Musgrove as Marianne, the maid. Other characters were filled by Robert Greig, Arthur Eldred, H.H. Wallace and Reginald Wykeham. A Bachelor’s Honeymoon played until 11 February 1910.


    To be continued



    1. According to Allardyce Nicoll, The Drama of Life by Lingford Carson was given a copyright performance at the Colosseum, Oldham on 21 March 1901; it was first performed at the Prince of Wales’s Theatre, Mexborough, 27 July 1901; and given its first London production at the Pavilion Theatre, 4 August 1902. It was later called Undamaged Goods. I have not been able to find reference to it being performed in the USA under any of these titles. Interestingly, when the Geach company performed the play in Adelaide in August 1909, it was under the title: The Drama of Life; or, The Broken Home.

    2. Sydney Morning Herald, 18 January 1909, p.3

    3. Sydney Morning Herald, 26 April 1909, p.3

    4. Sunday Times, 12 December 1909, p. 2

    5. Sydney Sportsman, 15 December 1909, pp.2 & 3


    T.D.M. de Warre, Through the Opera Glasses: Chats with Australian stage favourites, Sydney, [1909]

    Allardyce Nicoll, English Drama 1900–1930: The beginnings of the modern period, Cambridge University Press, 1973

    J.P. Wearing, The London Stage, 19001909: A calendar of productions, performers, and personnel, 2nd edition, Rowman & Littlefield, 2014


    The Bulletin (Sydney), The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), The Sunday Times, Sydney Mail, The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney Sportsman



    Australian Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne

    National Library of Australia, Canberra

    National Library of New Zealand, Wellington

    State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

    State Library Victoria, Melbourne

    With thanks to

    John S. Clark, Judy Leech, Rob Morrison, Les Tod


  • Little Wunder: The story of the Palace Theatre, Sydney (Part 11)

    Palace banner 2

    During 1910 the Palace Theatre enjoyed much prosperity, from the polished performances of the Hugh J. Ward company to the mighty melodramas of Bland Holt performed by the Hamilton-Maxwell Dramatic Company. ELISABETH KUMM continues her history of the Pitt Street playhouse.

    With thearrival of Hugh J. Ward’s company, Ward was heralded as ‘A New Australian Manager’. Since his first appearance in Australia in 1899, as a member of the Hoyt-McKee company, American-born Ward had proved a popular actor and dancer, and his shift to management was a welcome move. In 1906, in association with George Willoughby, his English company had undertaken an eighteen-month tour of Australasia with the comedy The Man from Mexico. Having returned to London in 1908, he organised his own company, touring India, Burma, China, and the Straits Settlements. An article in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph (1 January 1910, p.6) noted:

    In the tour in the East, just concluded, he was his own financier and manager; his knowledge of stage craft and long experience of the theatre enabled him to direct the production of his plays; and in the ultimate result, the box office receipts showed that the venture was, in a pecuniary sense, thoroughly successful. So far as the artistic merits of the productions are concerned, Sydney audiences who are enjoying the brisk acting of a talented, all-round company in “A Bachelor’s Honeymoon” will have but one opinion.

    The Company’s first offering, A Bachelor’s Honeymoon, kicked off the 1909 Christmas season at the Palace, playing for a jolly six weeks. It was followed on 11 February 1910 by VIvian’s Papas, a farcical comedy by Leo Ditrichstein, that was described as a twin to A Bachelor’s Honeymoon on account of its ‘mirth-provoking qualities’. Vivian’s Papas had received its Australian debut during Hugh J. Ward’s initial Perth season, where it played several nights at the Theatre Royal from 12 June 1909.

    Palace Ward CoMembers of the Hugh J. Ward company on tour in the East. Hugh Ward is in the centre, with Grace Palotta to the left. From The Mirror, 21 May 1909, p.15.

    Ditrichstein’s farce had premiered in New York in August 1903. The principal roles were played by Hattie Williams as Vivian Rogers, an actress who attracts the attention of two admirers or ‘papas’—Chester D. Farnham and Frederick W. Walker—played by comedians John C. Rice and Thomas A. Wise. In this production, the role of Alice Farnham, Chester’s wife, was played by Esther Tittell, a sister of actress Tittell Brune. Mixing comedy, drama and song, the play’s big attraction was a Wagnerian/grand opera spoof set against a realistic fire scene.

    At the Palace, Grace Palotta had the titular role, renamed Vivian Gay, with Arthur Eldred and Hugh J. Ward as the two papas. As the piece contained several songs, tenor Walter Whyte was specially engaged to play one of the singing firemen; W.B. Beattie, another singer formerly with Williamson’s Royal Comic Opera Company, played the role of Edouard Pollak, a singing teacher. Ward’s wife, Grace Miller Ward (who would go on to establish herself as a noted Sydney-based singing teacher) paired with Whyte for the operatic fire scene. Maud Chetwynd (previously seen at the Palace with Allan Hamilton’s Dramatic Company in 1909) played the small role of Carrie the housemaid.

    The fire scene provided an exciting climax to the play’s first act, with the Sydney Morning Herald (13 February 1910) observing: ‘Machinery recently imported from the United States provides a remarkable illusion, and it is hard to believe that the stage is not a mass of flames.’

    Palace Musgrove GhiloniFrom Table Talk (Melbourne), 1 July 1909, p.21. Author’s collection.

    Vivian’s Papas played for just a week, closing on 18 February 1910. With the end of the season fast approaching, The Fencing Master (for the first time in Sydney) and The Man from Mexico(first introduced during the 1906 Willoughby-Ward tour), were performed for a week each. The first named play was a far cry from the antics of the two former plays. It was a serious drama, which provided Ward with the opportunity to show his versatility as an actor. A comedy-drama in three acts by Herbert Hall Winslow, the play was described by Ward as ‘one of the most beautiful and interesting plays I have ever had or seen’.1 Ward played the title character, Angelo Rossi, an Italian nobleman who has emigrated to New York after killing a man in a duel. When his son seeks to marry a young lady (Grace Palotta) of an upright family, the father of another man (W.B. Beattie) also after her affections, recognises Rossi as the man in the duel, thereby jeopardising the son’s chances of a good marriage. 

    The Fencing Master had received its premiere by Ward’s company in Calcutta in April 1909. According to Variety (May 1909), it ‘established a record for an opening of an American piece in point of distance from Broadway’. The same article noted that the play had been handed over to Ward without a title and ‘The Fencing Master’ had been selected by the players. It is not clear if the play was ever produced in America as the title had already been assigned to another work—Reginald de Koven’s 1892 opera—and would have been given another name. The piece received its first Australian outings in Perth in June 1909 and in Melbourne in August 1909.

    The Man from Mexico, the comedy by George Broadhurst, that was the hit of the 1906 Willoughby-Ward season, brought the company’s Palace season to a close. Hugh Ward repeated his success as the ‘picturesque liar who talks about his adventures in Mexico so as to account for his absence from home while he has been serving a sentence in gaol’.2 The audience demanded repeated encores of his song ‘Nobody’ (written by Alex Rogers, with music by Bert A. Williams, and first published in 1905). Grace Palotta and Reginald Wykeham reprised their roles, along with Celia Ghiloni and Maud Chetwynd.

    Palace Roaring CampNellie Fergusson (Jovita de Sutro), Harry Diver (Tom Barnes), Ethel Buckley (Nell), Kenneth Hunter (Dick Gordon) in The Luck of Roaring Camp. Photos by Talma. From Punch (Melbourne), 10 February 1910, p.185.

    With the departure of Hugh J. Ward, George Marlow’s company made a welcome return. They began their season on 5 March 1910 with the first Sydney production of The Luck of Roaring Camp, a melodrama in four acts by Benjamin Landeck, set on the Californian goldfields. It was apparently adapted from a story by American novelist Bret Harte (‘America’s Charles Dickins’), however, reviews soon revealed that the title was the only similarity. The Daily Telegraph, for example, noted, Landeck’s play ‘bears not the faintest resemblance to Bret Harte’s well-known story of the that name … It relates not to the doings of Oakhurst, the gambler; Stumpy, the good-natured Kentuck, and the rest of them, but the schemes of one Tom Barnes to obtain undisputed possession of a certain hidden mine, and to destroy the happiness of Will Gordon and Nell Curtis—persons who are conspicuously absent from the pages of Bret Harte’.3

    Landeck’s play had first been performed in London at the Fulham Theatre in March 1909, and in Australia in January 1910 during George Marlow’s Adelaide season.

    Ethel Buckley played the heroine, Nell (she was to repeat the role in a 1911 film-version of the play), with Nellie Fergusson as the Spanish adventuress, Jovita de Sutro, who along with Tom Barnes, played by Harry Diver, is one of the villains of the piece. Kenneth Hunter proved popular with audiences as Will Gordon, the hero, and J.P. O’Neill provided ‘a good deal of merriment’ as Mary Flynn, ‘a buxom dame’ who has buried two husbands.4

    Palace audiences did not mind that the play had little to do with Bret Harte’s original story. It attracted packed houses, with Marlow reportedly turning people away each night. It played for the full three weeks of the season, after which the company departed for Western Australia.

    On Easter Saturday, the Allan Hamilton-Max Maxwell Dramatic Company opened their season at the Palace. Following the retirement of Bland Holt, the sole rights to some of his greatest successes were secured by the new partnership of Hamilton and Maxwell. Allan Hamilton was a well-known and respected theatre manager, whose dramatic company had played at the Palace in 1909. Max Maxwell, a Tasmanian-born actor, had been with the Bland Holt company for 14 years, starting off in bit parts and graduating to leading man.

