Bert Ray started out with Cohen’s Mohawk Minstrels and later appeared with the Pollard Opera Company. He was engaged by his future business partner (and brother-in-law) Jack O’Donnell for a 1908 tour of New Zealand and later became involved in O’Donnell’s balloon and parachuting show which toured throughout the Antipodes and the East. Ray returned to vaudeville in 1912 before co-founding O’Donnell and Ray as a touring pantomime concern in 1921. The company continued to tour extensively around Australia and New Zealand up until at least the late 1930s.
Soprano, actress, entertainer.
South Australian soprano Shannon Raye was given her first big break by Edward Branscombe after she left school. With a magnetic personality and mellow singing style soprano voice Raye became sought-after performer around the country after touring with Branscombe’s Dandies. Ashe was later associated with Walter George’s Smart Set, Jim Gerald’s Miniature Musical Comedy Co, Nat Phillips’ Whirligigs, the Moon and Morris Revue Co, and the Ideals Revue Co. She is thought to have retired from the professional stage in the late 1920s.
American-born singer, songwriter, businessman, teacher.
(1833-1910) Once described as a sad, pathetic-looking performer, Beaumont Read was nevertheless considered the greatest male alto singer to appear on the Australian stage. He toured the USA and Europe with various troupes, notably Hague’s Georgia Slave Troupe (when it included white performers), and came to Australia via South Africa in 1874 with Anna Bishop. After a failed attempt to run a photographic business in Melbourne in the late 1870s he returned to the stage, becoming a huge star with Hiscocks’ Federal Minstrels. Read retired in 1903 and moved to Adelaide where he taught singing.
Considered one of the biggest stars of late nineteenth and early twentieth century international variety and musical comedy, Ada Reeve also had an extensive association with Australia. She came to the country professionally no less than six times between 1897 and 1929, and from 1929 to 1935 lived and worked here. Linked to all the biggest firms in Australian theatre, namely J.C. Williamson’s and the Tivoli and Fullers circuits, Reeve even produced her own tours. In addition to her work in musical comedy, vaudeville, revue, and pantomime she also worked in comedy drama, cabaret, films and radio (including the early Australian film and radio industries).
- See also: Bert Gilbert • Goodie Reeve (below)
- An expanded biography focusing on Reeve’s association with Australia is currently in process. It is expected to be published in August 2014.
NB: Reeve’s association with Australia became stronger after the late-1910s when both of her daughters emigrated to the country. Unfortunately her two marriages (to comedian Bert Gilbert and actor/manager Alfred Cotton) also ended in Australia. During several of her tours Reeve was also involved into personal and professional litigation.
(ca. 1896-1978) Actress, entertainer, songwriter, radio host.
The daughter of Bert Gilbert and Ada Reeve, Goodie Reeve established herself as a British-based musical comedy/revue artist during the mid-1910s. She came to Australia in 1917 as one of the stars of Tivoli circuit’s production of The Better Ole, and in 1926 began her 46 year career in radio, first with 2FC, then 2GB (1928-) and later with 2CH. Reeve performed in vaudeville and revues during the 1920s and 1930s, published songs and at one stage was the Referee’s “Theatrical Gazette” columnist. Known in later years as “Auntie Goodie” she maintained a high public profile well into the 1960s.
NB: Reeve and her sister Bessie first visited Australia during their parents 1897/98 tour. Bessie also emigrated to Australia in the late 1910s, marrying Melbourne physician, Dr McGillieuddy (he died in 1922). Bessie remained in the country until her death in 1954. The iconic Aeroplane Jelly jingle was first sung in the early 1930s on the Goodie Reeve radio show.
Image: Reeve arriving back in Australia in 1932. Source: National Library of Australia.
One of Australia’s greatest ever larrikin comedians, Roy Rene is best remembered for his early career partnership with Nat Phillips as “Stiffy and Mo.” The pair toured the Fullers Australia and New Zealand circuits as the stars of a series of Phillips’ original revusicals and pantomimes between 1916-24 and 1927-28. In the early 1930s he co-produced revues, starred in the film Strike Me Lucky (1933) and continued to be a variety top-liner into the 1940s. He began his extraordinarily successful radio career in 1946 with the McCackie Mansion series.
- More details
- “Roy Rene“ (a selection of film clips available at Australian Screen)
- ♫ Roy Rene. “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now” ca. 1940s (mp3)
- ♫ McCackie Manson: “The Xmas Present” ca. 1947-49 (mp3)
- ♫ Roy Rene and Hal Lashwood as Phillip and Aubrey (incl. “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo”) ca. 1940s (mp3)
- ♫ Roy Rene & Sadie Gale. “Mr Machine.” 1930 (mp3)
- For further recordings by Roy Rene see Stiffy and Mo.
