Organisations & Partnerships [A-L]

This Organisations and Partnerships section includes Harry Rickards Tivoli Theatres Ltd (1912-1924), otherwise referred to as the Tivoli circuit. See Organisations and Partnerships [M-Z] for later Tivoli companies.



aka Ike Beck’s Vaudeville Co / Ike Beck’s All-Star Vaudeville / All-Star Vaudeville & Revue

All Star Vaudeville [MDM 13 Dec 1935, 2]

(ca. 1921-1938) All-Star Vaudeville was the generic name used by Ike Beck for the various variety troupes he operated during the 1920s and 1930s. Although most associated with the Hunter region of New South Wales, and particularly in such centres as Newcastle, Maitland, Cessnock and Singleton, Beck occasionally toured his companies further afield – including north-west New South Wales and southern Queensland. Many hundreds of performers have been linked to Beck’s All-Star Vaudeville, including Roy Rene, Sadie Gale, George Sorlie, Ike Delavale, Ted Tutty, Ward Lear, Billy Bovis, Slavin and Thompson, Cass Mahomet, Doris Tindall, Lyla Thompson, Fanny Levarto and Lulla Fanning.

All-Star was also often spelled All Star.
Image source: Maitland Daily Mercury (NSW) 13 Dec. 1935, 2.



aka Amusu Concert Co / Melrose’s Vaudeville

(1923-1925) George E. Melrose established the Amusu Vaudeville company in Wollongong in 1923 after having been previously associated with Allan Wilkie’s Shakespearean Company, Taylor and Colman’s Pantomime Company, the Fullers’ Theatres [below]. The first known Amusu season was at the Wollongong Town Hall during the  town’s 1923 show week. After a brief tour of Northern New South Wales in 1924 as the Amusu Concert Co, Melrose and Frank Martin established a permanent concern in the Hunter Valley, playing every Saturday night at Maitland Town Hall and later (on other nights) in nearby centres such West Wallsend (Phelan’s Hall), Kurri (King’s Hall), Cessnock (Strand Theatre), and Greta. Melrose eventually took sole control of Amusu Vaudeville operating it until mid-1925.

1: Among the leading artists engaged by Melrose were Les Shipp, Denis Carney, Raymond, Emilie Dani, Harry Little, Harry North, Molly Ambrose, Joe Archer, Cass Mahomet, Doody and Wright, Effie Fellows, Heather Belle, and Hats McKay. Ella Airlie was engaged as music director in 1924 (Hunter Valley).
2: The 1924 Amusu Concert Co tour was sometimes known as the Raymond Concert Co in response the troupe’s headline act, illusionist/escapologist Ramond (direct from Fullers’ Theatres). Many of Melrose’s artists were also engaged from the Fullers’ circuit.


Please note: The term “Amusu” was used by a number of theatrical and film showmen during the 1910s and 1920s. The earliest known was Amusu Picture Show in Darling Street, Sydney in 1917. Amusu Pictures are known to have operated in Kapunda and Mount Gambier, South Australia around 1918, while Altsonville in northern New South Wales also had an Amusu Pictures operating there from around the same time. Victoria Park (Perth), Balmain (Sydney) and Pingelly (WA) are some of the known suburbs/towns to host an Amus Pictures during the 1920s.
Live entertainments to utilise the name included a touring American variety show called The Astras Amusu Co (1921), the Amusu Duo (ca. 1922-23), Amusu Vaudeville [see above], and the Amusu Panto Kiddies (1925).



(1925-ca.1931) Reportedly founded by a consortium of businessmen, including Gilbert Johnson (managing director), and capitalised with a sum of around £25,000, Australian Musical Production confirmed at its 7 April launch in Melbourne that it had secured the Australasian rights to three Kenneth Duffield/Dion Titheradge revues Snap (1922), Push and Pot Luck. All had met with earlier success in London. The first show, Snap, was a huge success for the company, especially in Melbourne where it ran for almost three months. Pot Luck made its Australian debut in Brisbane in November 1925, with several more Duffield/Titheradge revues being staged through until at least 1931.

Although Duffield has been identified as one of the founders/directors he appears not to have been publicly identified with the company in either role during its years of operation – despite the numerous articles that were published on both him and the company (especially during its foundation year).




A consortium of Toowoomba businessmen and Brisbane-based entrepreneur E.J. Carroll, Austral Pictures exhibited films out of Austral Hall between 1909 and 1911 Although moving pictures were naturally the principle concern of the business, management nevertheless often organised variety and concert artists to entertain patrons while film reels were being changed. The company is also recorded as having exhibited films at the Town Hall on at least once occasion (ca. Oct. 1910). At that time veteran comedian Slade Murray was a feature performer. Austral Pictures became the Empire Theatre Ltd in 1910 when the directors purchased land for a new picture house in Toowoomba (to be called the Empire).

