Practitioners [C]

Calvert to Clyde ……. p.1
Cogill Brothers to Freda Cuthbert ……. p.2

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COGILL BROTHERS

Cogill BrosAmerican comics, dancers, singers, entrepreneurs, writers, producers. [Charles William Cogill (-1903) and Harry Payon Cogill (ca.  1859-1903)]

Considered to be among the most significant minstrel showmen to work the Australasian region during the late-1800s, Charles and Harry Cogill first came to the region with Billy Emerson’s Minstrels in 1885 and remained for more than 15 years. During that period they were largely known for running their own troupes, supporting local performers and introducing many hit sketches, farces and songs. Charles left Australia ca. 1900 and died of consumption in San Francisco. Harry toured his own companies around Australasia and the East until 1902. He died in New York, less than a month after the death of his brother.

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HARLEY COHEN

(1893-) Singer, elocutionist, songwriter.

Cohen, Harley 1 [HM 19 Aug 1916, 11]Harley Cohen first came to prominence in 1916 when his song “They Were There, There, There” (written while recovering from wounds received at Gallipoli) became a hit for Peter Dawson on the Tivoli circuit. Later that year he co-founded the Gallipoli Strollers, a troupe of wounded veterans which toured Australia through until the early 1920s. Cohen’s solo turns largely comprised songs and monologues, most of which he wrote himself.

NB: In later years Cohen’s songs were published under the name Harley Cohan.

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KEN COLLIE

Collie, Ken [AWM](1910-1984) Comedian, singer, dancer, musician (banjo), radio announcer/performer, author.

Ken Collie started his career in Melbourne the early 1920s playing child parts in melodrama at theatres such as the Playhouse and Gaiety. He toured with Frank Neil‘s Company in 1928 and worked in revue and pantomime as a specialty artist and light comic before turning to radio in 1933 (both as an announcer and performer). He initially worked for 3KZ and 3UZ in Melbourne and later for radio stations in Newcastle, Deniliquin and Broken Hill (New South Wales). Collie maintained a link with the stage during the 1930s, however, touring Tasmania with the Frivolities of 1935 and in his own shows – notably “Laugh Time” and “Radio Rascals” (partnering artists such as Myrtle MacDonald and Dorothy Watkins).

Collie was involved in broadcasting for the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces during WWII, and was sent to  Kure, Japan to manage radio station WLKS following the country’s surrender. He returned to run WLKS during the Korean War with his wife. In his later career Collie worked as a journalist for the Argus (Melbourne) and published fiction, poetry and articles in a range of magazines and newspapers. He also published Once a Jolly Gagman (1964) and compiled and edited Australasian Post’s Great Joke Book in the 1970s.
Image: Captain Ken Collie at Radio Station WLKS, Japan ca. 1950. Source: Australian War Memorial.

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LES CONEY

(1891-) Comedian, songwriter, actor (radio/film).

coney-les-mb-13-june-1935-11The nephew of comedian Fred Bluett, Les Coney started out as an amateur comedian/singer in Melbourne at age 11 and turned professional at 15. His first big break was with the Gaiety Vaudeville Company in September 1906. He was still entertaining audiences in the 1940s, both on the stage and as a radio actor. During his five decades-long career Coney toured extensively throughout the Australasian region, was involved in radio from its start in 1924 (he claims to have been the first comedian to be broadcast on Sydney station 2FC), and appeared in two films in the early 1930s – Fellers (1930) and Showgirl’s Luck (1931).