    The company’s repertoire of plays included Woman and Wine, In London Town, Revenge, The Lights o’ London and Woman’s Hate. They also acquired the original scenery for these plays, painted by John Brunton, who had only recently died, in July 1909, aged 60. English-born Brunton had been in Australia since 1886, having been engaged by Willliamson, Garner and Musgrove at the Theatre Royal in Melbourne, painting backdrops for everything from Gilbert & Sullivan to pantomime and drama. By the early 1890s, he was also working on cloths for other managements, and in 1896 he had replaced W.B. Spong as scenic artist with Bland Holt. During his fifteen years with Holt, he painted the scenes for a raft of melodramas. In addition to the five selected for revival, they included The Cotton King, The Union Jack, The Prodigal Daughter, A Life of Pleasure, Straight from the Heart, Sporting Life, The Breaking of the Drought, The White Heather, The Great Millionaire and The Great Rescue. He was working on The Sins of Society at the time of his death.

    Actors were drawn principally from the Bland Holt company, including Harrie Ireland, Jennie Pollock, Arthur Styan, Godfrey Cass and Charles Brown, while Beatrice Holloway was from the Hamiliton company.

    Hamilton and Maxwell launched their Sydney season with Woman and Wine, a melodrama by Arthur Shirley and Benjamin Landeck. Bland Holt’s staging was carefully observed, and the play was presented in true ‘Blandholtian’ style. Set pieces included the Longchamps Steeplechase, the Japanese Ball, and the spectacular revolving set to the Paris Flower Market, which featured a duel with knives between two women!

    Palace Woman Wine From The Star (Sydney), 11 April 1910, p.8Woman and Wine was initially produced in 1897 at the Pavilion Theatre in London, and in March 1899 at the Princess’s Theatre.

    When Bland Holt first staged the play in Melbourne in April 1899 and Sydney in June 1900, the principal characters were played by Elizabeth Watson/Harrie Ireland (Marcel Rigadout), Frances Ross (Mary Andrews), Fitzmaurice Gill (La Colombe), Walter Baker (Dick Seymour) and Arthur Styan (Pierre Crucru). For this current revival, Arthur Styan was the only actor from the original cast. Other roles were now played by Jennie Pollock (Marcel Rigadout), Beatrice Holloway (Mary Andrews), Vera Remee (La Colombe) and Max Maxwell (Dick Seymour).

    Woman and Wine played for a fortnight, and on 16 April 1910, the company presented In London Town, a rag to riches melodrama by George R. Sims and Arthur Shirley. First produced in London at the Crown Theatre in Peckham in August 1899, the play entered Bland Holt’s repertoire the following year when it played three nights at the Opera House in Brisbane in April 1900. It was subsequently seen in Melbourne in June 1901 and Sydney in May 1902.

    Once again, the only original cast member in the current revival was Arthur Styan who reprised his role of the blind tramp, Richard Norrison. Other parts were played by Max Maxwell (John Hargreaves), Godfrey Cass (Frank Dalton), Beatrice Holloway (Alice Dalton), Charles Brown (Jack Parker), Muriel Dale (Liddy Blist) and Jennie Pollock (Rosa Norrison).

    Two weeks later, on 30 April 1910, the company presented their final revival of the season: Revenge, a romantic military drama by E. Hill Mitchelson. This was the most recent of the Bland Holt melodramas, receiving its first Australian outing at the Theatre Royal in Melbourne in January 1907. Woven around the Austrian revolution, this tale of daring-do was set in a royal palace, providing John Brunton with the opportunity to design some elaborate sets, ranging from a throne room to a prison. Max Maxwell played the dashing hero, Captain Loris Vanessa, with Godfrey Cass and Beatrice Holloway as the King and Queen. Richard Bellairs and Jennie Pollock added ‘weight and emphasis’ as the two baddies, Prince Orloff and Braga Vanessa.

    Revengeproved a money-maker for Hamilton and Maxwell, but with West Pictures driven from the Glaciarium by the winter skaters and due to commence their season at the Palace Theatre on 7 May 1910, the melodrama company was required to call it quits. Thus, the company, comprising some 32 people and 130 tons of scenery, departed on a protracted tour of New Zealand and Tasmania.

    West Pictures held court until the first week of September, and on 10 September 1910, the Hamilton-Maxwell company made a welcome return. Their opening production was Women’s Revenge by Henry Pettitt, one of the most popular dramas in the Bland Holt repertoire. First produced at the Adelphi Theatre in London in 1893, with Charles Warner (Frank Drummond), Elizabeth Robins (Mary Lonsdale), Gertrude Kingston (Mabel Wentworth), and Charles Cartwright (Jephtha Grimshaw) as the leads. The following year, it was performed in Australia for the first time by the Bland Holt company, with Edward Sass, Henrietta Watson, Edith Blande and Walter Baker. The scenery was designed by George and John Gordon. Holt mounted an elaborate revival in 1897 with new scenery by John Brunton. The leads, on this occasion, were Walter Baker, Elizabeth Watson, Frances Ross and John Cosgrove.

    The line-up of the Hamilton-Maxwell company was largely the same as it had been the previous March, with Beatrice Holloway, Max Maxwell and Richard Bellairs as the leads. However, two newcomers, Nellie Strong and Ronald W. Riley, now filled the roles vacated by Jennie Pollock and Arthur Styan, who had joined the Clarke and Meynell organisation.

    Alas, one day into the season Beatrice Holloway fell ill with enteric fever (typhoid), with Vera Remee taking over the part of the heroine Mary Lonsdale.

    Women’s Revenge played until 23 September. By way of farewelling the play—and in anticipation of the one to follow—‘J.B.’ contributed a little poem to the Bulletin.

    Palace Womans Revenge PoemFrom The Bulletin (Sydney), 22 September 1910, p.8

    With the end of the season looming, Allan Hamilton announced two new dramas, The Little Breadwinnerand Why Men Love Women. These were being presented by arrangement with Messrs Clarke and Meynell.

    The first of these plays, The Little Breadwinner, had already been performed throughout Western Australia, Victoria, and Queensland by the Clarke and Meynell company. It had been given its Australian premiere at His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth in February 1908, with G.P. Carey, Fred Coape, Beatrice Holloway, C.R. Stanford, Ida Gresham and Queenie Williams in the principal roles. The last named was a child star who had been seen to good effect in the Meynell and Gunn hit show The Fatal Wedding, performing with the ‘Tin Can Band’.

    Described as a Domestic Drama in five acts, the play by J.A. Campbell, had first been performed in Birmingham in December 1905 (by J.A. Campbell’s own company), prior to opening in London, at the Standard Theatre, on 19 March 1906. The London cast included J.C. Aubrey (Lord William), C. King (Richard), Kathleen Russell (Margaret) and Little Maud Harris (Meg).

    The play tells the story of Dick Lawrence, the adopted son of Lord William Dorrington, who wrongly convicted of stealing, is banished from the household. Moving to London with his betrothed, Margaret, the couple live in poverty, and with his wife now blind, they rely on their little daughter Meg to keep ‘the wolf from the door by singing in the street’. Eventually the true perpetrator of the theft is found, and the whole family is reunited.

    The first Sydney production of The Little Breadwinner opened on 24 September 1910. Apart from Queenie Williams, who played Meg, the ‘little breadwinner’ of the title, the line up of the company was completely new, with Charles Brown (Lord William), Max Maxwell (Dick Lawrence), Vera Remee (Margaret), with Richard Bellairs as Joseph Prior, the chief villain.

    The Little Breadwinnerproved a little winner, especially the performance of Queenie Williams.5

    The final play of the season was Why Men Love Women by Walter Howard, the author of the highly popular melodrama The Midnight Wedding. This play had been announced for performance by the Harcourt Beatty-Madge McIntosh company in 1908 but was not performed. And in early 1910, it was slated for performance in Melbourne by the Clarke-Meynell company. It finally received its first Australian production at Maitland (NSW) on 12 March 1910 by the Edwin Geach company. The principal characters were played by Walter Vincent (Gerald Fielding), Lottie Lyell (Violet Livingstone), Raymond Longford (Captain Serge Staniloff), Ida Gresham (Mariel Toloski), and C.R. Stanford (Maharajah of Balore).

    Described as an ‘Anglo-Indian drama, with many stirring and sensational interests’, the play had first been performed in Manchester (UK) in 1901. It did very well in the British provinces, but never reached the West End.

    When the play opened In Sydney on 8 October 1910, it was incorrectly advertised as being the ‘first production in Australia’. It received a warm reception, being ‘joyously acclaimed by a crowded house at the Palace Theatre’.6 The principal characters were performed by Vera Remee (Violet Livingstone), Max Maxwell (Gerald Fielding), Richard Bellairs (Captain Staniloff), Ronald W. Riley (Maharajah) and Nellie Strong (Muriel Zoluski). Interestingly, all the reviews make it clear that the title of the play is never really explained. There was a scene in which the hero gave a poetic speech, the ‘Allegory of Love, the Maiden, and the Rose’, which gave promise of a solution, but apparently left the most attentive listeners still without a firm answer!

    Why Men Love Women played to packed houses, but was withdrawn at the height of it success on 28 October 1910 to make way for The Spider and the Fly. Described as a ‘sensational drama of modern times’, this new play, being performed in Australia for the first time, was written by two stalwarts of the genre, Sutton Vane and Arthur Shirley.