English-born theatre, film, and radio scriptwriter.
Vic Roberts first came to Australia around 1926/27 as a comedian and in 1928 directed his own companies The Mirthquakers (Bris) and Smilestones (Perth) before heading back to the UK. After returning to Australia in the early 1930s he became a much sort writer, working in theatre, film and radio. One of his earliest film scripts was a collaboration with George D. Parker on Roy Rene’s 1934 film Strike Me Lucky. Although it has been claimed that Roberts contributed scripts for Stiffy and Mo no evidence of his contributions (if any) have yet been identified.
(1898-1978) Soprano, pantomime principal boy, child impersonator, pianist, musical comedy artist.
Sydney Conservatorium-trained singer, Amy Rochelle made her first stage appearance in 1912 aged 14. After becoming one of Harry Clay’s leading attractions (1914-1918) she spent the next 10 years on the Fullers’ circuit – notably as a pantomime principal boy and with the Stiffy and Mo Company. She also expanded her vaudeville repertoire with child impersonations and as a pianist. Rochelle continued performing into the 1950s, appearing on radio as a singer and actor. Her first husband was Harry R. Kitching (editor of Australian Variety).
- More details
- ♫ “Dearest I Love You” 1940s (mp3)
Billy Romaine came to Australia in 1912 under contract to the Fullers. He was later involved in setting up a number of dance halls in Sydney and engaged as bandleader at the White City Ballroom. In 1918 he toured Australia’s first jazz band for the Fullers and during the 1920s was associated with the Palais Royal and Glacarium dance venues (Sydney). In the 1930s Romaine was music director at Brisbane’s Tivoli (1931-32), Newcastle’s Empire Palais (1933) and often appeared on radio. His career continued up until at least 1948, and included entertaining troops in Papua New Guinea.
- See also: Tivolians (Billy Romaine)
Image source: Hood Collection, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW
(1905-1992) Magician, bullet-catcher.
Maurice Rooklyn (best remembered as the “Human Target”) was born in London and immigrated to Australia with his parents in 1912. By age 12 he was performing an amateur magic act in Sydney with his brother Harry. When a “Substitution Trunk” trick went wrong Harry abandoned magic for a career as a vaudeville musician. Maurice began his professional career in 1920, initially mixing magic with juggling, ventriloquism and mind-reading and in 1928 was elected President of the Australian Magicians’ Club. He devised his own “bullet-catching” act in 1934 (with a .303 rifle) and was shot twice while performing it.
- For further details see: Maurice Rooklyn. Spherical Sorcery and Recollections of a Pro': A Treatise of Advanced Manipulations with Billiard Balls and Memoirs of a Magician (1973) • Kent Blackmore. “Maurice Rooklyn, The Human Target.” Magic in Sydney [sighted 21/05/2014]
Images sourced from Maurice Rooklyn.
HARRY ROSS (1)
Australian tenor, revusical actor.
After establishing his reputation with one of J. C. Williamson’s companies, Harry Ross toured with the Grotesques Comedy Co in 1912 and the following year joined the American Burlesque Company as a member of the Grafters Quartette. The Grafters eventually assigned to an Australian Digger concert party (the Anzac Coves) and performed with them in England. After returning to Australia Ross rejoined the Fullers organisation, appearing in revusicals with the Tom Haverley Musical Comedy Co (1919-20) and the Walter George Sunshine Players (ca. 1920-22).
HARRY ROSS (2)
Harry Ross met Australian soubrette Clara Keating in the USA in 1919. They brought their rapid-fire patter act to Australia in 1921 for the Fullers and were later associated with Harry Clay among other firms. Ross eventually went on to produce revusicals, toured his own troupe (the Harry Ross Revue Co) and briefly performed with the Stiffy and Mo and Nat Phillips Whirligigs companies. Although he and Keating separated around 1927/28, Ross remained in Australia up until at least the mid-1930s.
NB: No information regarding Harry Ross’s life or career prior to his arrival in Australia has yet been located, apart from his military records. These indicate that he served with the British expeditionary force from the outbreak of WWI.
Thanks to Tony King (great nephew) for additional information.
Singer, dancer, song-writer, violinist, actress.