Austral Pictures took over the lease of Australia Hall from the Austral Society – an organisation co-founded in 1903 by Toowoomba poet George Essex Evans as a means of promoting Australian arts and culture in the community. Evan’s death in November 1909, and the loss of their primary venue, led to the society gradually falling by the wayside and it officially ceased to exist in 1911.



aka Bert Bailey Dramatic Company

(1912-ca. 1950s) Bert Baily, Julius Grant (and Edmund Duggan, 1912-1917)

In 1911 Bert Bailey and Edmund Duggan took over the lease of Melbourne’s King’s Theatre following William Anderson‘s financial collapse over the failure of his Wonderland City venture. The following year the pair and their business manager Julius Grant established the Bert Bailey Dramatic Company, and had immediate (and long-term) success with the comedy, On Our Selection (1912) and its sequel Grandad Rudd (1915). Later known simply as Bailey and Grant, the firm produced many Australian plays over the next two decades, and in the process became one of Australia’s leading theatrical organisations of that era. In terms of variety theatre, it had much success with four pantomimes staged in association with J. and N. Tait [below] – Aladdin (1917), Jack and Jill (1918), Mother Hubbard (1919), and Sinbad the Sailor (1920). Bailey and Grant was also a foundation member of the Theatrical Proprietors’ and Managers’ Association.

1: Bailey and Duggan had both been with William Anderson’s company since 1900. Bailey joined from Charles Macmahon’s Lyceum Company as a principal comedian, while Duggan and his sister Eugenie (later Mrs William Anderson) were inherited from the Charles Holloway dramatic company.
2: Many secondary sources record that the company was formed as Bailey and Grant in 1912. Numerous newspaper reports between 1912 and 1916 indicate, however, that Edmund Duggan had been involved from the outset, and that it was known as Bert Bailey’s Dramatic Company. See for example Van Eck’s interview with Bailey in 1912. The name “Bailey and Grant” does not appear in any newspapers until July 1915, when it is identified as lessee of the King’s Theatre. Direction at that time was by the Bert Bailey Company, with Julius Grant as managing director.
3: Edmund Duggan resigned from the partnership sometime during the first half of 1917. Reports emerged in newspapers as early as late-July that year notifying the public that the actor had sold his interests, and that Messrs Bailey and Grant would solely control the Bert Bailey Dramatic Company from then on. The firm produced and had success with a wide variety of shows – ranging from bush comedy to Shakespeare. See for example their revival of Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet and Julius Caesar in 1917 (King’s Theatre, Melbourne).
4: It is unclear when the partnership was actually wound down. Melbourne’s Herald newspaper records in 1951 that Julius Grant left his share of the company known as Bert Bailey and Julius Grant Enterprises to his brother, Sydney Harrison Grant (17 Jan. 1951, 2).
Image: L-R – Edmund Duggan, Bert Bailey, Julius Grant. Source: Mail (Adelaide) 3 Aug. 1912, 6.



(1915-1916) Beaumont Smith, who owned the sole Australasian rights to a series of British comedies, musicals and dramas staged by Louis Meyer at London’s Strand Theatre, joined forces with Leslie R. Hoskins in mid-1915 following Meyers’ death. Hoskins, a director in his family’s Lithgow steel works and an amateur actor/singer, had previously had been engaged for most of 1914 as Smith’s New Zealand tour manager. Among the productions staged by the firms’ “Glad-Eye” Company were Stop Your Nonsense (1915),  Who’s the Lady?, The Glad Eye and Smith’s own adaptation of Seven Little Australians.



BCC logo

(1909-1923) The company cinema chain known as Birch Carroll and Coyle to generations of Queenslanders was formalised as a limited company in 1923. It’s origins can be traced back to 1909, however, when Brisbane and Ipswich-based brothers E.J. and Dan Carroll joined with Rockhampton-based theatrical manager and film exhibitor George Birch to form Birch and Carroll. Over the next 14 years the company established a chain of venues in many of the state’s principal towns. This period also saw the company invest heavily in live entertainment (including vaudeville), not only as lessees but also as managers and producers or co-producers.