    It had first been performed at the Grand Theatre, Brighton, in April 1906, and at the Kennington Theatre, London, the following August. The story of two half-brothers, one good, and one bad. The good brother, Cyril Girdlestone, is happily married with a wife and infant. Cyril had previously been tricked into a marriage with an adventuress, Lola Grey, but following her death was free to marry his true sweetheart, Edith McAllister. When Cyril’s half-brother, Welby, learns that Cyril has become the sole heir of their father’s fortune, he plots with Lola (who isn’t really dead, and who had married Cyril bigamously), to kill the young family. She sets a trap, whereby Cyril and Edith are locked in a room in which the ceiling can be mechanically lowered, thereby squashing any inhabitants! Ultimately the villainous Lola is caught in her own snare. The cast included Max Maxwell and Vera Remee as the hero and heroine, with Richard Bellairs as the scheming half-brother, and Nellie Strong as the adventuress.

    The Spider and the Flywas played until 11 November 1910, and on the following night the company reprised the melodrama Revenge, which they had first presented earlier in the year—and which had been the hit of that season. Max Maxwell and Richard Bellairs once again played Captain Loris Vanessa and Prince Orloff respectively, while Ronald W. Riley and Vera Remee now played the King and Queen, with Nellie Strong as Braga Vanessa.

    Revengeplayed for twelve nights, closing on 25 November, thus bringing the highly successful Hamilton-Maxwell season to an end. With the end of this engagement, the company was disbanded, with Max Maxwell and Allan Hamilton going their separate ways. Maxwell set off on a country tour, and readers will be happy to note that he was re-joined by Beatrice Holloway as his leading lady, fully recovered from her recent severe indisposition.

    The following night, 26 November, saw the return to the Sydney stage of Maggie Moore, accompanied by her husband H.R. Roberts. Their company included many old favourites, including A.E. Greenaway, C.R. Stanford and Ethel Bashford.

    Palace Shadows CartoonFrom The Bulletin (Sydney), 24 November 1910, p.8The company’s three-week season saw the production of three plays, playing for a week each. The first was Shadows of a Great City, written by Joseph Jefferson and Livingston Robert Sherwell and first performed in America in 1884, Australia in 1885, and the UK in 1887. Set amidst the urban underbelly of the New York docks and on Blackwell’s Island, the play introduced a myriad of gritty characters. As Biddy Roonan, Maggie Moore played a big-hearted Irish washerwoman, replete with songs. (Interestingly, when the play was revived in Australia in 1887, the role of Biddy was played by comic Grattan Riggs.)

    Six nights later, a change of bill saw a revival of A Gambler’s Sweetheart, originally performed by them eighteen months earlier, under the auspices of Clarke and Meynell. Written by Clay M. Greene (of Struck Oilfame), H.R. Roberts and Maggie Moore reprised their characters of Mason (the gambler) and Bessie Fairfax (his sweetheart). The Sydney Morning Herald observed of her performance, that she played Bessie ‘with a vivacity and archness reminiscent of her never-to-be-forgotten Lizzie Stofel [in Struck Oil].’7

    The following night, Saturday, 9 December 1910, they presented their final offering, a revival of The Prince Chap, previously seen at the Palace during 1908. H.R. Roberts and A.E. Greenaway revived their original roles of William Peyton and the Earl of Henningford, as did Little Vera Huggett and Beryl Yates who played the girl Claudia in Acts 1 and 2 respectively. Ethel Bashford played Claudia in Act 3. As Maggie Moore was not in the play, the evening concluded with the one act farce The Chinese Question, specially written for her by Clay M. Greene, in which she played Kitty McShane (alias San See Lo).

    Next the Mosman Musical Society took over the theatre for a week, from 17-23 December, presenting Auber’s comic opera Fra Diavolo.

    The year cycled back to where it began with the return of Hugh J. Ward’s company, bringing with them a new comedy, The Girl from Rector’s.


    To be continued



    1. Kalgoorlie Miner, 23 June 1909, p.8

    2. Referee, 2 March 1910, p.16

    3. Daily Telegraph, 7 March 1910, p.10

    4. Australian Town and Country Journal, 9 March 1910, p.51

    5. For more information on the career of Queenie Williams, see Nick Murphy’s, Queenie Williams (1896-1962) & the last Pollard’s tour of America – Forgotten Australian Actors (

    6. Sydney Morning Herald, 10 October 1910, p.5

    7. Sydney Morning Herald, 5 December 1910, p.4


    Allardyce Nicoll, English Drama 1900–1930: The beginnings of the modern period, Cambridge University Press, 1973

    L. Carson (editor), The Stage Year Book, Carson & Comerford Lrd, 1910

    Reginald Clarence, The Stage Cyclopaedia: A bibliography of play, Burt Franklin, 1970 (originally published in 1909)

    Nick Murphy, Queenie Williams (1896-1962) & the last Pollard’s tour of America, Forgotten Australian Actors (website)

    J.P. Wearing, The London Stage, 19001909: A calendar of productions, performers, and personnel, 2nd edition, Rowman & Littlefield, 2014


    Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney), The Bulletin (Sydney), The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), Kalgoorlie Miner, The Mirror (Sydney), Punch (Melbourne), The Referee (Sydney), The Star (Sydney), The Sydney Morning Herald, Table Talk (Melbourne)



    National Library of Australia, Canberra

    State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

    State Library Victoria, Melbourne

    With thanks to

    Rob Morrison, Nick Murphy

  • Little Wunder: The story of the Palace Theatre, Sydney (Part 12)

    palace banner 02

    The year 1911 saw Sydney’s Palace Theatre go from strength to strength, with the appearance of new players and old favourites and the staging of some of the year’s most riotous comedies. ELISABETH KUMM explains in Part 12 of her history of the Pitt Street venue.

    Christmas1910 at the Palace Theatre saw the return of Hugh J. Ward’s company, bringing with them a new comedy, The Girl from Rector’s, which opened on Christmas Eve, 24 December. With this season, Ward was also announcing his ‘farewell to the footlights’, having accepted an offer from J.C. Williamson Ltd. to become a principal with The Firm.

    Described in the bills as ‘A riotous piece of extravagance’, ‘A laughing paralysis in four fits’ and ‘A spicy banquet of merriment’, the new piece was a comedy in four acts by Paul M. Potter (best known for turning George Du Maurier’s 1896 novel Trilby into a play). Ward’s company had presented the first Australian production of The Girl from Rector’s at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne the previous June, and on tour, where it was a huge success. Derived from the French farce, Loute, by Pierre Veber, the play focusses on the adulterous goings-on of several couples.1 When it was first produced in Trenton, New Jersey (29 January 1909) by A.H. Woods, it attracted the ire of the local clergy and was withdrawn after just one out-of-town ‘try-out’. As a result, it received a great reception when it moved to Broadway, opening at Weber’s Music Hall on 1 February 1909, and playing for 184 performances.2

    palace girl from rectors 02Scene restaurant scene in the last act from The Girl from Rector’s. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections.

    In advertisements, Ward reproduced a rather tongue-in-cheek ‘Author’s Note’, which read:

    The Girl from Rector’s is a full version of Pierre Veber’s famous comedy ‘Loute’, which has had a triumphant career in Europe. Based on the strange theory that married men often lead double lives, and that the saint of the rural home may be the Lothario of its city, Mr Potter hesitated to introduce this comedy to a community where he believed, in his innocence, that married men of double lives were practically unknown, but as many recent lawsuits have tended to prove the contrary, the management has decided to produce the play, in the hopes that it will serve as a warning to husbands, and strengthen the hands of matrons and maids who are battling for the purity of the home.3

    palace seven days posterFrom The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 31 January 1911, p.9Like many farces, its plot is complicated. Nevertheless, the central character, has just been dumped by her lover Richard O’Shaughnessy, a New York playboy. She goes by the name of Loute Sedaine, but she is actually the wife of a small-town judge. Richard is on the hunt for a new girlfriend and falls for a pretty heiress, Marcia Singleton, who is also the object of Professor Maboon’s affections. Richard tells Colonel Tandy of his plans, little knowing that Tandy is really Marcia’s father, believed by his wife and daughter to be Martinique. In the end identities are revealed and the various couples pair off, with Loute returning to her husband and Richard marrying Marcia. The final big scene involves a dinner in a suburban restaurant between Loute and Richard, whereby the staff are all Marcia’s friends and family in disguise.

    The play’s title, which references a stylish New York restaurant, has little to do with the plot, but rather reflects the current fashion for plays and musicals with titles beginning The Girl from … .4

    In America, the central characters were played by Violet Dale (Loute Sedaine), Van Rensselaer Wheeler (Richard O’Shaughnessy), Nena Blake (Marcia Singleton), William Burress (Colonel Tandy), Herbert Carr (Judge Caperton), Elita Proctor Otis (Mrs Witherspoon Copley) and Dallas Wellford (Professor Aubrey Maboon). In Sydney, the same roles were performed by Grace Palotta, Aubrey Mallalieu, Ruby Baxter, Reginald Wykeham, Robert Greig, Celia Ghiloni and Hugh J. Ward.

    The farce was to have been followed by another comedy on 28 January 1911, but on account of it “drawing such crowded audiences”, Ward decided to keep it running for a fortnight longer.5

    The Girl from Rector’s was finally withdrawn on 3 February 1911, and the following night Seven Days was produced for the first time in Australia. By way of a publicity stunt, prior to its opening, one of the ladies in the company, Clara Budgin, undertook to climb a scaffold and paste a huge poster on the side of a building in Pitt Street announcing the opening of the play. This stunt was undertaken in response to a claim in a newspaper article that there was “at least one business in which women could not excel”: namely bill posting!6

    Though not as hilarious as The Girl from Rector’s, Avery Hopwood and Mary Robert Rinehart’s three-act comedy did very well on Broadway, playing for a year (some reviews exaggerating it to two!). Based on Rinehart’s 1908 novella When a Man Marries, it was her first play and only the second play of co-writer Hopwood. The two would enjoy further successes with Spanish Love and The Bat.

    palace seven days 02Scene from Seven Days. From the left: Grace Palotta, Reginald Wykeham. Maud Chetwynd, Aubrey Mallalieu, Celia Ghiloni, Hugh J. Ward, Ruby Baxter and Robert Greig, with H.H. Wallace (top). Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections.