1: Coney was born and raised in Prahran, Melbourne. His mother was Margaret E. Bluett.
2: He wrote many of his own songs, one of the most successful being “The Old Sundowner” (which Fred Bluett made a hit in London ca. 1913/1914).
3: Coney’s 1906 Gaiety Vaudeville Co engagement (Gaiety Theatre, Melbourne) saw him billed as “Australia’s juvenile comedian.” The company then included such artists as Arthur Morley, Morris and Wilson, Frank Yorke, Ern Delavle and Fred Ireland. The proprietor was Joe Solomon. His last known performance was in Humphrey Bishop‘s 1944 radio pantomime, Cinderella. Broadcast by Sydney station 2CH on 22 December the cast also included Will Perryman, Dan Agar, Letty Craydon, Lulla Fanning and Frank Perryn.
4: Among the many companies Coney appeared with were Richards’ Entertainers, Dan Barry’s World-Wide Wonder Show, People’s Concerts (Melbourne), James Brennan, Harry Clay, J. & N. Tait/Bailey & Grant, Fullers’ Theatres, the Tivoli Circuit, J.C. Williamson’s, George Drew, Humphrey Bishop, Robert Roberts, Charles Zoli, Sydney James (Royal Strollers) and Edward Branscombe.
Image source: Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld) 13 June 1935, 11.

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THE CONGO MINSTREL [1]

(1848-1849) Blackface minstrel act (presented by J. P. Hydes).

Upon his arrival in the Australian colonies, John Proctor Hydes established himself as a minstrel entertainer and actor at Sydney’s Royal Victoria Theatre. His debut appearance was on 25 April 1848 as the Congo Minstrel, supporting J. W. Newlands and his Chromatrope. Hydes continued to present the act through until May then focused on acting roles. He revived the Congo Minstrel at Melbourne’s Queen’s Theatre during April and May the following year. The act, which was said to be illustrative of the Negro life in Kentucky, comprised Negro plantation melodies, witty conundrums and funniosities. These were accompanied by bone castanets.

The Chromatrope was limelight projector which exhibited dissolving images.

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THE CONGO MINSTREL [2]

(1849-50) Blackface minstrel act (presented by Charles Young).

A little under two months after J.P. Hydes debuted his Congo Minstrel act at Melbourne’s Queen’s Theatre, the venue’s lessee/manager Charles Young presented a similar act under the same name during a benefit show given to music director Mr Megson (16 July). For his 24 October performance Young is recorded as singing the favourite Ethiopian melody “Melbourne Gals Have Pretty Faces” with bone castanet accompaniment. His last known appearances as the Congo Minstrel were at Hobart’s Royal Victoria Theatre in August 1850.

Although advertising for the 16 July performance indicates that this was Mr Young’s second performance as the Congo Minstrel, no details regarding the first performance have yet been located.

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THE CONGO MINSTREL [3]

(1849) Blackface minstrel act (presented by Mr Jackson).

Advertising published in Melbourne’s Argus newspaper by the Queen’s Theatre management records: “The celebrated American Serenader [Mr Jackson] will have the honour of making his first appearance in the Colonies as the Congo Minstrel, and sing the Ethiopian Melody of ‘Dandy Jim from Caroline’ accompanying himself with the Congo Bone Castinets, as originally performed by him with 2,000 stick approbation” (19 Oct. 1849, 3). No other appearances have been located. Interestingly Charles Young, the theatre’s lessee/manager, made his re-appearance as the Congo Minstrel [2] five nights later.

No details regarding Mr Jackson’s activities in Australia, or his given name, have yet been located.

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NB:  A troupe of blackface performers known as the Congo Minstrels was also active in Tasmania around the same period. See entry in Troupes [A-F]. See also the Piccaninny Congo Minstrel (aka Master Chambers) in Practitioners [P-Q]

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GERRY CONNOLLY

(1908-) Singer, dancer, actor, musician, band leader, radio host.

The youngest of three children born to entertainers Gerald Shaw and Mary Connolly, Gerry Connolly was born in Sydney and made his first stage appearance at age three. He later worked with his siblings, Keith and Gladys in various companies, as well as independently. Prior to beginning his full-time radio career with 4BC (Brisbane) in 1937 Connolly worked for such firms as Tivoli Celebrity Vaudeville, Union Theatres, and Fullers’ Theatres as both performer and stage band leader. He was also associated with Brisbane’s Cremorne Theatre and spent three years touring with J.C. Williamson’s musical and revue companies (1935-37). Connolly remained at 4BC until 1953 as breakfast announcer before taking on the same role with 2UE (Sydney).

