Practitioners [A]

Percy Abbott to Amusu Duo ……. p.1
Anderson Sisters to Austral Trio [2] ……. p.2

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PERCY ABBOTT

(1886-1960) Magician, ventriloquist, businessman, author. [Born in Braidwood, Victoria]

Abbott, Percy [magictricks]A magician who went on to found Abbott’s Magic Novelty Co in the USA, once the world’s largest manufacturer and retailer of magic tricks and stage illusions, Percy Abbott was one of four siblings orphaned as children. He turned his teenage interest in magic into a professional career in his early-20s, and was reportedly one of the first to perform the “sawing a woman in half” illusion in Australia. Abbott also worked in the magical supplies industry, first for the New York Novelty Co and later through his shop in Pitt Street, Sydney. After touring the East in 1926 he travelled to the USA and remained there for the rest of his life.

In 1929 Abbott co-founded the Blackstone Magic Company in Colon, Michigan with magician Harry Blackstone. After the business went bust 18 months later Abbott was forced to tour the US as a magician. He later returned to Colon and married Gladys Goodrich. The couple toured an act for several years before setting up Abbot’s Magic Novelty Co in Colon. The firm operated largely as a mail order business. Abbott also wrote, or contributed material to, a number of books.
NB: Abbott’s Australian business continued operating for some time under the management of his brother, Frank.
Source: This entry has been sourced largely from the American Museum of Magic. Image: Magic Tricks.com

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HARRY ABDY

(1889-1966) Animal trainer, entertainer and actor.

Abdy, HarryArguably the best known trainer of animals for the Australian variety stage between ca. 1914 and the mid-1930s, Harry Abdy’s versatility also saw him perform a solo mimicry act (billed as “Marvelle”) in the 1920s and appear in at least seven films between 1936 and 1945.

  • See also: Abdy’s Animal Circus [below] • Mons. Henry Abdy [below] • Marie La Varre
Image courtesy of Australian Screen (from Orphan of the Wilderness, 1936)

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MONS. HENRY ABDY

aka Fritz Von Linden / Mons. Poincare

(ca. 1861-1931) Animal trainer, impersonator, miniature circus proprietor, farmer.

Although often billed as a Frenchman (and at one stage a German), Henry Abdy was in fact a London-born Cockney. Before coming to Australia in 1912 he toured Great Britain, Europe and the USA as an animal mimic and later put together his own miniature circus (comprising both animals and birds). While in the USA around the turn of the century he toured with Pawnee Bill’s Wild West show. Abdy made his Australian debut as Fritz Von Linden but following the outbreak of war grew a beard to appear like a Frenchman and called himself Mons. Poincare. After years of touring he concentrated on training animals at his farm in Lidcombe, Sydney.

1: Abdy was the father of animal trainer/film actor Harry Abdy, and comedienne/actress Marie La Varre.
2: At the time of his death, on New Year’s Eve, 1931, Abdy’s Animal Circus was appearing in the Cinderella pantomime at Sydney’s Roxy Theatre. His farm also provided supplies for his daughter’s Darlinghurst restaurant in the early-1930s.

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ABDY’S ANIMAL CIRCUS

(aka Abdy’s Bird & Animal Circus / Abdy’s Boxing Dogs & Kangaroos etc)

The son of a circus animal trainer (Mons. Abdy), Harry Abdy specialised in preparing cats, dogs, birds (including pigeons and cockatoos), kangaroos and monkeys for both the stage and for moving pictures. The animals were largely trained at his farm in Lidcombe (Sydney).

  • See also Harry Abdy [above]

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FRANCIE ADLER

(aka Frances Alda)

(1879-1952) New Zealand-born singer [Born: Fanny Jane Davis]

Adler, Francie [perplexedhistorian-FaG]The grandchild of opera impresarios Fanny and Martin Simonsen, Fanny Davis went on to become internationally renowned as opera singer Frances Alda. Her initial success, however, was in vaudeville and music theatre. After moving from New Zealand to Australia she made her professional debut, as Francie Adler, in the Adelaide season of J. C. Williamson‘s Matsa, Queen of Fire (1897) and later appeared in pantomime, Gilbert and Sullivan, and other light operas. She also appeared at Harry RickardsTivoli Theatre, Sydney. Adler left Australia in 1901 to pursue her vocal ambitions in Europe.