    Seven Days opened on Broadway at the Astor Theatre on 10 November 1909, following a single ‘try-out’ performance at the Taylor Opera Houe in Trenton, New Jersey, on 1 November. Deftly combining comedy and crime, the play centres on a group of people who are forced to spend seven days together after a case of smallpox is detected among the servants. James Wilson has divorced, but has not told his rich Aunt Selina, so when she comes to visit, he gets Kit McNair to pretend to be his wife. Just before the household is thrown into quarantine, James’s former wife arrives, as does James’s friend Dallas Brown with wife Anne; Tom Harbison, an admirer of Kit’s (amazed to find her ‘married’); a red-headed police officer; and a burglar in hiding. The Broadway line-up included Herbert Corthell (James Wilson), Lucille La Verne (Aunt Selina), Georgie O’Ramsey (Kit McNair), Hope Latham (Bella Knowles), Allan Pollock (Dallas Brown), Florence Reed (Anne Brown), Carl Eckstrom (Tom Harbison), Jay Wilson (Office Flannigan) and William Eville (Tubby McGirk). Unlike The Girl from Rector’s, Seven Days also played a short season in London, when it was performed at the New Theatre for 16 performances from 15 March 1915, with Lennox Pawle, Lotte Venne, Athene Seyler and Auriol Lee.

    Seven Days was performed for the final three weeks of Ward’s season at the Palace, with the key roles played by Hugh J. Ward (James Wilson), Celia Ghiloni (Aunt Selina), Grace Palotta (Kit McNair), Ruby Baxter (Bella Knowles), Aubrey Mallalieu (Dallas Brown), Maud Chetwynd (Anne Brown), Reginald Wyckham (Tom Harbison), Robert Greig (Office Flannigan) and H.H. Wallace (Tubby McGirk). Opening night was a memorable one for Ward. Not only was he entering his final weeks as an actor-manager, but just before the curtain went up, he received news that his house (‘Lafayette’, William Street, Double Bay) was on fire. Fortunately, the fire crew was able to contain the blaze to a bathroom, lavatory, and luggage room, but the timing was not great. This was on top of an already busy week for Ward, not only rehearsing a new play, but as the chief organiser and participant in a benefit for two surf lifesavers. The benefit, which was held at the Stadium (in Rushcutters Bay), took the form of a ‘boxing display’, including a match between Ward and Reginald ‘Snowy’ Baker (a professional pugilist and brother of one of the lifesavers). The event raised £800. (For the record, Ward won the bout when in the second round he delivered a knockout punch with his left to Snowy’s jaw. Snowy fell back and hit his head and was carried off unconscious. Shocked at the outcome, Ward vowed to hang up his gloves!)

    palace hugh ward 03From The Bulletin (Sydney), 2 March 1911, p.8 (left) and Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections (right)

    On the last night of the season, Saturday, 25 February 1911, by way of his farewell to the stage, Ward performed his Scarecrow dance for the first time in Sydney. The dance was part of a larger sketch entitled The Scarecrow, which according to publicity had been devised by him some years earlier when he was appearing in Paris at the Théâtre du Châtelet. The character was subsequently introduced into the Drury Lane pantomime Humpty Dumpty in 1903–1904. A quote from the London Telegraph was included in newspaper ads:

    A wonderful scarecrow of old clothes and bursting straw stuffing, impersonated with rare skill by Mr. Ward. His movement, so invertebrate and fifth of Novemberish, are like nothing we have ever seen. There is a pathetic grotesqueness about them quite fascinating.7

    With the departure of Ward and his company, Spencer’s Theatrescope Company commenced a short season at the Palace (pending their relocation to the Lyceum Theatre) and over the following fortnight they presented a weekly change of ‘picture plays’ beginning with Rip Van Winkleon 27 February.

    Saturday, 11 March 1911 saw the arrival of the Hamilton-Plimmer-Denniston company, fresh from a successful tour of New Zealand. The company, which was considered the heir to the old Brough-Boucicault company, included Mrs Robert Brough (nee Florence Trevelyn), the widow of Robert Brough who had died in 1906. After his death she had gone to the ‘old country’ for a time and had also (rather unexpectedly) remarried. The three directors of the new company had also performed with the Brough company at various times. When he was last at the Palace, Allan Hamilton had been associated with Max Maxwell, but with the dissolution of that partnership, he joined forces with Harry Plimmer and Reynolds Denniston. The combination that was now at the Palace had previously appeared in Sydney in September 1910 at the Theatre Royal.

    Pre-publicity suggested that they would be opening their season with the first Australian production of Somerset Maugham’s comedy Smith. However, this was not the case. Instead, they revived A Message from Mars (Hamilton having acquired the sole Australian rights from Clarke and Meynell), with Plimmer as Horace Parker and Denniston as the Messenger. Lizette Parkes was Minnie Templar and Mrs Robert Brough was Aunt Martha. The play was mounted with all new scenery by Harry Whaite. As the season was strictly limited to five weeks, it was withdrawn on 17 March and replaced by The Passing of the Third Floor Back. Written by Jerome K. Jerome (based on his short story) and originally performed in England in 1909 with Johnston Forbes Robertson and Gertrude Elliott, it was subsequently staged in Australia by the Clarke and Meynell company in June/July 1910 with star London actors Matheson Lang and Hutin Britton. Sub-titled, ‘an idle fantasy’, it was the story of a mysterious stranger who takes a room in a London boarding-house, and one by one he helps its miserable and dissolute tenants to find their ‘better selves’. For the current revival, Harry Plimmer played The Stranger, with Lizette Parkes as the Slavey, Mrs Brough as the Landlady, and Reynolds Denniston as Major Tompkins.

    palace message marsCharacters from A Message from Mars. From The Sun (Sydney), 13 March 1911, p.5.

    On the 25 March 1911, the Hamilton-Plimmer-Denniston company presented their last play for the season, a revival of Lovers’ Lane, a rustic tale of a “country parson’s troubles with his flock and his sweethearts”, by Clyde Fitch. First performed in America in 1909 and by the current company in 1910, it saw Harry Plimmer reprise his role of the Rev. Thomas Singleton, with Reynolds Denniston as Herbert Woodbridge, Mrs Brough as Mrs Woodbridge, Valentine Sidney as Miss Mattie, and Lizette Parkes as Simplicity Johnson. During the second act, Myra Wall, sang ‘Ben Bolt’ (composed by Nelson Kneass in 1848 and memorably reprised in Trilby), and Lizette Parkes, together with a ‘band of merry youngsters’, sang ‘The Old Red School’ (by Irving B. Lee, with music by Hampton Durand).8

    With the close of the season, the company headed north to Brisbane. In advance, Allan Hamilton secured a return season at the Palace in September.

    Next, for two nights only, Saturday, 1 April and Monday, 3 April, the Sydney Stage Society presented Civil War, a comedy in four acts by Ashley Dukes. It saw the reappearance of G.S. Titheradge, who as Sir John Latimer ‘gave an able and polished exposition of the proud and obstinate old Baronet’.9 He was supported by Leonard Willey, Stephen Scarlett, Lily Titheradge and Ruby Ward. A.E. Greenaway directed.

    From 4–7 April, the Palace hosted the Lyric Opera Company in a new and original Australian ‘Musical Military Frisk’ by P.C. Gray (libretto) and George Tott (music) called 1920. It seems rehearsals had been held in September 1910 and these were the premiere performances. A notable element of the production were the ballets created by Ruby Hooper (a younger sister of J.C. Williamson ballet mistress, Minnie Hooper) which featured a young Madge Elliott as solo danseuse.10

    George Marlow was back on 8 April with The Luck of Roaring Camp—the play that had been a huge hit the previous year. But it was not the play! It was the ‘moving picture’ version, directed by W.J. Lincoln, with Ethel Buckley reprising her role of Nell Curtis. The hero, Will Gordon, was now played by Robert Inman. The review in the Sydney Morning Herald (10 April 1911, p.4) noted:

    The drama was played before the camera by George Marlow’s dramatic company … and the result, as shown, by the pictures, is a thrilling “story without words” … The play has been carefully selected for this method of portrayal, because it teems with exciting episodes and thrilling incidents in particular that could never be seen on any stage without the camera is the splendid exhibition of horsemanship shown by a team of rough-riders.

    The film, which had been seen in Melbourne the previous March, was being screened in Sydney for the first time. It played for six nights only as part of a longer program of films.11

    Good Friday, 14 April saw a Grand Sacred Concert, which featured The Royal Hawaiians.

    The next evening West’s Pictures returned. Over the following months they screened films in two venues, the Palace and the Glaciarium, though in June, the pictures moved from the open air Glaciarium to the newly-opened Princess Theatre in George Street, opposite Central Station, and from 4 August, they used just the Princess, and the Palace returned to live entertainment.

    On 5 August 1911, William Anderson took over the lease of the Palace, opening with the first Sydney appearance of Tom Liddiard’s Lilliputians. This ‘Great company of Little Artists’ had been formed in 1907 and since that time had been touring throughout India and the East. Since returning to Australia in April 1910, the company undertook several regional tours and had joined forces with William Anderson’s management to present the pantomime The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. The show received its first Australian outing at Christmas 1910 at the King’s Theatre in Melbourne. Prior to their arrival in Sydney, the pantomime had been seen in Adelaide, Broken Hill, Ballarat and Bendigo.