Connolly’s stage debut was likely made in one of his parents’ shows shortly before they separated in 1912. His siblings were known professionally as Keith Connolly and Gladys Shaw.
Image source: Telegraph (Brisbane) 29 Oct. 1937, 11.

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KEITH CONNOLLY

(1897-1961) New Zealand-born comedian, actor, dancer, singer, band leader.

Connolly, Keith [Sharon Connolly]Keith Warrington Connolly performed with his parents’ variety troupe from age seven and was later a member of the Young Australia League. In 1916 he enlisted with the Australian Imperial Forces (A.I.F.) and went on to serve with the Mining Corps. After returning home in 1919 he and his sister Gladys Shaw toured with such troupes as the Royal Strollers [2] (1919) and Nat Phillips’ Stiffy and Mo Revue Co (1921-25) before forming Keith’s Syncopating Jesters (1925-27). Connolly’s career, which continued well into the 1950s, included engagements with George Wallace, Nat Phillip’s Whirligigs, Fullers All-American Revue Co (including New Zealand, 1939) and in companies featuring Roy Rene, Stud Foley, Nellie Kolle, and his wife Elsie Hosking.

1: Connolly’s father, Gerald Shaw, was a basso/theatrical manager who also became involved in a series of mining ventures during the early-1900s.
2: Connolly married entertainer Elsie Hosking in December 1926. Their only child, Keith Andrew Warrington Connolly (1928 -2005), became a journalist and much-respected film critic.
Thanks to Sharon Connolly for the above information and image.

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MARY CONNOLLY

aka Mary Warrington / Claire Delmar / Madam Marie Shaw

Connolly, Mary [Sharon Connolly](1864 -1931) Serio comic and burlesque artist, actor. [Born: Mary Agnes Warrington]

Mary Connolly’s earliest known stage appearances were as Claire Delmar in 1892. By then she was mother of two sons to draper, Edward Connolly. In 1894 she began a relationship with variety entertainer Gerald Shaw and that same year toured New Zealand where the Auckland Star described her as “a clever performer and a public favorite.” Her career also involved dramatic performances like Wilson Forbes’s 1902 productions of East Lynne and Camille. From 1904 onward, as Madam Marie Shaw, she toured with her family troupe – known variously as Shaw’s Royal Entertainers, Shaw’s Merrymakers and The English Pierrots. After separating from Shaw during the mid-1910s she resumed the name Connolly.

1: Connolly’s 1892 engagements included appearances with William Rignold’s company in Newcastle and with Dan Tracey’s Gaiety Theatre Company in Sydney.
2: She and Gerald Shaw (aka Harry Thomson and Harry Shaw) had three children, Gladys, Keith and Gerry, all of whom went on to become entertainers.
Thanks to Sharon Connolly for the above information and image.

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MIKE CONNORS

(ca. 1892-1949) American-born singer (tenor), entertainer, actor, radio host, businessman, entrepreneur

connors-mike-nct-29-oct-1941-3Mike Connors came to Australia on a Fullers‘ contract. The following year, while touring with Bert Le Blanc’s Travesty Stars he met and married Queenie Paul. The couple remained Fullers artists until 1930, with much of the time spent in association with Nat Phillips. In 1931 they established Con-Paul Theatres and began reviving the Tivoli circuit. After selling their interest in 1934 the couple toured revues, notably with George Wallace and Syd Beck, until Connors turned to full-time radio work in 1938. Employed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) he established himself as a extremely popular radio host through the “Hospital Half Hour,” and as a breakfast announcer. He also worked as a comedian on “Out of the Bag.”