The daughter of a well-known British concert performer, Madeline Rossiter first toured Australia in 1914 as a member of the Royal Strollers (with Sydney James). She returned to Australia in 1919 following James’ death in the East and was later associated with the Town Topics, Famous Diggers, Tivoli Topics and the English Pierrots. A number of her songs were also published in Australia during the 1920s. Rossiter left Australia for the East in 1925 and soon afterwards formed her own musical comedy company.
- See also Sydney James / Town Topics / Famous Diggers
- ۩ “On the Promenade” (1913) by Madeline Rossiter [NLA Digital Collection, Sheet Music]
- ۩ “I Cannot Forget” (ca. 1910s) by Madeline Rossiter [NLA Digital Collection, Sheet Music]
- ۩ “Josie” (1923) by Madeline Rossiter/Oswald Anderson [NLA Digital Collection, Sheet Music]
DR ROWE AMD MYSTIC MORA
(1880-1952) Richard Rowe: Conjurer, hypnotist, theatre lessee, author [Born in Ballarat, Victoria]; Mystic Mora (-1965): Telepathist [aka Maud Rowe]
Richard Rowe started performing stage magic in 1895 and by 1900 was a popular act at Melbourne’s People’s Concerts. During the early 1900s he worked for John Fuller (NZ), Ted Holland, J. C. Bain, Ada Delroy, James Brennan etc, and toured the UK before teaming up with Mystic Mora (ca. 1912). They toured for the Clay, Fullers, Dix-Baker and Birch and Carroll circuits and with troupes like Post Mason’s Mahatma Co before undertaking their first tour of the East (including China, Java and the Malay States) in 1916. Later international engagements included the USA, Great Britain, and Jamaica. After settling in Melbourne in the late-1920s, Rowe became President of the Australian Magicians Club.
NB: Rowe’s billing people’s Concerts billing in 1900 refers to him as “Dr Rowe, world-renowned prestidigitateur, necromancer [and] magician.” No evidence has yet been found that supports such a claim. During the 1920s the Rowes toured lecture-style entertainment known as “The Mahatma Mysteries.” Rowe also published several books on magic, including “Thirty Pocket Tricks That Anyone Can Do (1929) and Fifty Easy Pocket Tricks (no date).
Image source: State Library of Victoria.
Comic, endman, monologist.
After establishing himself with Frank Smith during the late 1880s/early 1890s Sydney comedian Sam Rowley (“the Little Man with the Big Voice”) went on to carve out a three decades-long career in America. During that time he intermittently returned home – appearing for example with the Court Variety and Ballad Company (alongside W. Horace Bent) in 1895. His later Australian tours included engagements with Harry Rickards, Percy St John, Jones and Lawrence and the Fullers.
(1882-1946) Comedian, writer, songwriter, director/producer, troupe proprietor. [Born Joseph Henry Toon]
The son of comedian George Rocks, Joe Rox began his career in the late-1890s and by 1902 was with Ted Holland’s Vaudeville Company. In addition to regular billing with James Brennan (1905-12) he also worked for Holland and St John, Harry Clay, J.C. Bain, the Fullers (New Zealand), Dix-Baker and Harry Barrington among others. Rox later played a key role with Clay’s firm (1914-21, 1926), starred with Borradale’s Sparkers (1921-22), managed his own troupe (mid-1920s), toured with Stanley McKay (early-1930s), worked in radio and entertained troops in Brisbane during the war.
Bert Royle came to Australia as a variety performer in 1888 and soon afterwards began his long association with J. C. Williamson. Initially employed as an actor in Williamson, Garner and Musgrove productions he was later engaged as Williamson’s literary secretary. His biggest successes were the pantomimes Djin Djin (1895) and Matsa (1896). Royle went to New Zealand in 1898 as Williamson’s representative and managed Tom Pollard’s opera productions for four years. He remained Williamson’s New Zealand representative until his death in 1929.
(aka Dorothy May)
(1893-1940) Revue and pantomime artist, soprano.
Dorothy Rudder (initially known professionally as Dorothy May), appeared in numerous amateur concerts between 1914 and 1917. After touring the East with Edgar Warwick’s company (1918-19) she returned to Australia, spending the next decade associated with such troupes/firms as Harry Borradale’s Sparklers, Ideals of 1922, Walter George Sunshine Players, the Fullers, Harry G. Musgrove (as principal girl for The Forty Thieves, 1923) and F. Gayle Wyer’s Bandbox Revue Co. She was heard on radio regularly during the early to mid-1930s and appeared in opera in London ca. 1938 before dying suddenly in a Sydney hospital.
- More details (Cathy Koning)