    Reviews were quick to point out that it was a risky move presenting pantomime outside of the festive season, but nevertheless, Anderson seemed to know what he was doing. The Lilliputians proved a big drawcard. The pantomime by F. Major drew on a whole bevy of characters from nursery rhymes and fairy tales, headed by Jack Dauntless played by Lily Clarke, whose ‘graceful and effective’ singing and dancing proved a drawcard. Her song ‘Hello, Little Girl’ was particularly effective. Another song, ‘Why Does My Heart Beat So?’ was introduced by another youngster, Dorothea Liddle, in the role of Jill.12

    From 26 August, with the arrival of William Anderson’s Dramatic Company, the pantomime played selected matinees only, touring to nearby theatres at other times. The Anderson Co. had been performing at the Criterion Theatre since 12 August, but was forced to vacate the theatre to make way for British actress Ethel Irving, who was opening her Sydney debut season on 26 August.

    The new show was The Man from Outback, a melodrama in four acts by Albert Edmunds (the pen name of Bert Bailey and Edmund Duggan). An Australian-themed melodrama set on a cattle station—involving the capture of cattle rustlers by the owner’s feisty daughter with the help of a mysterious stranger—the play, which capitalised on the success of The Squatter’s Daughter, had first been produced in 1909 at the King’s Theatre in Melbourne, and had recently been revived at the King’s in July/August 1911. This was its first Sydney representation. The title character, Dave Goulburn, was played by Roy Redgrave (he created the role in 1909), supported by Olive Wilton as Mona Maitland, with Bert Bailey in the comic role of Joe Lachlan, and Edmund Duggan and Rutland Beckett as the chief villains. The play was well received, with the Sydney Morning Herald (7 August 1911, p.6) noting:

    From the opening scene to the final curtain it gripped the audience, and clearly, ‘The Man from Outback’ has come for a prolonged stay. Its joint authors, Mr Bert Bailey and Mr Edmund Duggan, in this second effort have improved upon ‘The Squatter’s Daughter’. The plot is good, its unfolding moves briskly forward, the dialogue is to the point, and the whole environment is that of the Australian bush.

    Of the cast, Roy Redgrave is probably one of the more interesting actors. He had been in Australia on and off since 1904 and prior to joining William Anderson’s company in 1909, he had returned to England, where he met and married his second wife, the actress Daisy (Margaret) Scudamore. In mid-1909, six months after the birth of their son Michael, the family travelled to Australia, under contact to William Anderson’s company, opening in Melbourne in August 1909 in The Bushwoman. Daisy played the heroine, Kate, with Roy as her lover Jack Dunstan. Off stage relations between Daisy and Roy were fractious, and when Daisy’s contract with Anderson expired in August 1910, she returned to London with her son. Michael Redgrave would go on to achieve accolades as an actor on both stage and screen (receiving a knighthood in 1959), with Roy becoming the patriarch of an acting family that spawned three generations.13

    On 3 September, The Man from Outback gave way to The Christian. This was a revised version of a play by Hall Caine, based partly on his 1896 novel of the same name. It told the story of a young Manx woman, Glory Quayle, who, against the advice of John Storm, a crusading Anglican priest, leaves the Isle of Man to become a successful music hall artiste. Storm goes after her and in a rage is determined to kill her if she won’t repent her life of sin, and recognising that they love one another, Glory agrees to become his wife and help him with his work among the poor.

    The play had originally been staged in 1897, when a copyright performance was given at the Grand Theatre in Douglas on the Isle of Man on 7 August, with the actors drawn from Caine’s own family (with Caine as John Storm).14 The first professional production was given in America the following year with Viola Allen as Glory Quayle and Edward J. Morgan as Storm. Evelyn Millard created the role of Glory in England in 1899, with Herbert Waring as the preacher. In Australia, a new adaptation of the novel was made by Wilson Barrett and Bernard Espinaise, and first staged in 1900 with Edith Crane and Tyrone Power in the lead roles. This version was subsequently revived in 1903–1904 (with Cuyler Hastings and May Chevalier) and 1906–1907 (with Charles Waldron and Ola Humphrey). In 1907, Hall Caine devised a new version of the play, given its first performance at the Lyceum Theatre in London, with Alice Crawford and Matheson Lang as the principals. It was this play that was staged in Australia in 1911.

    The play saw the return of Eugenie Duggan (wife of William Anderson), who played the role of Glory Quayle, with Roy Redgrave as John Storm, a role he was said to have played ‘over 200 nights in England’. The run was limited to a fortnight pending the arrival of the Plimmer–Denniston company. It seems the success of The Christian lead to the making of a film version featuring the same cast. It was directed by Franklyn Barrett. Sadly, the film is considered lost.15

    palace nobodys daughter 01Scene from Nobody’s Daughter: Mrs Brough and Harry Plimmer as Mr and Mrs Frampton, with Reynolds Denniston and Valentine Sidney as Colonel and Mrs Torrens. In Sydney, Beatrice Day played the role of Mrs Torrens. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections.

    Saturday, 16 September 1911, saw the return of the Plimmer–Denniston company, under the direction of Allan Hamilton, with the first Sydney production of Nobody’s Daughter. Heralded as “The Best English Play of the Year”, the four-act drama by George Paston (the nom-de-theatre of Miss E.M. Symonds), had already been performed with noted success in Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide and throughout New Zealand.

    The story concerns a young girl (Honora May) who, born out of wedlock, is bought up by foster parents in the country. On her nineteenth birthday, her real parents, Colonel Torrens and Mrs Frampton, come to visit, and Mrs Frampton is persuaded to adopt Honoria as her ‘ward’. The Framptons and the Torrens are good friends and Mrs Torrens and Mr Frampton both become suspicious as to the young girl’s real parents. Honoria has a suitor from the country and on learning the truth fears that her sweetheart will reject her. However, he is made of stronger stuff, and the two young people elope. Likewise, after much discussion and tears, Mrs Torrens and then Mr Frampton forgive their spouses for the folly of their youth.

    The play had first been introduced tpalace beauty bargePoster for Allan Hamilton’s Australasian tour of Beauty and the Barge. The images used on the poster come from the original 1904 London production. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections.o the London stage in September 1910, playing at Wyndham’s Theatre for 185 performances. The key roles were played by Gerald du Maurier and Lilian Braithwaite as Mr and Mrs Frampton, Sydney Valentine and Henrietta Watson as Colonel and Mrs Torrens, and Rosalie Toller as Honora May. In Sydney these same roles were taken by Harry Plimmer and Mrs Brough, Reynolds Denniston and Beatrice Day, with Lizette Parkes as the title character. When the Plimmer–Denniston company first performed the play, Valentine Sidney had taken the role of Mrs Torrens.

    The drama enjoyed a highly successful season in Sydney, playing until Wednesday, 1 November.

    The final two nights of the season, 2 and 3 November, saw a revival of A.W. Pinero’s drama The Second Mrs Tanqueray, with Florence Brough as Paula, so her legions of fans were given an opportunity to see her in her most famous role. She had created the part in the first Australian production in 1894 when it was staged under the auspices of the Brough-Boucicault Comedy Company. Supporting roles in the current production were played by Harry Plimmer (Aubrey Tanqueray), Reynolds Denniston (Captain Ardale), Lizette Parkes (Ellean) and Beatrice Day (Mrs Cortelyon).

    When Plimmer and Denniston and the Nobody’s Daughter company departed for Queensland, Allan Hamilton stayed on, introducing a new dramatic combination. This new company comprised many old favourites including Beatrice Holloway (making her reappearance in Sydney after her illness), Charles Brown, Robert Greig, and Katie Towers, along with two newcomers, Kenneth Brampton and Lilian Lloyd. The former would go on to have a long career in Australia.

    The season commenced, on Saturday, 4 November 1911, with a revival of Beauty and the Barge. This piece, a comedy by W.W. Jacobs and Louis N. Parker, was another play from the repertoire of the Brough-Boucicault Comedy Company, having first been performed by them in Australia in 1905. The heartfelt story of a young woman who seeks the assistance of an old bargee in her quest to run away from her domineering father and an arranged marriage, the play had originally been seen in London in 1904 with Jessie Bateman as Ethel Smedley and Cyril Maude as Captain Barley. In Australia, the roles were created by Winifred Fraser and Robert Brough. For the current production, Beatrice Holloway played Ethel Smedley with Charles Brown as Captain Barley. Advertisements also announced that ‘The ORIGINAL BARGE, specially built at the Haymarket Theatre, London, for the late Mr Robert Brough, will be used in this production’. However, resident scenic artist, Harry Whaite, provided entirely new scenery.

    A fortnight later a change of bill saw the reprisal of Why Men Love Women open on 18 November. It was last seen at the Palace in October 1910 when it was performed by the Hamilton–Maxwell company. Katie Towers and Muriel Dale revived their original roles of Matilda Figgins and Baby, while the leads were now played by Kenneth Brampton (Gerald Fielding), Beatrice Holloway (Violet Livingston), with Lilian Lloyd as Muriel Zoluski. With the final performance on 1 December, the Allan Hamilton season came to an end.

    With Christmas fast approaching, something of a magical nature was in store for patrons of the Palace.