• See also: Queenie PaulConnors & Paul [below] • Connors & Witt [below] • Con-Paul Theatres

1: Reportedly born in New York, Connors came to Australia with stage partner Fred Witt (billed as “the harmony boys”).
2: Much of Connors and Paul’s time with the Fullers was spent touring with Nat Phillips’ Stiffy and Mo and Whirligigs companies.
3: Connors died in Sydney on 16 January 1949 after some three months of ill health. His passing was widely reported throughout Australia. He was survived by his wife Queenie, daughter Celestine (later Celestine McDermott) and son Paul.
Image source: Northern Champion (Taree, NSW) 29 Oct. 1941, 3.

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CONNORS & PAUL

Connors and Paul [LPA]Sketch artists, singers/dancers, entrepreneurs, producers. Mike Connors (1892-1949); Queenie Paul (1894-1982)

Mike Connors met and married Queenie Paul during their 1917 engagement with Bert Le Blanc’s Travesty Stars. The couple remained on the Fullers’ circuit until the late 1920s, spending many years as members of Nat Phillips’ Stiffy and Mo Company. They established Con-Paul Theatres in 1931 and revived the Tivoli circuit. After selling their interests in the company in 1934 the couple worked as independent producers. Connors later became a successful ABC radio host. After his death Paul worked professionally until her death, producing revues, playing the club circuits and singing on television.

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 CONNORS & WITT

American duo Mike Connors and Freddy Witt came to Australia in 1916 under contract to Fullers’ Theatres. Billed as “the harmony boys,” the two tenors performed a repertoire of Irish, “coon” and ragtime songs at the piano (played by Witt). In 1917 they joined Bert Le Blanc’s Travesty Stars, an engagement which saw Connors meet and marry Queenie Paul. After Connors and Paul departed, Witt remained with the company until the early 1920s. Both men went on to establish high profile careers in Australia. Witt’s Australian career saw him eventually become involved in radio as a performer, music director and manager.

  • See also: Mike Connors [above] • Fred Witt

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CLYDE COOK

(1891-1984)  Dancer, comedian, acrobat, film actor.

Cook, Clyde [TT Aug 1916, 26]Clyde Cook carved out a hugely successful career in Australia and Great Britain as in the early 1900s, specialising in dance routines and comic roles in both vaudeville and musical comedy. He left Australia in 1919 and went on to become a star of the early Hollywood film industry (appearing in more than 130 films).

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BERT CORRIE

(ca. 1883-) Singer, comedian, actor, troupe manager/proprietor. [Born: James Herbert Corrigan]

Although described in advertising in 1908 as “Melbourne’s Favourite Baritone,” Bert Corrie’s career prior to that year is currently unknown. Largely associated with Doris Baker between 1911 and 1923, Corrie also performed both solo. His other partnerships included Claude Golding (1909-10), Joe Verne (1924-25), Heather Belle (1925), Tom Preston (1928), Jarvis the Talking Dog (ca. 1932), and Joe Rox (1935). During his career he worked for numerous vaudeville firms, including the Tivoli circuit, and occasionally toured his own shows. His longest associations were possibly with Fullers’ Theatres and Harry Clay. He was also heard regularly on radio during the 1930s. His last known performances were in 1939 aboard the Brisbane River show and cruise boat S.S. Gippsland.

1: Advertisements and reviews published in 1908 indicate that Corrie was still using his birth surname for some engagements. It is unclear whether the Master Bert Corrie performing in Terang, Victoria, in 1896 is the same person. Also in the programme was a Miss B. Corrie (possibly a sibling).
2: Corrie and Verne, along with Doris Baker, toured as the Austral Trio between 1916 and 1917.
3: Corrie and Baker married ca. 1911/1912. Their divorce in 1926 received much attention in newspapers around Australia, largely due to the salacious nature of their difficult marriage.

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CORRIE & BAKER

(ca. 1912-1923) Song, dance and patter act.

