(ca. 1884-1917) Theatrical managers, film producers, entrepreneurs. [James (ca. 1858-15), Charles (1861-1917), Joseph (1862-1918)]
James Macmahon started out as a Bendigo-based agent/lessee in 1875 and later toured overseas as Mrs Scott Siddon’s manager leaving Charles to run the business. After he returned all three brothers partnered George Leitch (1884-90) and Grattan Riggs (ca. 1882-90) before going alone as manager/producers for John F. Sheridan, the Majeronis, Wybert Reeve, Nellie Stewart, George Darrell, Alfred Dampier and US boxer John L. Sullivan etc. They also introduced new technologies like Edison’s phonograph (1890) and kinetscope (1895), and from the late 1890s expanded in film exhibition, film production and theatre management in both Australia and New Zealand.
- For further details see: Margaret Williams. “Macmahon, Charles (1861-1917)” Australian Dictionary of Biography 10 (1986).
Image: Earliest known Macmahon’s advertisement. Source: Bendigo Advertiser 19 Aug. 1875, 1.
MOUNT MORGAN AMUSEMENT Co
aka Olympia Pictures
(1911-1912) The Mount Morgan Amusement Company opened at the Olympia Hall on 13 May under the direction of its first manager, Albert M. Welch (aka Arthur Morley) and with music by the Olympia Orchestra. Although known as Olympia Pictures, the firm also engaged both local and touring on an irregular basis. The first known performer was child soprano Muriel Thomas (from 18 May). Other artists included illustrated singers Elsie Norrie, J. Greenwood, Lulu Ashley, and J. Johnstone. The company began showing in nearby Baree from late-1911, but its advertising in the Morning Bulletin suddenly ends after 14 March 1912. Three months later the Mount Morgan School of Arts reported its acquisition of the Olympia’s engine-room.
1: Later managers included Charles Counsell and J. T. Counsell.
2: The company was registered in the Supreme Court, Brisbane on 12 May 1911. Its founding directors were Norman White (mining engineer), Thomas Dil?lin (n/e), Edward Hempenstall (auctioneer), James Begg (contractor), Arthur Mackenzie (medical practitioner), Denis O’Connell (merchant), William Charlton (merchant).
NORTH’S VAUDEVILLE Co (Melb)
(ca. 1909-1911) Little is currently known about North’s Vaudeville Company, apart from the concerts it promoted in Melbourne between May 1909 and October 1911. Held on Saturday nights at the South Melbourne Town Hall, Prahran Town Hall and at a beach theatre in Middle Park (summer months only), the company’s shows occasionally attracted high profile Australia artists, including some who had come off Harry Rickards‘ contracts. Although the Prahran Telegraph indicates prior to the start of the 1909 season that North’s had already established a “big reputation,” no details regarding any prior operations have yet been located.
- See also: North’s Concerts
O’DONNELL & RAY
(1921-ca. 1937) Comedian Bert Ray and entrepreneur Jack O’Donnell joined forces in 1921 to tour a specialist pantomime company around regional Australia. The pair first met in 1908 when O’Donnell hired Ray for a tour of New Zealand and the two men were later involved with an aeronautical (ballooning) tour of Australia and Java. As O’Donnell and Ray they toured regional Australia, with occasional city seasons, up until the late 1930s. The partnership saw Ray write most of the productions and star as dame while O’Donnell handled the business. The firm also produced revues, revudeville and vaudeville in the 1930s.
Image source: Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton) 16 June (1923), 2.
OLYMPIA AMUSEMENT Co
aka Olympia Pictures
(1909-) Olympia Pictures was the trading name for some of Birch and Carroll’s entertainment operations in Queensland. They initially operated under the legal business name Olympia Amusement Co. The “Olympia” name was adopted from the Charters Towers skating rink where the two men began their partnership in 1909. Some of the Olympia theatres operated in competition with other Birch and Carroll venues, offering an alternative to the up-market theatres they later developed. While Olympia Pictures remained part of Birch, Carroll and Coyle’s Queensland circuit well into the 1920s, details regarding each theatre’s association with the firm are still to be ascertained. How long the Olympia Amusement Company operated is also unknown.
- See also: Birch and Carroll
1: While the Olympia Amusement Company would have almost certainly been wound down by 1923, the year that Birch, Carroll and Coyle became an incorporated company, it likely happened much earlier.
2: Birch and Carroll’s Olympia Pictures are known to have operated in Charters Towers (1909-), Townsville (1911-), Rockhampton (1911-), Mount Morgan (1912-) and Maryborough (1913-).