    To be continued



    1. This play also formed the basis of the musical See You Later by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse, with music by Jean Schwartz and William F. Peters, produced at the Academy of Music, Baltimore, April 1918

    2. Fisher & Hardison, p.273

    3. The Age (Melbourne), 30 April 1910, p.16

    4. Titles included: The Girl from Paris (1896), … from Maxim’s (1899), … from Kay’s (1902), … from Up There (1902); and there would be more over the years: … from Brazil, … from Home, … from Montmartre, … from Utah.

    5. The Sun (Sydney), 20 January 1900, p.3

    6. The Sun (Sydney), 28 January 1911, p. 10

    7. Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 25 February 1911, p.2

    8. The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 March 1911, p.2 (ad) and 27 March 1911, p. 4 (review)

    9. The Sydney Morning Herald, 3 April 1911, p.5

    10. The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 April 1911, p.12

    11. For more information see Pike & Cooper, p.21

    12. For more information, see Tom Liddiard/Liddiard’s Lilliputians, Australian Variety Theatre Archive (ozvta), 2018

    13. Both Ancestry and Wikipedia erroneously state that Roy Redgrave deserted his wife, Daisy Scudamore, in England in 1909.

    14. Allen, p.256

    15. For more information see Pike & Cooper, pp.39–40


    Vivien Allen, Hall Caine: Portrait of a Victorian romancer, Sheffield Academic Press, 1997

    James Fisher & Felicia Hardison Londré, Historical Dictionary of American Theatre: Modernism, 2nd edition, Rowman & Littlefield, 2017

    Thomas Hischak, Broadway Plays and Musicals: Descriptions and essential facts of more than 14,000 shows through 2007, McFarland & Co. Inc., 2009

    Eric Irvin, Australian melodrama: Eighty years of popular theatre, Hale & Iremonger, 1981

    Allardyce Nicoll, English Drama 1900–1930: The beginnings of the modern period, Cambridge University Press, 1973

    Andrew Pike & Ross Cooper, Australian Film, 1900–1977, Oxford University Press in association with The Australian Film Institute, 1980

    J.P. Wearing, The London Stage, 19001909: A calendar of productions, performers, and personnel, 2nd edition, Rowman & Littlefield, 2014

    J.P. Wearing, The London Stage, 19101919: A calendar of productions, performers, and personnel, 2nd edition, Rowman & Littlefield, 2014


    TheAge (Melbourne), The Bulletin (Sydney), The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), The Sun (Sydney), The Sydney Morning Herald



    Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections

    National Library of Australia, Canberra

    State Library Victoria, Melbourne

    With thanks to

    Rob Morrison


  • Producing a London Musical Comedy

    1 W.H. Berry Girls

    In 1916 J.C. Williamson’s Melbourne-based ballet mistress, Minnie Everett was sent to America to visit New York and thence to London, where she was seconded to stage the ballets and dances for The Firm’s inaugural West End production of the Rudolf Friml—Otto Harbach musical comedy High Jinks co-produced with London impresario, Alfred Butt. But, as had occurred on her earlier sojourn in South Africa for JCW in 1914, Destiny conspired for Minnie to take over the duties of the producer as well, thus earning her the distinction of becoming the West End’s first female director-choreographer of Musical Comedy in the 20th century. In the following extract from her autobiography My Dancing Days (first published in serialised form in the Melbourne periodical Table Talk between 19 May to 28 July, 1932) Minnie relates the story of how it all came about in her own words.

    Minnie Everett smlMinnie Everett

    On my return from South Africa I met with one of those disappointments which appear to be more or less inseparable from a theatrical career, at any rate in Australia. After I took over the production of the three musical comedies in South Africa, following the hurried return to London of George Slater, Harold Ashton told me that he had written to ‘The Firm’ in Australia telling them of my splendid work in preparing the whole repertoire, ballets and all, in six weeks. He assured me that my loyal service would be suitably recognised upon my return to Australia, and I took it for granted that it would be.

    On my arrival in Melbourne, however, I was asked to accept 15 per cent. salary cut which the others had agreed to on account of the abnormal wartime conditions which prevailed. I am glad to say that the matter was satisfactorily adjusted.

    After my return to Australia from South Africa I was soon busy getting ready the pantomime, and after the Melbourne season I travelled round with the company for a while, taking in the Sydney season, and then doing one or two other productions. It was that year, if I remember right, that The Girl in the Taxi, High Jinks, So Long Letty, and other musical comedies of the type were produced. Hugh J. Ward handled most of those productions, and I had nothing to do with them, but funny enough, it was High Jinks which first took me to London.

    My First Visit to America

    It was following the production of the 1915–16 pantomime that ‘The Firm’ decided to send me to America. I was in Sydney at the time, and the pantomime was being staged there as the Easter holiday attraction. The decision to send me to America came, so to speak, out of a clear sky, and before I knew where I was I was on board the Sonoma, bound for San Francisco.

    I don't think I should ever have agreed to go by myself if I had realised what it meant. There can be no worse experience for a woman than to arrive all by herself in a strange country, and have to attend to all the hundred and one details of travel without any assistance.

    On my arrival at San Francisco there was not a soul to meet me, and I gladly took advantage of the advice of the uniformed representatives of one of the American baggage firms who met the boat, and told me, if I would leave it to them, they would see that my luggage was sent ahead, and would be waiting for me on my arrival in New York.  I thought this was all part of the wonderful American transport system, but on arrival in New York I found that the luggage was there all right, but it had cost me an extra £5 for the privilege of having it handled by my kind friends, the baggage agents. I discovered this mistake when I reached Stewart's Hotel, at which I was to spend the night, before taking the transcontinental express next morning. Stewart, by the way, was an Australian, and made a business of looking after any Australians who were passing through San Francisco, and who knew of his hotel. It was he who opened my eyes to the baggage agents' expensive joke at my expense.

    My First Glimpse of New York

    Next day I took a train for New York. I had been fortunate enough to meet on the boat a lady acquaintance of mine from Sydney, who was a buyer for David Jones Ltd., and we journeyed across America together. But for her I should have been lonely indeed. I spent about six weeks in New York, but it was largely a waste of time, as I soon discovered that I had arrived in the midst of the ‘off season,’ and there were very few shows worth going to see.

    I wondered a good deal why I should have been landed in New York at that particular time, but ‘The Firm's’ New York agent, Mr. Jordan, told me not to worry, and I understood things better when one day he told me that he had received a cable from ‘The Firm,’ asking me if I would be willing to go over to London. Nobody was too keen on making the crossing at that time, with so many ships being sent to the bottom by German submarines, but I was sick to death of New York, and London, even in war-time, sounded good to me.

    There were two former members of the J.C. Williamson ballet living in New York at the time—Lila and Annie Carmichael—and when ‘The Firm’ notified me that I could take a travelling companion with me, I asked Annie Carmichael if she would like to go. She gladly accepted, and passages were booked for the two of us in the R.M.S. Baltic.

    We had an uneventful voyage across, though the war-time conditions were not very pleasant. At night the huge liner was allowed to show no lights at all, and no passengers were permitted on deck after dark. It was a depressing trip, and we were all glad when we arrived at Southampton.

    Annie Carmichael met a man on the ship whom she had previously known in San Francisco. He was travelling to Europe as a buyer for his firm. He shared a cabin with a Jewish-looking individual, who wore a life-belt, fashioned as a waist-coat, night and day. We had our first real taste of war-time conditions, when, on arriving at Southampton, the Jewish-looking traveller was arrested as a German spy, and Annie's unfortunate friend was also held as his accomplice. As a matter of fact, the two were complete strangers until they met on the boat, but the innocent traveller from San Francisco had a good deal of difficulty in convincing the military authorities of the fact.

    War-time London

    I should have felt very lonely in London, too, but for dear old May Beatty and her husband, the late Edward Lauri, who had a flat in Southampton Row at that time, and more or less took me under their wing. Those were about the worst days of the air raids, and just before my arrival the Gaiety Theatre had been bombed, with the loss of many lives. My first experience of an air raid was being awakened by the warning sirens at 2 a.m. I was by myself at the time, Annie Carmichael having gone to stay with friends in the country, and May Beatty telephoned me up and told me if I was scared to go over to her flat which was nearby, and join them in their cellar. However, I preferred to stay where I was. It was very awe-inspiring, but I was sufficient of a fatalist not to worry over much. I felt a bit sick next morning, however, when I saw the great pits made in the streets by the bombs, and the windows of one of the big hospitals, adjoining, completely shattered.

    My London Production

    I had only been a few weeks in London, and had seen most of the bigger shows, when Captain Malone, who was then representing ‘The Firm’ in London, asked me if I would like to assist him in the production of High Jinks, which the JCW management was about to stage at the Adelphi Theatre. I gladly agreed to do so, and I soon found out that, in this case, it was not so much assisting as producing.

    Captain Malone spent most of his time in France, and only came over on weekend leave, with the result that practically the whole of the production devolved upon me. Needless to say, I had a pretty difficult time, and was exceedingly nervous, never having had anything to do with a London production. I was acutely conscious of the fact that the English producing methods might be quite at variance with anything I was accustomed to.

    I shall never forget the first full chorus rehearsal. It was at the famous Theatre Royal, in Drury Lane, the Adelphi stage being otherwise engaged, and the call was for 10.30 a.m. I had previously had a musical rehearsal, at which I had been careful to explain that all the ladies of the chorus would be expected to wear the regulation practice dress. On my arrival at the theatre I found the genuine chorus girls who worked for their living, ready and waiting in their practice clothes, but the high and mighty show ladies began to wander in one by one, several of them arriving over an hour late.

    When I asked one of them what had detained her, she remarked with a haughty air, ‘My dear, we simply couldn't get here before, as we've been spending the weekend up the river.’

    I told the girls very forcibly that if they couldn’t come to rehearsal on time, they had better stay away altogether, and ordered them to hurry and get into their practice dresses.