(1923-) Virgil Coyle’s name was added to the Birch and Carroll partnership to form the limited company Birch, Carroll and Coyle (BCC) in 1923. Two years later, with financial backing from Greater Union Theatres and from regional Queensland shareholders, the company embarked on the ambitious construction of Wintergarden picture palaces stretching from Ipswich to Townsville. Although primarily a cinema chain, Birch, Carroll and Coyle nevertheless maintained the association with live performance previously initiated by Birch and Carroll. The company continued to present between-films entertainment at select cinemas for many years, sometimes with the support of (or featuring) the house orchestra. It was also active as a theatrical producer and/or lessee, operating its own entertainments (including variety) or in association with independent firms, troupes or artists.

1: The decision to formalise Birch, Carroll and Coyle as a limited company was undertaken so that the organisation could better control and modernise what had by then become an already extensive theatre and cinema circuit in northern and coastal Queensland. Although the company was acquired by Greater Union Organisation in 1991, some cinemas still trade under the BBC name.
2: Between September 1923 and January 1924 vaudevillian (and soon to be film star, Claude Dampier) undertook a tour of Queensland with his New Dandies (aka Dandies of 1923) in association with Birch, Carroll and Coyle. In this repsect he was possibly the first variety artist to tour for the newly formalised consortium. Community singing and children’s shows were among other popular attractions at select BCC theatres for many years.
3: Please note: The Cryle/Cosgrove and Boyle, and Cryle/Johansen articles were researched and published long before the advent of Trove in 2009. While containing some useful insights and historical background, each should now be considered out of date, particularly in respect of the Birch and Carroll era.



(1906-1912) Between 1906 and 1911 James Brennan (Brennan’s Vaudeville Entertainers) operated a circuit comprising Sydney (National Amphitheatre) and Melbourne (Gaiety Theatre). He began sending companies to other interstate capitals in 1911, and the following year floated the business as a public company (Brennan’s Amphitheatres Ltd). He over-reached his financial reserves in 1912, however, after building a new Melbourne theatre and was forced soon afterwards to sell his interest in the company to the Fullers. The circuit operated as Brennan-Fuller until 1915, by which time its former owner’s name was dropped.

  • See also: James BrennanBrennan-Fuller Vaudeville Circuit [below]



aka Fuller-Brennan

Brennan-Fuller [SMH 15 Apr 1912, 2](1912-1915) Benjamin Fuller and John Fuller Jnr expanded their New Zealand vaudeville operations into Australia in 1912 by purchasing James Brennan’s National Amphitheatres Ltd. At that time Brennan’s circuit comprised the National Amphitheatre (Sydney) and the Gaiety Theatre (Melbourne). He had also established the firm in other capital cities with Brennan’s Entertainers. The first Brennan-Fuller advertisements were published on 15 April. The firm continued to operate under that name until the Fullers re-organised their operations as John Fuller and Sons Ltd (aka Fullers’ Theatres).

  • See also: Fullers’ Theatres Ltd [below] • Brennan’s Amphitheatres Ltd [above]



British Bioscope Co [MB 19 Apr 1909, 3]

(1909-1914) George Birch established Rockhampton’s first moving picture venue in December 1908 with his British Bioscope Company. Under this banner he presented regular weekly entertainments at the Theatre Royal for just over five years except when the theatre was otherwise booked (from September 1910 the shows operated in opposition to Birch and Carroll’s other Rockhampton venue, Earls Court). Birch also sent the company his shows to other regional centres. The Rockhampton programmes were accompanied by an orchestra (led by Harry Carter) and often featured local or professional vaudevillians as “between-films” entertainment. One of the highlights of 1909 was the presentation of the Chronomegaphone. The British Bioscope name disappears from newspaper publicity after January 1914.

1: During times when the Theatre Royal was unavailable Birch either sent the company to nearby towns or leased local halls like the School of Arts or the Royal Rink. Among the towns played by his Touring British Bioscope Company were: Mt Morgan, Mt Chalmers, Gracemere, Yeppoon, Baree, Emu Park, Blackall, Jericho, Barcaldine, and Longreach.
2: Among the biggest names to appear with the company were Johnny Gilmore, Kate Howarde, Elton Black, Denis Carney, Maud Fanning, Arthur Elliott, Sam Gale and Sadie, Leonard Nelson, Frank Herberte, Ernest Pitcher, Jack Cosgrove, Eddie and Decima McLean, and George A. Jones and Ettie Williams. A number of international artists were also engaged. For details relating to the Chromomegaphone see this entry’s research notes.
Image source: Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld) 19 Apr. 1909, 2.



