All biographies should be considered incomplete – with research ongoing.
Check the individual PDF pages for “Last Updated” citation details.
William Anderson’s entrepre-neurial career saw him operate two permanent dramatic companies. He also built Sydney’s Wonderland City fun-park and Melbourne’s King’s Theatre, and produced several early Australian films. Among the biggest names associated with his theatricals were Eugenie Duggan (his wife), and English actor Roy Redgrave. Forced to abandon the Kings Theatre in 1911, he moved to Adelaide in 1916, producing drama, variety and pantomime there until the late-1920s (with occasional Sydney and Melbourne ventures). His last major production was the 1939 Charles Wenman-directed pantomime Sinbad the Sailor.
- More details coming in 2013.
Lessee, producer, manager.
Joseph Billin owned and managed the Victoria Hall (Melbourne) during the early 1890s, presenting variety entertainment in the form of minstrelsy, vaudeville, and burlesque. Among the best-known Australian minstrel performers to work under Billin’s management were W. Horace Bent, Will Whitburn, Alf and Tom Holland, John Fuller Snr, McKisson and Kearns, Fred Davys, and Amy Rowe.
(1885-1948) Film exhibitor, circuit proprietor, businessman, theatre lessee and company director.
In 1907, aged 22, Herbert Boland took control of the Crown Theatre, Wollongong (NSW). He later established a circuit of regional venues called South Coast Picture Theatres. Forced to lease the circuit to Union Theatres (later Greater Union) in 1928 due to ill-health, Boland moved to Sydney. In 1931 he became a sleeping partner with Mike Connors and Queenie Paul (Con-Paul Theatres), which effectively kept the Tivoli circuit operating during the Depression. One of his final theatrical ventures included leasing the Haymarket Theatre in Sydney.
Details for this entry have been sourced from Robert Parkinson.
Singer, composer, music director, businessman, company owner, manager.
English-born singer Edward Branscombe toured the Antipodes five times between 1896 and 1909 with such companies as the English Concert Party, Westminster Glee Concert Company and Scarlet Troubadours. In 1909 he began establishing a circuit of open-air theatres around Australia. These were used initially by his elegantly costumed Dandies companies. Branscombe also founded the Smart Set Entertainers in 1915 (the troupe specialised in presenting musical scenas) and revived the Westminster Glee Singers in the early 1920s. He was still associated with the latter company well into the 1930s.
Racehorse owner, bookmaker, sports promoter, theatre and circuit owner, businessman, producer.
James Brennan entered the variety theatre industry in 1906 when he converted the athletic hall of the National Sporting Club (Sydney) into the National Amphitheatre. The following year he took over the lease of Melbourne’s Gaiety Theatre, and later toured Brennan’s Vaudeville Entertainers around Australia. In 1911 he set up Brennan’s Amphitheatres Ltd and took up the lease of the Newtown Hippodrome. After building a new Amphitheatre in Melbourne in 1912 Brennan sold his circuit to Ben and John Fuller and returned to bookmaking.
- More details coming soon.
Dan Carroll joined his older brother Edward as a business partner in 1908. Following Edward’s move to Sydney in 1913 Dan remained in Queensland to manage the various Birch and Carroll (and later Birch Carroll and Coyle) enterprises. He nevertheless continued to be closely involved in all their Australian operations. After Edward’s death in 1931 Dan became managing director of the family companies. Between 1932 and 1959 he was also Chairman of the Motion Picture Industry Benevolent Fund.
- For further details see E. J. Carroll entry below.
Image: Dan Carroll and actress Dorothy Harris Theatre Dec. (1915), 45.
E. J. CARROLL
Edward Carroll’s entrepreneurial career began in 1906 when he bought the Queensland exhibition rights to J. and N. Tait’s moving pictures. He and his brother Dan promoted theatre, film and skating Brisbane before establishing a chain of regional Queensland theatres with George Birch (their partnership with T. V. Coyle in 1912 eventually became Birch, Carroll and Coyle). Carroll began expanding into artist management and film production in 1913, and in 1920 he co-founded a theatrical firm with George Musgrove. He remained active as an entrepreneur until his death.
F. M. CLARK
American manager, businessman, producer, writer, comedian/singer, theatre lessee, film actor.