Bert Corrie and Doris Baker began touring together in the early 1910s before marrying in 1911 or 1912. Corrie was 29 and Baker 19. Over the next 13 years the couple performed throughout Australasia as a duo, individually (either in the same or in different troupes), and as with Joe Verne (Austral Trio). Doris also worked a double act (The Golden Duo) with another female for a while. Among the biggest firms and managers to secure their services were Brennan-Fuller, Fullers’ Theatres, West’s Picture, Harry Sadler, Dix-Baker, Frank Wright, and Harry Clay. The pair undertook two tours of New Zealand (1912/1919) and operated their own shows at various times.

1.: When their marriage ended in a much-publicised divorce in 1926 Corrie and Baker were both described as having combative temperaments. It was further revealed that the pair had endured years of fighting (including at least two previous attempts at divorce), parting ways and making up. Both levelled allegations of desertion, cruelty, drunkenness and immorality in the final court case. Their last engagements together are believed to been in 1923.
2.: The 1926 Truth expose records that in addition to “travelling around the various states with small theatricals,” Corrie and Baker also ran Dandies Parties and Sunshine Players. No details relating to these companies have yet been located, however.

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CORRIE & VERNE

(1924-1925) Comedy, patter, song and dance act.

By late 1923 Bert Corrie’s 13 year marriage to fellow entertainer and stage partner Doris Baker was all but over (they would divorce in 1926). Sometime early in 1924 he reunited with comedian Joe Verne (formerly with Corrie and Baker in the Austral Trio), the pair making their first known appearance in Bathurst, New South Wales, in late February. Over the next 12 months the two men worked their act for managers such as Weston and Hill, Alf Raleigh, Bambury and White, J.C. Bain, while also touring with George Drew‘s company. Their engagements are believed to have been confined primarily, if not exclusively to Sydney and regional New South Wales.

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THE COTTIERS

(Walter C., Harry, Lucy and Ernest )

Variety entertainers, producers.

Comedians/endmen Walter (tambo) and Harry (bones), Lucy (serio-comic/vocalist) and Master Ernest (specialty dancer), came to prominence in Melbourne during the 1870s through their association with the People’s Concerts (Russell St). They cemented their reputations as harlequin and farce specialists in the 1880s with companies run by Alfred Dampier, Tommy Hudson (Melbourne) and Frank Smith (Sydney), and between 1884 and 1887 operated their own Peoples Concerts in Sydney (these were revived in 1891 and 1897). While little is known of Harry, Lucy and Ernest past 1900, Walter continued to perform well into the 1910s.

The family was joined in the late 1880s by Wal Cottier’s wife, Amy Blackie.

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WALTER C. COTTIER

Comedian, endman (tambo), producer.

Cottier, WalHaving established his credentials as a comedian/endman in Melbourne (1870s), Wal Cottier was invited to join Tommy Hudson‘s company in 1882. With his family he later ran shows in Sydney (1880s/1890s) before carving out a solo career in tandem with his wife, Amy Blackie. Between 1900 and Blackie’s retirement 1909 the secured engagements with Harry Rickards, Frank Smith, Percy St John, Bovis Bros and Harry Clay etc. During the 1910s Cottier worked for the Puglieses, Harry Clay, Harry Barrington, Jack Kearns, Walter Morris, Jacky Landow and Les James among others. He retired ca. 1917.

Image source: Australian Variety (Sydney) 13 Sept. 1916, n. pag.

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LOU COURTNEY

Film and limelight operator, advance rep, juggler, equilibrist, spruiker.

Lou Courtney began his association with Harry Clay in 1904 as an advance rep. He was later employed as a film and limelight operator, while occasionally performing as equilibrist. After returning from WWI service Courtney was re-employed by Clay. He also managed the Bridge Theatre in Newtown after Clay’s death in 1925.

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MAUD COURTNEY

Courtney, Maud(1884-1959) Singer, comedienne.