(1920-1922) Having severed ties with both the Fullers [below] and Stiffy and Mo in October 1919, Peter Brooks went to work for Durham Marcel at Perth’s Melrose Theatre. Six months later he re-instituted vaudeville at the Shaftesbury Theatre, through his newly formed Brooks Amusement Company. The venture opened on 29 May with a line-up featuring the Delavale Brothers, English ventriloquist Baron, and Lily Vockler. Later in the year American comedian Paul Stanhope presented a season of musical comedy. Brooks sold his shares in early 1921 prior to leaving Perth. The company folded a year later, however, owing creditors more than £600. The venture’s failure at the end was partly in response to bad publicity arising from a tax default, the engagement of a fraudulent hypnotist, and increasing competition.

1: Brooks was a founding member of Nat Phillips’ Stiffy and Mo Revue Company.
2: Perth’s Daily News records that Brooks Amusement Company began with a capital of £1,000 divided into 20 equal shares (“Registered Companies.Daily News 31 May 1920, 3).
3: The owners were identified in December 1921 as Apply and Whittaker. At the time the company was wound down in late-February 1922, however, the sole shareholder was electrician William Ernest Grigo.h6>
Image source: Australian (Perth) 28 May 1920 , 6



Bridge Theatre Co LetterheadFounded in 1912 by Harry Clay (1865-1925), Harold Morgan and A.R. Abbott, Clay’s Bridge Theatre Company built and operated the Bridge Theatre in Newtown (Sydney). It later controlled Clay’s Sydney city/suburban circuit, and his south-west New South Wales and Hunter Valley circuits. The company ended its association with live theatre in the late 1920s and moved into theatre and property leasing. Renamed Clay’s Theatres Ltd in the 1930s, the company was controlled by H.T. Morgan and Sons (solicitors) until the sale of its flagship property in 1969.



coles-varieties-ma-22-july-1939-12(1934-1941) The final chapter in an theatrical venture initiated in 1899 by E.I. “Bohemian” Cole (1857-1942), Cole’s Varieties was the trading name for a vaudeville, pantomime and revusical/ revue company which operated around regional Australia under the management of Cole’s son-in-law, Bill Ayr. In late-1929 Ayr switched the entertainment focus of Cole’s Dramatic Players to musical comedy (which toured as Coles Comedy Players) and then in 1934 rebranded the venture Cole’s Varieties. The 27-member line-up which debuted in Ipswich, Queensland in May, featured Desmond and Jansen, Wong Toy Sun, Gladys Shaw, and Peter Brooks. Later artists included stars from the Tivoli circuit and J.C. Williamson’s. Ayr was forced to end the tours in late-1941 due to petrol rationing.

1: American showman, actor, lecturer, dramatist, film director, businessman, entrepreneur and tooth-puller, Edward Irham Cole came to Australia in the early 1890s. His entrepreneurial career began in earnest with the Wild West Dramatic Company in 1899, which he jointly owned with Texas Jack. In 1900 the venture morphed into the Bohemian Dramatic Company. Over the next three decades the company came to be known throughout regional Australia as Cole’s Bohemians, Cole’s Dramatic Company, Cole’s Comedy Players and eventually Cole’s Varieties.
2: The company that became known as Cole’s Comedy Players briefly toured as Cole’s Musical Comedy and Dramatic Players, before Ayr shortened its name in early-1930. It was often referred to as simply Cole’s Players, however.
3: Among the biggest names to tour for Cole’s Varieties were Bert Le Blanc, Nellie Kolle, George Lloyd, Doris Tindall, the Fredo Boys, James Foran, and Rosie Rifle. Ayr’s three children, Tom, Ned, and Millie, and his wife, Mabel (nee Cole) were also heavily involved in various aspects of the company and its shows.
Image source: Mail (Adelaide) 22 July 1939, 12.



(1931-1934) Variety artists Mike Connors and Queenie Paul began their entrepreneurial careers in early 1931 by hiring Sydney’s Haymarket Theatre and producing a revue called Brighter Days. The line-up included Roy Rene, Jim Gerald and Hector St Clair. Mid-year the pair expanded to Melbourne, leasing FullersBijou Theatre and soon afterwards formed a consortium which traded as Con-Paul Theatres (others included George Dickenson and Herbert Boland). In 1934 Dickenson and Frank Neil took control of the company, renaming it Tivoli Circuit Australia the following year.




(1906-1924) Although best known as a film exhibition company, Cook’s Pictures, as with most other picture shows of the period, also frequently, if not regularly, included regular live variety acts as part of its entertainment package. The company appears to have begun operating in late-1906 under the banner Cook’s Living Pictures, and continued until early-1924 when Cook’s financial difficulties forced its closure. Although known as a touring institution around Australia and New Zealand for almost 20 years, the company’s base of operations was in Brisbane from around 1912 onward. Cook operated several permanent cinemas in the city. Toowoomba was another stronghold.