    The one who had acted as spokeswoman before replied, ‘My dear, we didn't bring them, but we can tie up our street dresses with ribbon—that will do, won't it?’

    I explained more forcibly than ever that it wouldn’t do at all, and dismissed them for the day, adding that if they were not there punctually the next morning with their practice dresses, they needn’t come at all. I had no more trouble in that respect.

    Teaching the Chorus-Men a Lesson

    We went on with the rehearsal without the show girls, and I had not been long at work before I noticed that the dozen or so of chorus-men who were all we were able to rake up from amongst the ‘conchies’ [conscientious objectors] and such like specimens, were inclined to regard me as a huge joke. They had never had a woman producer over them before, and I suppose they thought that they could treat me with scant ceremony. Seeing how the land lay, I decided upon prompt measures.

    I was feeling horribly nervous, but was determined not to show it. Presently I told the girls to sit down and called the chorus-men down stage. They came forward, and I addressed them something along these lines:

    ‘Well, gentlemen, you seem disposed to take me as rather a good joke. Now let me tell you that I have been used to having hundreds of people under my control, and I am quite accustomed to ruling the roost. Probably you would act differently if you had a man to deal with, but I know my work, and I can assure you I am as good as any two men. There's the stage door, gentlemen, and you have your choice of going out by it or doing your work in a proper manner.’

    The men all went back to their places looking particularly sheepish, and after that I had their respect and co-operation all the way through. I never had to say another word to them.

    All of the show girls eventually agreed to wear practice dress except one, who was particularly ‘up-stage,’ and appeared to expect that she was to be given a small part. She was rather a good type, and I told her I would give her a couple of lines to speak, but that she would still have to take her place in the chorus. She did so for a time, but finally sent in her resignation to Captain Malone. I was a little doubtful whether the latter would uphold me in the matter, and on going to see him I was greatly relieved when he threw his arms round me and said: ‘Thank goodness you’ve got rid of that one, Minnie. We’ve been trying to lose her for a long time, but didn’t dare do it ourselves.’

    It transpired that the girl had the backing of a person of very considerable importance, financially, to the firm. Of course they put all the blame for her resignation on to me, explaining that it was entirely my responsibility, and that the matter was out of their hands.

    Some Old Friends

    Several members of the London company are well known in Australia. W.H. Berry, who played Field Fisher’s part, has never been out here, but W.H. Rawlins played the same part in London that he had already played in Australia. Tom Walls, now a leading actor-manager and one of London’s leading screen stars, had a comparatively minor role. He had also been in Australia playing the jockey in The Arcadians.

    Then there was Maisie Gay, who was to come to Australia later in This Year of Grace, and to return to England sadly disgruntled about her reception here. Peter Gawthorne, also here later on, played Dick Mayne, and Leon M. Lion, now a noted character actor on both stage and screen, played the Maitre d’ Hotel.

    Gwen Hughes, who was also here; Nellie Taylor, Marie Blanche. Violet Blythe and two French girls were among the other principals. In the chorus were two Australians making their stage debut. One was Cyril Whelan, a son of Albert Whelan, who had a small part, (he afterwards joined the Royal Flying Corps and was killed on active service), and the other was a daughter of Florence Esdaile, who later came out to Australia, and I believe is living in New Zealand.

    British Stage Thoroughness

    One of the things which struck me most forcibly about the production of High Jinks in London was the attention to detail, particularly where the dressing was concerned. Accustomed as I was to the more or less haphazard method of handing out costumes to the chorus in Australia, I was amazed at the care and attention lavished on this phase of the production. All the costumes were designed by M. Comelli, a celebrated London theatrical designer, and they were made by a famous Bond Street firm. A leading Regent Street milliner supplied the hats. 

    All these people sat in the stalls at the first dress rehearsal, and each member of the chorus was brought forward individually and specially fitted. If the colour or the style of a frock or a hat did not suit a particular girl, she was not permitted to wear it. The same attention to detail applied even to shoes and stockings. In fact, no chorus girl was allowed to appear without every detail of her costume being individually attended to. The result was that each girl was dressed to suit her particular type, and looked her very best.

    The principals, of course, ordered their own clothes, but these had to be passed by Comelli before being worn. If he decided that they were unsuitable they would be sent back and others substituted. It is notorious that many clever theatrical artists are quite devoid of taste where clothes are concerned, and in London many a famous star has had her reputation saved by the dress designer.

    An Australian Contrast

    This thoroughness persists right through the theatrical world of London, and it is the principal reason why English musical comedy productions are ahead of ours. In many respects the Australian chorus and ballet are better than those of the London stage, but because of this attention to dress detail, the general effect of the ensemble here is far below the London standard.

    In Australia little attempt is made to dress the girls according to type; the colour schemes are not properly thought out, and very often hats are worn which do not even match the frocks, and are definitely not suited to the wearer. It is no exaggeration to say that our Australian chorus and ballet would look fully fifty percent better if the same close attention to their appearance was given here as in London.

    I had the production of High Jinks complete and ready to go on at the announced date, but owing to one of those terrific hot spells which occasionally occur in England, it was postponed for a fortnight, and to my intense disappointment, I had to leave for America on my return journey without seeing the show. Before I left, however, my chorus boys and girls gave me a jolly little send-off, and made me a handsome presentation, which I still treasure.

    Lonsdale as Lyricist

    I met a great many interesting people on that first trip, though not of course as many as I should have done in normal times. Some of them were then quite obscure, but have since become famous. Others were then more or less famous, but have since become obscure. That’s the way of things in the theatrical world, as in other worlds.

    Among the former category was Frederick Lonsdale, the brilliant playwright, who was at that time a literary ‘hack’ who divided his time between journalism and writing extra verses and couplets for the theatres. I remember him quite well standing by during rehearsals for High Jinks, and occasionally being called upon by W.H. Berry, the comedian, to supply a fresh verse for a number, or a few lines of comedy dialogue to smarten up a situation. Berry played the part Field Fisher appeared in here, and I remember that when Mr. Lonsdale remarked to him that he would no doubt prefer to arrange a certain number himself, Berry turned to me, and said, ‘Oh, no; I have seen this lady’s work, and it’s quite good enough for me.’

    Some years later when I returned to London, and called to see Captain Malone, I found him engaged with a man I seemed to remember having met.

    When I entered, Captain Malone said to me, ‘Come in, Minnie. Here’s someone you’ve met before, only now he has pots of money, and then he hadn’t a bean.’

    It was Frederick Lonsdale, who, next to Noel Coward, must today draw more in royalties than any other English playwright. He is a charming man, and quite unspoilt by the success which has come his way.

    Coo-ees from the Diggers

    Amongst the sad memories of that first London visit were the visits I received from batches of Diggers over in ‘Blighty’ on leave, who, seeing my name on the playbills and recognising it as something familiar from their homeland, would come along to the theatre during rehearsal and ask to see me. More than once I was called out to meet a crowd of these fine lads, who would give me a welcome with the real Australian coo-ees; which always brought a lump to my throat.

    I remember, too, that my own brother, who had been away from Australia for years, and had enlisted with the ‘Tommies’ in London, asked for special leave to come across from France and see me. The War Office was evidently suspicious of the request—they probably got many bogus ones—and sent a special messenger down to the theatre to ask me if I had a brother serving with the British forces. We had dinner together on the last night of his leave—it was a Sunday night, and he had to leave for France early next morning.

    My last words to him were: ‘Be sure and dodge the bullets, Albert.’ A few days later he was killed in action.

    Twilight and Dark

    One of the things I love most about England is the twilight. Taxis were not only expensive, but difficult to procure in those war years, and often we would stroll down to the theatre in that lovely English twilight. Then when we came out after the show was over, what a contrast, with the black darkness of war-time London! I always found London more difficult to find my way about in than New York, and often we would lose our way completely after coming out of the theatre.

    Once I remember, when I was living at a little hotel just off the Strand, we found ourselves right away up in New Oxford Street, when at last we summoned up sufficient courage to make inquiries. Curiously enough, the man we asked our direction from turned out to be, himself, an Australian and he very kindly escorted us all the way back to the hotel, refusing to leave us until he had seen us safe indoors.

    Amongst happy memories of that first visit to London, there was a memorable visit to the fashionable Ciro’s, where I was guest at a luncheon given by Sir Peter McBride [the Agent-General for Victoria]. I also renewed acquaintance with Violet Lorraine, whom I had known well in Australia, when she was here as Principal Boy [in the pantomime Puss in Boots for JCW in 1912–13].

    ‘Yeomen’ Memories

    One of the show places which held a special interest for me was the Tower of London, owing to the fact that I had so often seen its stage replica in The Yeomen of the Guard. I visited the Beauchamp tower, from which the scene in that opera is taken, and saw the actual Block which figures in the opera. This is said to be hundreds of years old, and has the marks on it left by the axe used in beheading the unhappy political victims. It was interesting to me as an Australian, to compare the ancient charm of London, with the rather blatant newness of New York. At that time America was definitely anti-British, and I had plenty of evidence of this during my two brief sojourns there.

    Anti-British Feeling in USA

    On my return to New York, after visiting London, for example, I met Mabel Webb, who had been working in England for the Red Cross. She did a lot of literary work in those days, and was visiting America in the hope of getting some special writing to do for the American papers. She told me that one day soon after her arrival from England, she was walking along Broadway wearing a little Union Jack pinned into the lapel of her coat, when a burly German accosted her, gazed venomously at the little flag badge, and smacked her across the face.

    There was a policeman near by, and Mabel went up to him and said, ‘Did you see that?’