A niece of Peter McCourt, owner of the Silver Circuit of theatres (USA), Maude Courtney began performing songs and recitations in public as a child. She reportedly made her professional debut at the Casino Roof Garden, New York, in June 1898, and quickly gained a reputation in musical comedy, farce and vaudeville/music hall. Known in her early career as “the girl who sings the old songs,” Courtney was the first to have a hit with “The Honeysuckle and The Bee.” She toured Britain, Europe, South Africa and India before teaming up with Finlay Currie as Maude Courtney and Mr C sometime between 1906 and 1911). She likely retired from performing in the early 1930s.

See also: Maude Courtney and Mr CFinlay Currie (below)

1: In Australia Courtney was initially billed as “the Yankee Girl.” She was also known as “The Dainty Girl” largely in response to her “sweet voice, simple demeanor and gentle manners.”
2: Several secondary sources insist that she and Currie worked together as early as the 1890s. There is no evidence to support this claim.
Image: Hemus Sarony (Christchurch, New Zealand, ca. 1911). Source: Footlight Notes

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VINCE COURTNEY

Songwriter, singer, revusical and pantomime actor.

One of Australia’s leading variety songwriters of the 1910s and 1920s, Vince Courtney often performed with his wife, Eva. For several years he was a key member of Nat Phillips’ Stiffy and Mo Revue Co, and contributed songs to The Bunyip pantomime (1916). Many of his songs were also written for other leading variety performers.

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 JAMES CRAYDON

Dancer, comedian, actor, agent.

craydon-james-ql-21-apr-1898-15James Craydon spent the first 20 years of his professional career as a member of the “Australian Team” Delohery, Craydon and Holland. After the trio called in quits in the early 1900s, Craydon worked both a solo act and in partnership with his wife, Addie Barton and their daughter, Letty (billed as Baby Jackson). Over the next two decades he appeared on bills for Harry Rickards, James Brennan, Ted Holland, J.C. Bain and others before turning his career towards the production side – as a stage manager, agent and producer.

Image source: Quiz and Lantern (Adelaide) 21 Apr. 1898, 15.

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LETTY CRAYDON

(1899-1965) dancer, comedy soubrette, songwriter, writer (radio and stage), actress.

Craydon, Letty - 1940s [NLA]The daughter of James Craydon (Delohery, Craydon and Holland) and soubrette Addie Barton, Letty Craydon spent more than 60 years on the stage, initially billed as Baby Jackson. In the 1920s she worked in vaudeville, revue, pantomime and musical comedy, and was a member of companies led by Jim Gerald and George Wallace among others. Craydon turned to writing in the 1930s and appeared at least nine films and toured Australia and England in dramatic and comedy roles. She and her husband, comedian Ron Shand also toured their own company.

  • See also: James Craydon [above] • Ron Shand
Image: From J.C. Williamson‘s Kiss and Tell (ca. 1943-45). Source: National Library of Australia.

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HARRY CREMAR

(-1894) English-born blackface comedian (bones), actor, troupe proprietor, theatre manager/lessee.

Harry Cremar and his wife Daisy came to Australia in May 1885 with the Rickards-Leete Combination. The couple separated later that same year, however, and in August 1886 their nine year marriage ended in divorce. Shortly afterwards, while in Queensland, Cremar was sacked from the company after he and Harry Rickards had a falling out. He later toured Australasia with a number of minstrel, musical comedy and dramatic companies including those run by Rose Clifford, Maude Danvers, Martyn Hagan (Oriental Minstrel Co) and F.E. Hiscocks (Federal Minstrels / Royal Court Minstrels). He also ran his own troupe (Harry Cremar Combination), appeared with the U.S. Minstrels, and operated the Victoria Theatre, Wyalong, in regional New South Wales (early-1894).