1: In 1916 George Wallace, recently arrived from North Queensland, made his Brisbane debut at Cook’s Fortitude Valley theatre during an amateur trial. Other high profile entertainers linked to Cook’s Pictures included Phillip Newbury and Emily Spada (1911), Huxham’s Serenaders, Emil Lazern, Maud Jefferson, Keldine & Klimo (1912), Sam McVea Vaudeville Entertainers (1913), Roy Redgrave (1916).
2: The Brisbane picture houses operated in the CBD (including Her Majesty’s Theatre and Centennial Hall), Fortitude Valley (Crystal Gardens/Palace Theatre), Clayfield, Woolloongabba, and Sherwood. The Woolloongabba cinema (Fiveways Pictures) was operated in partnership with A.T. Richards from 1910 to 1924.
Image source: Daily Standard (Brisbane) 14 July 1914, 2.



Coppin, Hennings & Greville

(1877-1882) Following the retirement of Henry Harwood and Richard Stewart in October 1877, George Coppin and John Hennings joined forces with comedian/actor John Greville (1835-1894) to run Melbourne’s Theatre Royal. As with the Harwood, Stewart, Hennings and Coppin partnership the new firm staged dramatic seasons lead by both international and local stars such as George Darrell and Coppin himself. They also produced a number of large-scale pantomimes and burlesques, including a Sydney season of Greville and Harry Emmett‘s Jack the Giant Killer (1880). The partnership ended in late June 1882 when their lease of the Theatre Royal expired.

Image sources – L-R: George Coppin (Picture Australia), John Hennings (Erin Irvin, Dictionary of Australian Theatre, 1985, 123), J. R. Greville (State Library of Victoria)



This business partnership between Tom Delohery, Charles Bovis and Sydney Deane occurred during the mid to late-1890s. Its operations were closely associated with the Elite Vaudeville Company (formerly Delohery and Speed’s Empire Minstrels), which featured the “Australian team” of Delohery, Craydon and Holland.



aka Delohery & St John

(1899) Thomas Delohery and Ted Holland joined forces with Percy St John to run the Elite Vaudeville Company’s shows at Brisbane’s Theatre Royal in May 1899. Over the next three months they produced several of St John’s pantomimes – Humpty Dumpty (1898), Cinderella (1891), and Dick Whittington and His Cat (1899) – as well as his one act musical comedy Topsy Turvy. Delohery and St John initially leased the Royal (8-22 July) and then the Opera House (from 4 August to November). As lessee/managers they oversaw seasons of drama staged by the Williamson-Woods company and Charles Macmahon‘s Lyceum Company.



Dix-Baker-S&M [SW 1 Nov 1919, 21]

After moving back to Australia after a decade or more of running vaudeville shows in New Zealand, Percy Dix established a circuit in the New South Wales Hunter Valley region with Reuben Baker. The partners operated several venues in Newcastle, including the Victoria and Lyric theatres, along with and various halls throughout the Hunter region. Following Dix’s death in 1917 Baker continued to manage the circuit and by the early 1920s he had expanded his operations to include venues and entrepreneurial operations outside both the Hunter and the state.

Image source: Smith’s Weekly (Sydney) 1 Nov. 1919, 21.



Dix, PR - ad 2 [ASA 1905, 9]

(New Zealand: 1895-1905) Percy Dix began staging concerts and theatricals in Auckland in 1895 and from 1899 ran his own minstrel and vaudeville show in the city. In 1900 established the Dix Gaiety circuit which comprised Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and later Dunedin. He transferred his headquarters to Wellington in 1901 but from the following year began encountering increased competition from John Fuller and his family. Dix ended his presence in Dunedin and Christchurch in 1902 and Auckland in 1903, and finally closed down his Wellington operations in 1905. After returning to Australia he set up the Dix-Baker firm in Newcastle [above].

Image source: Australasian Stage Annual Jan. (1902), 24.



(1931-1936) Established by Frank Thring Snr after he sold his interests in Hoyts [below] to the Fox Film Corporation, Efftee Films produced seven features and a number of shorts between 1932 and 1936. These productions included three hit George Wallace films – His Royal Highness (1932), Harmony Row (1933) and A Ticket in Tatts (1934) – along with Pat Hanna‘s Diggers (1931) and a remake of The Sentimental Bloke (1932). The company’s output also included a series of short musical, comedy and vaudeville films released under the collective title Efftee Entertainers (1931-32). Efftee Films effectively ceased following Thring’s death from cancer in 1936.