Established by Antonio and Caroline Pugliese, Pugliese Enterprises controlled Sydney’s Alhambra Theatre between 1906 and 1921. During that time the Puglieses produced various theatrical enterprises, including vaudeville, revues, drama and pantomimes. The company also operated the Star Cinema (Bondi) and a Leichhardt cinema, and was involved in the production of three early Australian films – The Church and the Woman (1917), The Waybacks (1918) and Struck Oil (1919). Pugliese Enterprises appears to have ended its theatrical operations following the sale of the Alhambra Theatre in 1921.
- For further details see: Bill Crowley. “Pugliese, Caroline Frances (1865 – 1940)” Australian Dictionary of Biography (2005).
- See also: C. F. Puglise • Humbert Pugliese • Alhambra Theatre
SADLER & BEVERIGE VAUDEVILLE Co
(1913-1915) On 19 September 1913, Harry Sadler and Cecil Beveridge, late-general accountant for Brennan-Fuller, took up a two year lease of Hobart’s Theatre Royal, ostensibly to produce “high-class vaudeville.” The venture, billed as bringing “the best of the Brennan-Fuller artists” had a successful run through until about mid-1914. By that stage, however, the venture was struggling to attract enough big name acts, and the pair began alternating vaudeville shows with vaudeville and pictures, entire picture programmes, and even drama (staged by touring companies). By October 1914 they had abandoned variety altogether and leased the theatre to touring dramatic companies. A proposed return to vaudeville in late-January 1915 never eventuated. The partnership soon afterwards folded.
- For further details see: Harry Sadler
1: The company produced a short season at Launceston’s Albert Hall beginning 17 March 1914, and followed this will a brief tour of select regional towns (including Zeehan). These ventures were run simultaneously with the Hobart operations. Their plan to open permanently in Launceston never eventuated.
2: The Sadler & Beveridge venture may run into trouble, in part, as a result of their expansion into regional Victoria (namely Ballarat). In this respect they stretched their resources and attention away from Hobart. Harry Sadler returned to Hobert later in 1915 to present vaudeville but without Beveridge. No details relating to Beveridge’s career after January 1915 have yet been located.
3: Among the dramatic companies to play Hobart’s Theatre Royal during the Sadler and Beveridge lease were run by Harry Taylor and Ella Carrington (Taylor and Carrington’s Royal Drramatic Co) and Mr and Mrs Graham Moffatt (Scottish Players).
SADLER & KEARNS
(1916) The brief managerial and lessee partnership between Harry Sadler and Jack Kearns was conducted entirely at the Fullers‘ Princess Theatre (Sydney) in 1916. It began with a series of Jack Kearns’ revusicals and reached the pinnacle of success mid-year when the newly formed Nat Phillips’ Tabloid Musical Comedy Company (featuring Stiffy and Mo) played its debut season at the theatre. After the Fullers took back control of the princess, Sadler stayed on a few months longer as manager, while Jack Kearns returned to performing.
STANLEY McKAY’S GAIETIES
aka Australian XI / Hollywood Gaieties / Gaieties of [….] / Warton & McKay’s Gaieties
(1930-ca. 1953) Stanley McKay’s Gaieties was an institution throughout much of regional Australia for three decades. The company started out in March 1930 as the Australia XI, featuring George Lloyd and Clara Keating, but by the following month, with the addition of Nat Hanley, was renamed Stanley McKay’s Hollywood Gaieties. However, between June 1930 and July 1933 the company operated as Warton and McKay’s Gaieties. Identified according to the current year (e.g. Stanley McKay’s Gaieties of 1939), hundreds of local and international performers were engaged by McKay over the years. Among the biggest names were Amy Rochelle, Charles Delavale, Elton Black, Jenny Howard, Joe Lawman, Stella Lamond, Mark Erickson, and Vera Benson. The Gaieties also toured New Zealand on five occasions (1934, 1936, 1937-37, 1937-38, and 1939).
- See also: Stanley McKay
1: The company was initially known as Stanley McKay’s Hollywood Gaieties (aka Hollywood Gaieties of 1930). The company’s last established engagement (to date) was in Cairns (Queensland) in July 1953.
2: The Gaieties entertainment included at any given time one or more of the following: vaudeville, revue, revusicals and pantomime.
3: Warton and McKay’s Gaieties was co-owned with Paul Warton.