1: The Rickards-Leete Combination was bought to Australia by George Rignold and James Allison.
2: The Cremar’s are believed to have separated around September/October 1885. Daisy, who was thereafter known professionally by her maiden name, Simpson, eventually left the Rickards troupe in June 1886. Her initial divorce petition, which she sought on the grounds of her husband’s cruelty and adultery, was denied after the court refused to accept her claims without evidence and questioned its own jurisdiction given they were not residents. She later appealed, and while the court again refused to give credence to her allegations, it accepted that the couple had intended to make Victoria their headquarters, and granted the divorce.
3: Survived by his second wife and two small children, Cremar’s sudden and unexpected death in Sydney on 24 August 1894 left his family destitute. A benefit was subsequently organised by J. Harding Tucker.

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COLIN CROFT

Croft, Colin [MRT 13 Mar 1940, 3](1922-1989) Comedian, singer, dancer, musician, actor, publicist.

An accomplished all-round entertainer and legitimate actor, Colin Croft toured as a juvenile female impersonator with the Young Australia League (Y.A.L., 1931-35), the Young Australian Boys Band and Revue Party (1937-39) and the Young Australian and New Zealand Revue Co (1940). Before joining the 2nd Australian Imperial Force (A.I.F.) in 1942 (with which he served in the entertainment corps), Croft starred in 2GB’s Radio Youth Show and the ABC’s Comedy Club, and toured with various revue companies. After the war he worked in revue (Tivoli circuit) and musical comedy (J.C. Williamson’s) before heading to England in 1949. His British career included radio, film, television, musicals and drama. Croft returned to Australia in the early 1960s.

1: Colin Croft’s film and television career involved at least 12 UK and Australian films and more than 30 television series and telemovies. Notable films incl. Tread Softly (England, 1952), Careful, He Might Hear You (1983), The Wild Duck (1984) and Kokoda Trail (1989). His television credits include The Adventures of Robin Hood (England), Skippy, Division 4, Number 96, Alvin Purple, Sons and Daughters and The Family Business.
2: His first British success was in the controversial 1950 Australian “outback” play Pommy (produced by Peter Finch. In 1953 he became the first non-American to play the lead comedy role in the Drury Lane season of South Pacific (it had by then been running for 18 months).
Image source: Manning River Times (Taree, NSW) 13 Mar. 1940, 3.

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MARSHALL CROSBY

(1882-1954) Stage and film actor, singer, comedian, trade union official. [Born: Joseph Alexander Crosby]

Crosby, Marshall [STS 26 Apr 1914, 22]Marshall Crosby made his professional debut with English entertainer Lesley Harris in 1907 (as a baritone). After working his way up to Harry Rickards circuit (and later the Hugh McIntosh-led Tivoli company) he went on to appear in J.C. Williamson’s musicals in the 1920s before joining George Wallace‘s revue company (1924-30). He also later starred in the Wallace films His Royal Highness (1932) and Harmony Row (1933). Crosby’s late career saw him appear in more than dozen films, take lead roles in radio serials and dramas and become President of the Actors’ and Announcers Equity Association.

His son Donald (1924-1985) became a well-known actor and prominent actor’s union representative. For further details see “George Wallace Donald (Don) Crosby (1924-1985).” Australian Dictionary of Biography [sighted 6/10/2016]
Image source: Sunday Times (Sydney) 26 Apr 1914, 22.

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FINLAY CURRIE

aka Mr C. / Harry Calvo

Currie, Finlay - 1939(1878-1968) Comedian, singer, pianist, raconteur, actor.

Finlay Jefferson Currie began his show business career at age 20, working as a double-voiced singer (under the name Harry Calvo) in London and the British provinces before making his US debut in 1906 at Tony Pastor’s, New York. He could reportedly sing as a baritone, tenor and soprano. Currie met his future wife, American comedienne Maud Courtney prior to them making their Australian debut in 1911. As Maud Courtney and Mr C. they toured throughout Australasia (1911-1912, 1917-1926) and internationally until the early-1930s. After making his film debut in The Old Man (England,  1931), Currie went on to appear in more than 150 film and television productions in both Britain and America.