Frank Thring planned to make a film version of the hit romantic musical Collits’ Inn (1932), which his company Efftee Stage Productions produced in 1933. Although Efftee Films undertook screen tests for the lead roles Thring’s death led to the company’s plans in the venture being shelved.
Efftee Card - NFSA
Image source: National Film and Sound Archive.



(1911-1973) A consortium comprising six Toowoomba businessmen and Brisbane entrepreneur E.J. Carroll (and later Dan Carroll), this company had previously operated as the Austral Picture Company (1909-11). It’s success saw the directors purchase land in Neil Street in 1910 (it was transferred to Empire Theatre Ltd in 1911) and begin erecting a purpose-built picture house. The new venue opened the following year. During the 1910s and 1920s the company also brought live acts to the venue for between-films performances or for occasional seasons of variety entertainment. After the theatre was sold to two Toowoomba businessmen in 1973 the Empire Theatre company effectively ceased operations.



aka Fullers’ Theatres and Vaudeville Ltd

(1914-1950) Established and jointly run by Benjamin Fuller and John Fuller Jnr under the auspices of John Fuller and Sons, Fullers Theatres quickly became an Australasian entertainment empire. The firm expanded into musical comedy in 1922 (with Hugh J. Ward) but was forced to convert most of its theatres into cinemas in the early 1930s. After the company assets were divided in 1934, Benjamin Fuller remained the company’s governing director, while also establishing Savoy Theatres and Carroll-Fuller Theatres with Garnett Carroll. In 1951 Hoyts Theatres [below] acquired the picture interest of Fullers’ Theatres thereby bringing it to an end.



Registered as Hugh J. Ward Theatres Ltd, but better known by the public as Fuller-Ward, this theatrical partnership between Hugh J. Ward and Benjamin Fuller (Fullers Theatres) was established as a means of producing lavish musical comedies. The productions were staged either at the Princess Theatre (Melbourne) or at Sydney’s Grand Opera House, until the St James Theatre opened in March 1926. The venture ended later that same year following Ward’s retirement from the industry.

The company was also often referred to as Ward-Fuller.



Tivoli ad [BC 20 May 1915, 2]

(1912-1929) Hugh D. McIntosh headed a syndicate which bought Harry Rickards‘ company in 1912. Between 1914 and 1921 the company focused on lavish musical comedies and Follies-style revues. The financial strain came to a climax in 1921 when a transport strike crippled attendances at the Melbourne season of the Oscar Asche extravaganza, Chu Chin Chow (1916),  and McIntosh was forced to hand over control to Harry G. Musgrove. Four years later J.C. Williamson’s Ltd took over (trading as Tivoli Celebrity Vaudeville). The company’s last remaining theatre (the Sydney Tivoli) was sold in 1929.



HSH&C montage

(1868-1877) Actors Henry Harwood, Richard Stewart, Charles Vincent, and scenic artist John Hennings, went into partnership as lessees/managers of Melbourne’s Theatre Royal in early 1868. In addition to dramatic seasons by Marion Dunn and later Walter Montgomery they produced W.M. Akhurst‘s Paris the Prince and Helen the Fair (1868) before George Coppin replaced Vincent in August that year. The new firm continued until October 1877, and during that time staged a number of large-scale pantomimes and burlesques, including those by Akhurst, Marcus Clarke and Garnet Walch. After Stewart and Harwood retired, Hennings and Coppin joined forces with J. R. Greville (beginning 6 November).

Image Source – L-R: H. R. Harwood (Nellie Stewart My Life’s Story 1923, 21), Richard Stewart (“J. C. Williamson’s Memorial, 1913), John Hennings (Erin Irvin, Dictionary of Australian Theatre, 1985, 123), George Coppin (Picture Victoria)



(1890-1892) In December 1890 W.J. Wilson joined with F.E. Hiscocks to lease and manage Sydney’s newly built Garrick Theatre. They opened their account on the 23rd with Henry Hamilton’s play Moths (starring Charles Cartwright and Olga Nethersole) and over the next 13 months produced seasons of drama, opera, operetta, comedy and variety by the Montague-Turner Opera Company, J.F. Sheridan, the Achurch-Charrington Comedy Company, George Darrell, Jennie Lee, and J.C. Williamson‘s Our Flat Company among others. Cartwright and Nethersole also returned for a farewell season. The Cogill Brothers‘ Comedy Burlesque Company (starring W.H. Bent) opened at the Garrick on 13 December that year. The final Hiscocks and Wilson production was a variety entertainment given on 19 January 1892. It featured the Faust Family, Sylvo, and Charles Von der Mehden.