    ‘I sure did!’ said the policeman.

    ‘Well, aren't you going to do anything about it?’ asked Mabel.

    ‘Not on your sweet life, I’m not,’ said the constable. ‘It's your look-out if the “Stars and Stripes” aren't good enough for you.’

    I remember attending a big revue production at Washington, one of the features of which was a Grand March of all Nations. Each European monarch was represented by a man made up as nearly as possible to represent the real king. The whole house rose and cheered when the man representing the Kaiser entered, but when the impersonator of the King of England came on, they kept their seats and hooted.

    I was with Harold Ashton in a box, with a party, including some Americans, and when that happened I became simply furious and wanted to stand up and cheer. Mr. Ashton whispered to me to keep my seat, and take no notice, which I did, very much against my inclinations.

    On another occasion I attended a public meeting held to deal with the question of America entering the war. That was in New York, and I attended merely out of curiosity to see what would happen. I didn’t remain long. Every time England was mentioned there would be an outburst of hoots and yells. Things were different later, of course, when America finally entered the war, but certainly at that time there was no friendly feeling for the Old Country in the USA, as I saw it, and even Australians were by no means popular. As a matter of fact, ninety-nine per cent. of Americans were totally ignorant of where Australia was and used to ask me the most ridiculous questions about it.

    A Great Disappointment

    One of my greatest disappointments on that trip occurred on my return to America from London. After a few weeks in New York, I dropped in to Chicago, before going on to San Francisco to catch the boat back to Australia. While there I ran into Mr. and Mrs. Hugh J. Ward. He was then with ‘The Firm’, and insisted that I should return with him to New York, as the season was then only just beginning. I went back with them, and it was while in New York that time that the great Morosco asked me to arrange some special musical numbers in a dramatic show he was about to produce.

    It was a great compliment, but to my intense chagrin ‘The Firm’ would not agree to release me for long enough to make that possible, as they declared that I was wanted back in Australia.

    I should dearly have loved to have done it, as, apart from the valuable experience, I should like to have been able to say that I had produced shows both in London and New York. However, it was not to be.

    On my return to Australia I had to commence rehearsals at once for the next pantomime and very soon that first trip began to seem like a dream to me. I have visited both London and New York since on many occasions for ‘The Firm,’ but never again by myself. By the time I got back to Australia I was, of course, a fairly experienced traveller, but I made up my mind that never again would I undertake an overseas journey without a companion.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    First published in Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic) on 7 July 1932, pp.24–25,, with further extracts from the subsequent chapters published on 14 July 1932, p.22, and 21 July 1932, p.10,

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *


    By Rob Morrison

    Although initially sent to South Africa to direct and choreograph the pantomime Puss in Boots for J.C. Williamson Ltd. in 1914, as part of The Firm’s first foray into establishing a South African touring circuit for its productions, Minnie Everett was subsequently tasked with taking on the direction of JCW’s season of the musical comedies The Girl on the Film, The Girl From Utah and The Dancing Mistress, in addition to her choreographic duties, when the English producer who had been hired for the job, George Slater, returned to England soon after his arrival in Durban due to illness. Having thus established her capabilities as a director-choreographer, JCW made full use of Minnie’s talents on her return to Australia at the conclusion of the tour by assigning her to direct and choreograph a series of revivals for its Royal Comic Opera Company, which included Ma Mie Rosette, Paul Jonesand The Old Guard in 1915. Given her knowledge of the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire, Minnie was also tasked with directing and choreographing all of JCW’s G&S revivals between 1917 (when she staged a one-off revival of The Mikado in Melbourne starring C.H. Workman and Gladys Moncrieff) to 1942, for which Minnie took great pride in being the only professional woman producer of G&S in the world during that period.

    While Minnie’s direction of the 1916 London production of High Jinks was not made public knowledge at the time (J.A.E. ‘Pat’ Malone receiving the official credit) the English Press (via the press agents employed to promote the show) nonetheless did acknowledge the singular novelty of a female ballet mistress being put in charge of creating the dances for a West End musical comedy (in a field dominated by men) as well as her status as a producer for JCW in Australasia.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Music & The Drama

    Rehearsals are in full swing at the Adelphi, and it is expected High Jinks will be ready for production in the course of a few weeks. Hitherto the teaching of the dances for both principals and chorus in a London musical comedy has been carried out by a man. The directors of the Adelphi Company, however, have entrusted this part of the production of High Jinks to a woman, Miss Minnie Everett, who is thus making a record in London, is an Australian paying her first visit to England. In Melbourne and Sydney she is known as the stage producer for J.C. Williamson and Co., who have numerous theatrical enterprises in the Antipodes. (Apollo)

    The People (London, England), Sunday, 6 August 1916, p.4

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *


    Referring to the production of High Jinks, a new musical play at the Adelphi Theatre, London one of the English papers comments on the fact that the directors of the company have brought for the first time into the production of a London musical comedy a woman to teach all the dances—for principals and chorus. ‘Miss Minnie Everett, who is in this department making a London record, is an Australian, and this is the first time she has been in England. She is well-known in Sydney and Melbourne as stage producer, and to get ideas for Christmas pantomimes she came to London, and is staying awhile to help with High Jinks. Towards the end of the month she goes to New York to watch the autumn productions there, and by November 1 she will have arrived in Melbourne,’ says the journal in question.

    The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), Saturday, 30 September 1916, p.6

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Meanwhile an item in the Bulletin’s weekly theatrical gossip column (named in honour of the sobriquet given to the strip of pavement in Park Street, between Castlereagh and Pitt Streets, near Sydney’s Criterion Theatre where out-of-work theatricals gathered in the hope of finding employment) revealed the true authorship of High Jinks to its readers. 

    At Poverty Point

    ‘C. Ockney’: High Jinks the musical-piece recently staged by the Williamson firm, has been put on at the London Adelphi. As in Australia no authors’ names appeared on the bill. This naturally caused comment—so much comment indeed that the Adelphi deemed it advisable to confess that it had kept the names from the public because, although not German, they ‘looked remarkably like it.’ They undoubtedly do. The author of the words is Otto Hauerbach; the musical composer is Rudolph Friml. The former is, so the management avers, a Dutch-American; the latter a Bohemian, naturalised in USA So now we know. But why not have said so at first?

    The Bulletin (Sydney, NSW) Vol. 37 No. 1915, 26 October 1916, p.9

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Indeed such was the sensitivity to the anti-German feeling prevalent amongst the British public during the Great War that the sheet music for the songs from the score of High Jinks by Friml and Hauerbach [Harbach] was published in Britain under the pseudonyms of ‘Roderick Freeman’ and ‘Ogden Hartley’, which did at least retain the initials of their respective names.   

    As JCW Managing Director, Hugh J. Ward had acquired the British performing rights to High Jinks at the same time as the Australasian performing rights, it was arranged that the musical comedy would be staged as J.C. Williamson Ltd.’s first London production in collaboration with West End impresario, Alfred Butt. But whereas the original Australian production by-and-large remained faithful to that originally staged in New York (albeit with additional songs and dance music interpolated into its score) the show was significantly adapted to suit London tastes, with the revision of the libretto undertaken by Frederick Lonsdale (who, amongst other changes, altered the nationality of the Frenchman, Monsieur Jacques Rabelais to the fiery Spaniard, Senor Rabelais, while Dr. Robert Thorne was re-christened Dr. Wilkie Thorne) and the interpolation of additional numbers specially written by Paul Rubens, Jerome Kern, James W. Tate and Howard Talbot, with additional lyrics by Percy Greenbank, Clifford Grey, Clifford Harris and “Valentine” (pseud. of Archibald Thomas Pechy) chiefly to showcase the talents of lead comedian, W.H. Berry in the expanded role of Dr. Thorne. This revised version, which premiered at the Adelphi Theatre on 24 August 1916 for a run of 383 performances, subsequently became the basis for all revivals of the musical staged in Australasia by JCW between 1917 up to its last professional outing in 1935 starring Madge Elliott and Cyril Ritchard.

    Theatre programme smlProgram for the original London production. Overtures collection—courtesy of Rex Bunnett.

    Pepita Bobadilla (aka Nelly Louise Burton) who took over the role of ‘Mdlle. Chi-Chi’ during the run, would subsequently become the second wife of Australian-born playwright, Haddon Chambers in October 1920 (and his widow upon his death in March 1921.)

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *


    1. Something seems Tingle-ingleing (Friml)—Peter Gawthorne & Chorus

    Adelphi Theatre Orchestra conducted by Howard Talbot (HMV C-720 or 02682)

    2. I could love a nice little Girl like you (Paul Rubens)—William H. Berry & Girls Chorus

    Adelphi Theatre Orchestra conducted by Howard Talbot (HMV 4-2785)

    3. Love's own Kiss (Friml)—Nellie Taylor & Peter Gawthorne

    Adelphi Theatre Orchestra conducted by Howard Talbot (HMV C-737 or 04180)

    4. I'm through with roaming Romeos (Friml)—Maisie Gay

    Adelphi Theatre Orchestra conducted by Howard Talbot (HMV B-712 or 2-3191)

    5. She says it with her Eyes (Friml)—Maisie Gay & W. H. Rawlins

    Adelphi Theatre Orchestra conducted by Howard Talbot (HMV C-721 or 04177)

    Original 1916 London cast recordings by His Master’s Voice (‘The Gramophone Company’) restored and reissued on Palaeophonics 142, courtesy of Dominic Combe.

    Picture sources

    Original 1916 London cast and scenic photos by Foulsham & Banfield published in The Play Pictorial (Vol. XXIX No. 174) courtesy of Dominic Combe.