Image source: The Perplexed Historian (Find a Grave)

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STEVE ADSON

End-man, dancer, singer and specialist dialect comedian.

Steve Adson’s career in the Antipodes spanned some four decades (ca.1880s to 1910s) and included partnerships with Dan Tracey and Jessie Thorne. He toured the East on several occasions. Adson travelled to America in 1918 to take up a number of amusement propositions.

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DAN AGAR

(1881-1950) English character actor and comedian.

Agar, Dan [National Portrait Gallery, UK]British musical comedy and revue comedian Dan Agar came to Australia in 1919 as a member of the Bing Boys company. He went back home in early 1921, after having sued J. C. Williamson’s Ltd for breach of contract, but returned to Australia less than 12 months later and remained here. Although a favourite on the stage up until his death from a heart attack, it was his 16 years on radio that made him a star throughout the country – first with Athol Tier in Mrs ‘Arris and Mrs ‘Iggs (1934-40) followed by Mrs ‘Obbs (1941-50). His career in Australia also included pantomime (as dame), musical comedy, revue, vaudeville (both stage and radio) and film.

Most reports of Agar’s death incorrectly record that he came back to Australia as the leading comedian in the musical comedy Sally (which premiered in Sydney in December 1922). However, Agar had been back in in the country since January that year. His first return engagement was in fact in J. C. Williamson’s Melbourne production of A Night Out (Theatre Royal, 21 Jan. 1922). Agar eventually joined the Sally company in January 1924, replacing George Lane as the Duke.
Image: Dan Agar, 1915. Source: National Portrait Gallery, London.

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ELLA AIRLIE

Airlie, EllaLibrettist, dramatist, songwriter, singer, pianist, variety performer.

Ella Airlie (born Ella Ogilvie) started out as a pianist/singer and storyteller. After working for J. and N. Tait as an accompanist for touring singers she returned to performing as a vaudeville artist. Airlie was also the the author of  The Bunyip (1916), one of Australia’s most successful pantomimes.

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BILLY & PEARL AKARMAN

William “Billy” Akarman: comedian, interlocutor, singer, clown, stage manager, troupe proprietor.
Pearl Akarman: contortionist, singer, dancer.

American variety artists Billy and Pearl Akarman came to the Australasian region in 1890 with Wirth’s Circus. Prior to this the pair, both individually and together, had established reputations in the US touring with various minstrel troupes. During his Australian career Billy worked primarily as an endman (bones), but eventually found opportunities with the Mr Interlocutor role. The couple worked for several big name Australasian managers, notably Dan Tracey, the Cogill Brothers, Harry Rickards (1892-1894), and Jones and Lawrence (Perth, ca. 1899-1900). Their Rickards engagements included the opening night of the Sydney Tivoli in 1893. The pair also toured their own troupes, notably the Akarman-Canaris Co and the Akarman-Miller Co, before parting ways ca. 1901.

1: As a juvenile Pearl Akarman had had been known as Little Pearl, of the aerial act, Lola, Jeanette and Little Pearl.
2: After the Akarman’s separated Pearl teamed up with Pete Miller, and soon afterwards co-founded the Musical Millers with her son Wilton Akarman. She and Miller later married. Billy Akarman appears to have settled in Western Australia, at least for a few years. His last known engagements were in 1905.

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W. M. AKHURST

(1822-1878) Dramatist, composer, journalist.

Akhurstwm-ozvtaOne of the most prolific and significant popular culture dramatists in Australian theatre history, William Mower Akhurst wrote more than 40 musical theatre works (including comedies, pantomimes, burlesques operettas and farces) during the 1850s and 1860s, and thus served as a major influence on the next generation of industry practitioners.

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ARTHUR ALBERTS

aka Arthur Albert

Comedian, singer, actor.

Arthur Alberts (often billed as Arthur Albert) was associated with the Australasian stage from the late-1890s through until at least the late-1920s, appearing in pantomime, burlesque, musical comedy and comedy drama, two Australian films (The Breaking of the Drought, 1920 and A Rough Passage, 1922), and live on radio during the late-1920s. During his vaudeville career Alberts worked for most of the leading managers, including Harry Rickards, Harry Clay, Percy Dix (New Zealand), J. C. Bain, Percy St John and Ted Holland (Brisbane). He also secured engagements with such firms as William Anderson and the Lillian Myers Dramatic Co and toured the East on at least one occasion (1906-07).