1: Located in Castlereagh Street, the 1,000 seat Garrick later became Harry Rickards‘ first Tivoli Theatre.
2: In addition to his managerial and producer duties Wilson provide scenery for many of the Garrick Theatre productions.
3: An advertisement placed in the Sydney Morning Herald on 20 January 1892 announced that the theatre was closed in consequence of the death of the Duke of Clarence. It never reopened again under Hiscocks and Wilsons’ management. Hiscocks went on to revive his famous Federal Minstrels a few months later. Wilson retired from management for some five years.
4. Although the pair owed around £300 in rent when they vacated the Garrick, Wilson went on to sue the theatre’s owner Jacob Scholar in June 1893 over three incidents that occurred during and immediately after his time at the theatre. Wilson eventually elected to take a non-suit in relation to two issues but was given the verdict for the final one. See “A Theatrical Dispute” for a brief account of the court case (Evening News 21 June 1893, 3).



Holland & St John [BC 16 Jan 1911, 2](1910-1918) Percy St John and Edward (Ted) Holland began their decade-long association in 1905 when Holland leased Brisbane’s Theatre Royal from St John. They established their partnership prior to opening the Empire Theatre (1911) and were also later part of a consortium which leased the Palace Gardens. When Holland died unexpectedly in 1914 St John continued operating the company until his death (1915). The Empire was then briefly managed by Dan Carroll until Fullers’ Theatres took control. Holland and St John ceased trading in early 1918 when its Empire Theatre lease expired.



aka Hoyts Pictures / Hoyts Theatres Ltd / Hoyts Vaudeville Circuit

Hoyts ad [4 Oct 1909, 12](1909-) Dentist Dr Arthur Russell began showing films at St George’s Hall, Melbourne, in September 1909. By the end of the war Hoyts Pictures operated a small circuit in Melbourne and Sydney that frequently included vaudeville acts as part of the programme (an industry-wide practice during the early 1900s). After becoming Hoyts Theatres Ltd in 1926 managing director Frank Thring expanded the circuit towards 100 cinemas Australia-wide thereby increasing opportunities for variety entertainers well into the 1930s. Among the thousands of artists engaged by Hoyts were Roy Rene, George Wallace, Nellie Kolle, Stella Lamond, Charles Zoli and Cusko’s Circus.

The name Hoyts was taken from a small US circus Russell had toured with as a magician/cornetist and in which he held shares.
Image source: Argus (Melbourne) 4 Oct. 1909, 12.


J. & N. TAIT


(1902-1976) Brothers John, J. Nevin and Frank Tait (in association with Charles and Edward) found initial success in bringing celebrity British artists to Australia. They later exhibited and produced films, and in 1913 built the Auditorium (Melbourne). Although known for their high calibre international entertainment, the Taits also presented local productions (including pantomimes) and toured variety acts such as the Smart Set Diggers. After merging their interests with J.C. Williamson’s Ltd in 1920, they established the Broadcasting Company of Australia Pty Ltd. The Tait name continued to maintain a preeminent position in Australia theatre through until the mid-1970s.

Image source: Tait Memorial Trust



J. C. Williamson poster 1912 [NLA](1911-1984) Australia’s longest-running theatrical organisation began in 1882 through the triumvirate Williamson, Garner and Musgrove. It became a Limited Company in 1910, and the following year absorbed Rupert Clarke and Clyde Meynell’s operations (with Williamson as governing director). Another merger in 1920 with J. and N. Tait [above] saw the Taits associated with “the Firm” almost continuously until Frank Tait’s death in 1965. J.C. Williamson’s was then briefly run by actor John McCallum but when he departed the company’s fortunes slid severely. It eventually ceased operations in 1984.




Headquartered in New Zealand, John Fuller and Sons controlled a number of high profile theatrical firms and theatres within Australasia during the first half of the twentieth century. John Fuller Snr began his entrepreneurial career in Auckland in 1893 and over the next six years his three sons became increasingly integral to the running of the business, and thus in 1899 it became known as John Fuller and Sons. When Benjamin and John Jnr moved to Sydney to run the Australian operations, eldest son Walter remained in New Zealand as resident director until his death in 1934. Although many of the assets were then divided between his brothers, both men retained control of the parent company until it was bought by New Zealand film exhibitor R.A. Kerridge in 1945.