1: Currie’s only Australian film was Kangaroo (1952). During his extensive film career he garnered much acclaim for his roles in Great Expectations (1946) and People Will Talk (1951, opposite Cary Grant). He also featured in Ben Hur (1959). His last role was in the British television series, The Saint (1968).
2: The son of a Black Watch officer, Currie was born in Edinburgh Castle while his father was stationed there. In his later life he became a much respected antiques dealer, specializing in coins and precious metals.
Image: Spotlight Casting, 1939. Source: Gilbert Davis Vintage Photoprint.

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CUSKO’S MONKEYS

(aka Cusko’s Monkeys, Dogs and Cockatoos / Cusko’s Jungle Circus)

(ca. 1910s-1950) Animal act.

Cusko's Monkeys [PPRW 26 Oct 1917, 2]William Henderson (aka Bill Cusko) started out in the circus at age seven. During a 12 year engagement with the Fitzgerald Brothers he discovered an ability to train animals and eventually went on to tour his own act in both circus and vaudeville. His first stars were monkeys Judy and Biddy, and “Jerry the Wonder Dog.” In addition to an 18 year association with the Melbourne Aquarium and working under contract for various variety firms, Cusko also managed his own tours. His last known appearances were with George Sorlie in 1950.

Image Source: Port Pirie Recorder and Western Mail (SA) 26 Oct. 1917, 2.

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FREDA CUTHBERT

Dancer, animal trainer/act, juggler, singer, entrepreneur.

In a career spanning five decades Freda Cuthbert worked as dancer and animal trainer in vaudeville and for film exhibitors. In the early 1900s she studied dance in Melbourne with the Hymans sisters and in 1906 performed routines in the lions’ den at Prince’s Court. Although considered Australia’s queen of the Salome dance during the 1910s, she turned to training dogs in the early-1920s, touring variety/revue shows and specialty entertainments such as A Day in Dogtown and A Dog’s Life with her husband Joseph Rinaldo (aka Rinaldo Flaneur). Her last recorded appearance was at the Parkside Cinema, Ipswich (Queensland) in 1940, where she presented “The World’s Greatest Dog Actors… direct from leading southern theatres.”

1: In a 1934 Perth interview Cuthbert claims to have been born into a show business family, and that after coming to Australia with Bostock and Wombwell’s Menagerie as a wild animal trainer, she later worked for Wirth’s Circus (“Snakes and Lion’s Cubs for Pets.”. Daily News 27 Sept. 1934, 11). There is evidence suggesting that some or all of this may have been either fabrication or embellishment. While it has been ascertained that she did perform dance routines in the Prince’s Court lions’ den as early as April 1906, the Bostock and Wombell company only arrived in Australia at Fremantle in September 1905 and did not play Melbourne until October 1906. The company’s wild animal trainer and tour manager has been identified as Captain Taylor (“Chat with Lion Tamer.”. Barrier Miner 16 Dec. 1905, 5). Cuthbert’s Prince’s Court appearances were presented in the company of animal trainer Mons. Marco, who possibly also schooled her in the craft. Although Cleo Bullen (nee Rinaldo) records in a 2007 Age interview (“A Gradual Disappearing Act.”) that her mother toured as a snake charmer and lion tamer with Bostock and Wombell no primary source evidence has yet been found to support the claim. It may therefore be heresay. It is feasible that Cuthbert had an association with Wirth’s after the company took control of Prince’s Court in August 1906.
2: A Freda Cuthbert has been identified as appearing in the Clifton Operatic Society’s 1905 production of H.M.S. Pinafore (Age 11 Nov. 1905, 16). The advertisement indicates that she was a student of the well-known Hymans sisters of Melbourne. It is believed that this is the same person.

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Published on February 20, 2011 at 11:31 pm  Comments Off on Practitioners [C]