Image: The Gaieties Chorus, Rockhampton 1936. Source: New Theatre Australia Jan-Feb 1987, 10.
aka Star Pictures Ltd / D. Clifford Theatres Ltd
(1916-1947) In 1916 Dan Clifford (1887-1942) purchased cinemas in Torrensville and Hindmarsh from the original Star Picture Co, which in turn led to him founding what was to become South Australia’s leading cinema chain of the early to mid-20th century. In 1922 the company began trading as Star Pictures Ltd., with this being changed to D. Clifford Theatres Ltd the following year. Clifford built many theatres in and around Adelaide, most of them in the 1920s. During the late-1910s and 1920s the Star circuit also featured regular “between films” entertainment from local and occasional international vaudeville and concert performers. The circuit was sold to Greater Union in 1947.
- See also Dan Clifford
Clifford built a number of ‘Town Hall’ theatres in conjunction with local councils including Woodville and Thebarton. Other theatres in the circuit were at Port Adelaide, Parkside, St. Peters, Unley, Kingswood, North Adelaide, Goodwood, Mt. Gambier, Semaphore, and Murray Bridge.
Image source: Advertiser (Adelaide) 11 Jan. (1930), 2.
STEPHENSON & LINLEY
Actor/manager/producer George Stephenson and Auckland-based theatrical agent and film exhibitor Alfred Linley formed a partnership to tour various companies through New Zealand during the 1910s. Among these were two Stanley McKay pantomime troupes, which toured the Dominion circuit in 1913-14 and 1915-16. Stephenson and Linley also toured their own Royal Pantomime Company through the country in late 1914.
- See also: George Stephenson
ST JOHN & WILKINSON
(1892) Percy St John and James Wilkinson formed a brief alliance sometime in early 1892, founding a burlesque and vaudeville company that they opened at the Theatre Royal, Brisbane, sometime around June/July. The St John and Wilkinson Comedy and Burlesque Company repertoire comprised a selection of burlesques, farces, and comedies, in addition to variety-style performances. St John turned to solo management sometime later in 1892, taking up the lease of the Theatre Royal, where he based himself while also conducting tours of regional Queensland.
- See also: Percy St John
See also Harry Rickards Tivoli Theatres Ltd (1912-1924)
TIVOLI CELEBRITY VAUDEVILLE (1924-1931)
Tivoli Celebrity Vaudeville was established by J.C. Williamson’s Ltd in 1924 following its acquisition of the Harry Rickards’ Tivoli Theatres circuit. The productions staged by the company were largely a mix of high-class international acts and local variety stars, including revusical troupes led by Jim Gerald and George Wallace. In September 1931 Williamson’s merged its operations with Con-Paul Theatres, a syndicate headed by Mike Connors, his wife Queenie Paul, and behind-the-scenes partner Herbert Boland.
TIVOLI CIRCUIT AUSTRALIA (1934-1944)
Formed in 1934 out of a merger between Con-Paul Theatres and producer Frank Neil, the operations of Tivoli Theatres Ltd (as it was first called) were overseen initially by Wesley Ince. The company was renamed Tivoli Circuit Australia in 1935, with Neil taking over as managing director. Wallace Parnell was later brought out to Australia to supervise the circuit. He took over complete control of the organisation following Neil’s death in January 1940.
TIVOLI THEATRES (1944-1969)
The Tivoli’s last phase of operations began in 1944 when the David N. Martin syndicate acquired Tivoli Circuit Australia. During World War II the company relied on local stars and lower production values, but returned to importing international stars and staging lavish spectacles in the late-1940s. Neil Maver, who took control following Martin’s death in 1958, was forced to stop producing revues in 1966. A brief return to film exhibition in Melbourne ended when a fire destroyed the building and the Tivoli ceased operations altogether when its Sydney theatre was demolished.
Incl. Union Theatres Vaudeville Circuit
(1913-1931) Founded in 1913 through the amalgamation of the General Film Company of Australasia, Spencer’s Pictures, West’s Pictures and Amalgamated Pictures, Union Theatres Ltd was a film exhibition, theatre management and vaudeville company. As with most film exhibitors of this period, the company usually entertained audiences during the changing of films with one of two variety acts. By 1925, however, it had established its own vaudeville circuit, engaging both local and international acts. Following heavy losses Union Theatres was restructured as Greater Union in 1931, leading to the close of its vaudeville operations.
Image: Everyone’s 9 May (1928), 45.
WARTON & McKAY’S GAIETIES: See Stanley McKay’s Gaieties [above]
WESTON & LA FEUILLADE
(1869-1871) Frank Weston and Nicholas La Feuillade became business partners in early-1869 through the founding of La Feuillade, Peel and Weston’s Christy Minstrels (with T. J. “Tommy” Peel). Although the formation of Weston and Hussey’s Minstrels in May that same year meant that La Feullade’s name was removed from management billing he still maintained a significant role as performer and music director. He also co-edited with Weston two song books and an Australian Melodist issue (comprising Weston and Hussey songs) in 1869. A few months after the company disbanded in April 1870 Weston and La Feullade formed their own troupe, touring it until the partnership ended in June 1871.