1: Among business ventures overseen by John Fuller and Sons were: Brennan-Fuller (1912-1915), Fullers Theatres (aka Fullers Theatres and Vaudeville Ltd), John Fuller and Sons Picture Enterprises, the Biograph Supplies Company of New Zealand, Holland & St John (Brisbane, 1915-1918), the White City Amusement Park (Sydney), Savoy Theatres, and Carroll-Fuller Theatres.
2: The division of assets also occurred in 1934. Sir Benjamin retained control of Fullers’ Theatres until 1951, while also establishing Savoy Theatres and Carroll-Fuller Theatres.
3. At the time of its sale in 1945 John Fuller and Sons owned or leased more than sixty theatres in New Zealand alone. Interestingly, British film magnate J. Arthur Rank acquired the Kerridge cinema circuit in 1946, which gave it control of 123 out of approximately 360 cinemas in the Dominion.
Image source: Otago Daily Times (Dunedin, NZ) 11 Mar. 1899, 1 (first known advertisement for John Fuller and Sons).



Jones and Lawrence [WM 11 Feb 1898, 44](1896-1902) George A. Jones and George R. Lawrence revived the Ye Olde Englyshe Fayre concept in 1896 and went on to establish Perth’s leading variety firm of the late 19th century. In 1897 they became the first lessees of the Theatre Royal but went bankrupt the following year. Undeterred the pair were back in business in late 1899, taking over the lease of the Cremorne Theatre. The partnership continued through until 1902, at which time Jones briefly became sole lessee.



[Aust: 1878-1881] Considered two of America’s foremost minstrel entertainers of the 1860s and 1870s, singer/comedian Edwin Kelly and female impersonator Francis Leon began their partnership in Chicago in 1863. They brought Kelly and Leon’s Minstrels to Australia in 1878 under contract to F.E. Hiscocks and Alf. Hayman, and during their time in the country were heavily involved in the local variety industry. This included building and opening the Opera House in Sydney, and producing Australia’s first-ever Gilbert and Sullivan production (HMS Pinafore). The pair also engaged many local performers and staged locally-written works like Marcus Clarke’s political satire Happy Land and Horace Bent‘s burlesque H.M.S. Pin-A-4 (both 1880).

1: In the second half of 1880 Kelly and Leon divided their operations into two distinct entities. From August until mid-1881 Leon toured Kelly and Leon’s Minstrels (aka Mastodon Minstrels). Kelly operated the Kelly and Leon Comedy Opera Co from early-October 1880 until September 1881.
2: A precise date for Edwin Kelly and Francis Leon first performing together is presently unknown. Matthew Wittmann records, however, that they were both with George Christy’s minstrel company during the 1860-1861 theatrical season.
3: Edwin Kelly remained in Australia until his death in 1899. Francis Leon returned to the USA in 1881 but came back to tour  Australia with Leon and Cushman’s Minstrels (1885-86). Shortly before he retired in 1900 Leon briefly revived Kelly and Leon’s Minstrels in Chicago.


LYCEUM PICTURES Ltd (Charters Towers)

aka The Lyceum Pictures and Singers


Victor C. Black (Lyceum Pictures Ltd) established his Lyceum Pictures and Singers at the School of Arts from 16 June 1909. In continued operating there, under the management Lew Phillips, and later A.C. White, until April the following year. Although initially billed as playing only three nights the company soon afterwards extended its lease to six nights (and a Saturday matinee). Among the acts engaged were Eileen Lyons (operatic singer), Brandon Balfour (illustrated singer), Norman “Banjo” Paterson (singer/whistler), Godfrey Wallace (singer), Kate Howarde Dramatic Co and Harry J. Lawson (US club swinger). Birch and Carroll [above] bought out Lyceum Pictures in March 1910, transferring their Olympia Pictures to the School of Arts in early April.

1: A few weeks separated Eileen Lyons season (16 July-early Sept.) and Brandon Balfour’s debut on 15 Sept. (although Lyons made at least one brief return appearance, ca. 8 Sept.). During the interim advertising announced The Lyceum Pictures and Orchestra. From October 1909 the business was known simply as Lyceum Pictures.
2: Other artists to appear with Lyceum Pictures included singers Richard Hall, Miss M. Martin, W. Belford, George Trail, May Couch, Fred Owens (comedian/singer) and specialty artists Joe Watts and Madge Lucas (sketch artists, contortionists, step dancers). Norman “Banjo” Paterson also made a return visit in March 1910.
3: A meeting of shareholders took place in Charters Towers on 21 April 1910, at which time a resolution was passed to wind down and liquidate the company. Interestingly, former manager Lew Phillips is recorded as touring a Lyceum Pictures show around North Queensland between May and June 1910.

Lyceum Pictures [NM 12 June 1909, 1]

Image source: Northern Miner (Charters Towers, Qld) 12 June 1909, 1.


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Published on April 2, 2011 at 9:27 am  Comments Off on Organisations & Partnerships [A-L]