One of the Australian variety industry’s leading managers of the 19th century, Frank Clark came to the country in 1882 with Clark and Ryman’s Minstrels (later Red Stockings). From 1886 onwards he mostly toured his own companies – known variously as the Silk Stockings, All Star Novelty Co, European Celebrities, Clark’s Last Sensation Co, Boston Ideal Co, New Folly Co and the American English Co etc. A popular comedian and singer, Clark also wrote comic songs, burlesques and farces. After returning to the USA (ca. 1910) he appeared in at least 197 films.
- Clark’s updated biography is due in early May 2013.
Harry Clay got his first big career break with Frank Smith in 1885 and later appeared with F. E. Hiscocks, Dan Tracey and Harry Rickards among other. He toured his own combination, the Australian Eleven (1896-99) and in toured Queensland annually between 1901 and 1918. Clay established a permanent Sydney circuit in 1905, built the Bridge Theatre (Newtown) in 1913 and later operated several regional NSW circuits. He was also associated for many years with the Coliseum (North Sydney), and Princess and Gaiety theatres.
- More details (abridged biography)
- Harry Clay: Career and Personal Chronology, 1865-1925
- “From Minstrel Tenor to Vaudeville Showman“ (Australasian Drama Studies 34, 1999).
- “Audiences Were Tough When Harry Clay Ran Vaudeville” / “Sometimes His Shows Were a Riot“ (photocopied articles)
- See also “Harry Clay and Clay’s Vaudeville Company, 1865-1930” MA Thesis (1998)
(1819-1906) Comedian, singer, actor, entrepreneur, businessman, politician, philanthropist.
George Selth Coppin came to Australia in 1842 and over the next 60 years established himself as one Australia’s most influential theatrical entrepreneurs. His most significant years were the 1840s through to the 1880s. During this period he built six theatres and brought to Australia such stars as Gustav Brooke, Joseph Jefferson, Charles and Ellen Keen, Emerson’s California Minstrels and J.C. Williamson and Maggie Moore. Largely associated with the Melbourne’s Theatre Royal between 1872 and 1881, he also found time to enter politics four times between 1855 and 1895.
- More details coming soon.
- See also: Sally O’Neill “George Selth Coppin (1819-1906)” ADB (1969) – online (sighted 24/5.2012)
- See also: Frank Van Straten “The Man of Many Parts” Live Performance Australia – online (sighted 24/5/2012)
Image: Courtesy of Pictures Victoria (original held by the Richmond Library)
PERCY R. DIX
Businessman, theatre lessee, circuit owner, producer.
A qualified chemist, Percy Dix moved from Australia to New Zealand in the early to mid-1890s and in 1895 began putting on concerts in Auckland. He ran Dix’s Gaiety Company in the city from around 1899 and established a Dominion circuit in 1900. After returning to Australia in 1905 he went into partnership with Reuben Baker in the NSW Hunter Valley (as Dix-Baker). Their main centre of operations was King’s Theatre in Newcastle. Dix died in 1917, leaving his partner to run the business through until the early 1920s.
SIR BENJAMIN FULLER
The son of variety showman John Fuller Snr, Benjamin Fuller joined his family in Australia in 1894. Soon afterwards the Fullers moved to New Zealand, eventually establishing a successful theatrical enterprise that included both film and variety. In 1912 Benjamin and his brother John bought out James Brennan’s Australian circuit, and soon afterwards founded the company best known as Fullers’ Theatres. Their Antipodian vaudeville empire lasted until the early 1930s. Knighthood in 1921 for his charity activities, Fuller helped found ABC radio in 1929. He also co-founded Savoy Theatres Ltd (1936) and Carroll-Fuller Theatres (1946).
- More details coming soon.
JOHN FULLER JNR
John Fuller Jnr came to Australia with his family in 1891 and was later engaged as a singer and lantern show manipulator for his family’s New Zealand concerts. Between 1912 and the early 1930s he and his brother Benjamin controlled the Antipodian vaudeville empire known as Fullers Theatres. Although Benjamin was the company’s public face and originator of the ideas, John was reportedly the one who made these ideas work. He later moved into real estate, while still retaining control of the St James Theatre (Sydney).
- More details coming soon.