1: Not to be confused with English descriptive comedian/singer Arthur Albert (1872-1930) who came to Australia for Harry Rickards (touring between November 1905 and March 1906).
2: The Australian Arthur Alberts brief connection with Harry Rickards also appears to have begun in 1905, although at least eleven months prior to the arrival of the similarly-named English performer.

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ARTHUR ALDRIDGE

(1872-1929)  Singer.

Arthur Aldridge initially established himself in England and the USA before coming to Australia in 1919 with Nell Fleming. After they parted ways he remained in the country as a high profile stage and radio artist. He also  released several gramophone recordings. Aldridge was killed in a car accident in Brisbane with Kyrle McAllister, aged 53.

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WILL ALMA

aka W.G. Alma / Alma the Magician / The Amazing Alma

Alma, Will [toongabbie.vic.au](1904-1993) Magician, businessman, collector. [Born: William George Bishop in Melbourne]

The son of Oswald Bishop, a professional magician who abandoned his wife and child in order to pursue his career in the USA, Will Alma not only turned to the same profession but also adopted one of his father’s stage names. He began developing his stagecraft in Melbourne as early as 1918 and by 1930s had established himself as a top-flight Australian magician. While still working as a professional magician he set up the Alma Magical Company, operating it until at least 1947. The company produced stage apparatus and props which were used throughout the world. Alma eventually retired from performing in 1978.

Image source: http://www.toongabbie.vic.au

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MOLLY AMBROSE

aka Mollie Ambrose

Singer, dancer, actor.

Molly Ambrose professional career appears to have been carried out between 1914 and 1926. Although first identified with the National Theatre, Sydney in June 1914 as a juvenile soubrette, she had likely gained experience elsewhere, either as an amateur or for small time suburban or regional vaudeville firms. She later secured engagements around Australia with Fullers’ Theatres (both as a solo entertainer and ensemble actress/performer), and also worked for vaudeville showmen like Harry Clay, Bert Howard, Paddy King, Frank Reis, Amusu Vaudeville, Ike Beck and Les James. Other engagements included The Whizz-Bangs (1919), K-Nuts (1923), Bronson’s Musical Revue Co (1924) and as principal girl for Stanley McKay‘s 1924 Aladdin tour of New Zealand.

Ambrose, whose given name is often spelled Mollie in reviews and advertisements, announced her retirement from the stage in 1921, the reason being her marriage on New Year’s Day 1921. Research conducted through Trove indicates, however, that she was back performing by 1923 with The K-Nuts.

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E. AMERY

(-1887) Singer, entertainer.

Edwin Amery’s career dates back to the early 1860s when he was a member of Melbourne’s Orpheus Union. Regarded as one of Australia’s top bassos, he found work as both a concert singer and minstrel entertainer. A long-time member of Hiscocks’ Federal Minstrels, his name is also linked to other leading companies and entrepreneurs of the period, including the Hussey, Kelly and Holly Minstrels; the American Excelsior Minstrels; U.S. Minstrels; and Clark and Ryman’s Minstrels. His last known appearance was a Cogill Bros‘ Sunday Jubilee Concert at the Gaiety Theatre (Sydney) in May 1887. He died in Melbourne on 2 September that same year.

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AMUSU DUO

(ca. 1922-1925) Song and dance act.

Described in 1922 as “song and dance specialists,” the Amusu Duo appears to have been active as an act (under that name) during the early 1920s. First identified with Reg “Kangaroosta” Thornton‘s show at the Broadway Theatre, Goulburn (New South Wales) in August 1922, the pair has been linked to Ike Beck (Hunter Valley, 1923), the Nellie Kolle Company (Hunter Valley, 1923), and the K-Nuts (1924). While touring with Nelle Kolle the act was sometimes expanded into a trio with the inclusion of the troupe’s star.

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Published on February 3, 2011 at 12:11 am  Comments Off on Practitioners [A]