- See also: Frank Weston • Nicholas La Feuillade • La Feuillade, Peel and Weston’s Christy Minstrels • Weston & La Feuillade’s Minstrels
WILLIAMSON & MUSGROVE
(1892-1899) The company that eventually became known as J.C. Williamson’s Ltd was founded in 1882 when Williamson, George Musgrove and Arthur Garner joined forces to lease the Theatres Royal in Melbourne and Sydney. Rivalry over Nellie Stewart eventually caused a rift between Williamson and Musgrove, with the result that Musgrove resigned in 1890. Following Garner’s departure in 1891 Williamson resolved his differences with Musgrove and they reunited in 1892 as Williamson and Musgrove. Among the firms many successes were the pantomime extravaganzas Little Red Riding Hood (1892), Ali Baba (1892/1898), Cinderella (1894), Djin Djin the Japanese Bogie Man (1895), Sinbad the Sailor (1896), Matza, Queen of Fire (1896), and Babes in the Wood (1897).
- See also: Williamson, Garner & Musgrove [below] • J.C. (James Cassius) Williamson • J.C. Williamson’s Ltd • George Musgrove
WILLIAMSON, GARNER & MUSGROVE
(1882-1890) J.C. Williamson, Arthur Garner, and George Musgrove who had jointly leased the Theatre Royal (Melbourne) and the Theatre Royal (Sydney) since November 1881, officially formed their triumvirate in 1882. The company later gained control of the Princess Theatre (Melbourne) and Adelaide’s Theatre Royal. Williamson handled the actors and companies, Musgrove looked after the production side of the operation, and Garner organised its business affairs. The partnership was dissolved following disagreements between Williamson and Musgrove. The pair later put aside their differences and formed the management firm Williamson and Musgrove (1892-1899).
- See also: Williamson & Musgrove [above] • J.C. Williamson’s Ltd • J.C. (James Cassius) Williamson • Arthur Garner • George Musgrove
Image source: National Library of Australia
WILLIAMSON, LEE & RIAL
(1901-1902) Thinking to expand his already considerable theatrical empire, J.C. Williamson contracted Americans Henry Lee and James G. Rial to bring a company of US vaudeville artists to Australia. The initial venture, presented under the auspices of Williamson, Lee and Rial, opened in Sydney on 10 August 1901 then later toured throughout the country playing both cities and regional centres. A second company was formed in February 1902, and another toured New Zealand. Williamson ended his involvement with the World’s Entertainers in April (his name was last linked to the company during its regional Queensland tour that same month). He remained co-lessee of Melbourne’s Bijou Theatre with the two men until at least May, however.
1: New Zealand’s Otago Witness records that Lee and Rial thought they had taken a two year lease of the Bijou Theatre (Williamson’s name is not mentioned). However when the two showmen sacked manager James H. Love following a dispute, it was discovered that the lease was actually in his name. The conflict was apparently settled to everyone’s satisfaction (22 Jan. 1902, 60).
2: Interestingly J.C. Williamson took a re-organised World’s Entertainers to South Africa in August 1902, sending his long-time representative Harold Ashton as tour and business manager. It is presently unclear if Lee and Rial had any connection with this tour.
Image L-R: J.C. Williamson. Source – Australis; Or, The City of Zero program (1900). Henry Lee. Source: Punch (Melbourne) 5 Dec. (1901), 25.
WILSON & ST JOHN
Percy St John and scenic artist/theatre manager W.J. Wilson joined forces in late 1898 to take over the lease of the Alhambra Theatre, Sydney. St John and Wilson’s Alabama Minstrels and Burlesque Company subsequently opened on 1 October with the burlesque pantomime Sinbad the Sailor. Among the other feature productions staged that year were St John’s pantomime Humpty Dumpty (1898) and a burlesque of his 1890 Cinderella pantomime, entitled Cinder-Ellen (1894). Wilson and St John ended their season at the Alhambra in early 1899.
WYATT & KNIGHT
(1838-1845) Joseph Wyatt and Sydney hotelier William Knight formed their partnership to build and manage the Royal Victoria Theatre. The pair had likely been partners with four other local businessmen in leasing Barnett Levy’s Theatre Royal (1836-1838). When Wyatt travelled to Great Britain in 1841 to look for actors, Knight assumed management of the theatre. The pair ran into trouble with the local industry following the arrival of the imported artists, however, and subsequently lost their theatrical monopoly when Joseph Simmons built his City Theatre. After Knight left, Wyatt went into partnership his brother-in-law, Frederick Gibson.