WINIFRED LA FRANCE
Born in Deloraine, Tasmania, and described in her youth as a promising student with a “pure dramatic soprano voice,” Winifred La France eventually turned to variety entertainment as a quick-change/artistic posing act. Billed as the “Parisian Beauty” she toured Australia and New Zealand for a decade before travelling to the USA in 1914 with manager Jack O’Donnell. La France returned to the Australasian region in 1918, and maintained a stage presence here until at least the early 1930s.
- See also: Jack O’Donnell
Image Source: Mail (Adelaide) 2 Nov. (1912), 12.
(aka The Modern Milo)
Posing, Living Statues act. [Born: Pansy Montague]
One of Australia’s most celebrated Living Stature performers, Pansy Montague first came to attention of the Australian public in the late 1890s as an actress with Dan Barry and Harry Cogill companies. After developing her La Milo act she presented it, possibly for the first time, at the Palace Garden‘s Perth in January 1906. Initially wearing a tight-fitting stocking to avoid total nudity she later covered herself in alabaster whiting to create a marble effect. Her popularity led to a long line of engagements in England and America, and many complaints from church authorities.
Image Source: State Library of Victoria.
Cast as one of the babes in the Fullers pantomime Babes in the Wood, Stella Lamond later toured with the Sunbeam Pantomime Children for six years (billed as “woop woop girl”). After going solo in 1928 she joined Nat Phillips’ Whirligigs and went on to work with comedian Joe Lawman (also her first husband) for almost a decade. Lamond, whose career also spanned radio, film and television, later worked in partnership with her second husband Max Reddy.
- More details
- Stella Lamond in Homicide : Clip 1 [YouTube]
- Stella Lamond in Homicide : Clip 2 [YouTube]
- ♫ Stella Lamond & Jim Davidson. “The Girl at the Ironing Board.” 1934 (mp3)
Music source: Frank Van Straten Tivoli Echoes (2003).
aka Miss Masculin / Madame Masculin
(1899-1966) Magician’s assistant, mind-reader [Born: Lilian Margaret Woolfe, possibly in Melbourne]
18 year-old Lilian (Lily) Woolfe stole £25 from her mother in mid-1917 and ran away from home. A Victorian police warrant suggested that she would likely seek theatre work in Sydney or endeavour to leave for America. Eventually both things happened as a result of meeting and marrying touring magician Prince Lampini (aka Moritz Hechter/ Prince Mesculin) of the Lampini brothers. By 1919 Lily was her husband’s assistant (replacing his brother) and eventually went on to develop her own mind-reading and crystal gazing and séance act. The couple toured the world extensively, including several returns visits to Australasia, before settling here permanently in 1938. Lily died in Melbourne, aged 66.
1: Lily’s birth surname is spelled both Wulff in the New South Wales Police Gazette (20 June 1917, 274). The writer suggests that it may be spelled Wolfe, however. Lily and Prince’s marriage certificate, as published in Digger: Great War Index, Victoria 1914-1920, spells her family name as Wulff. The Ancestry website records it as Mulff (?). Lily’s death certificate spells her father’s surname as Woolfe, as does his death notice published in the Argus (15 July 1939, 12).
2: Her death was registered with two surnames on the certificate – Lampino and Masculin – as she was known by both names throughout her life.
Thanks to Lester Hechter for the above information and image.
Society entertainer, ventriloquist, magician, comedian, elocutionist.
Little is known about Melbourne-based all-round entertainer Page Lang. He appears to have started his career in the early 1900s playing community and social events, smoke nights and concerts etc. By the end of the first decade he had also carved out a reputation in regional Victoria and southern New South Wales. His movements 1909 and 1911 and in 1913 are currently unknown, while his last recorded engagements were in 1914 (with the Page Lang Entertainers and as a solo magician).
(ca. 1915-1992) Dancer, actor, singer, comedian, industrial activist, television presenter, alderman [Born: Harold Francis Davies]
The son of comedian Joe Lashwood, Hal Lashwood started his professional life in 1932 as a dancer with J. C. Williamson’s. He later toured the Tivoli circuit, and appeared in musical comedies, revues, “legitimate” theatre and radio before acquiring national stardom in the 1940s as Roy Rene‘s off-sider, including McCackie Mansion (as Mr Lasho). He moved into television in 1958 hosting Hal Lashwood’s Alabama Jubilee on the ABC (1958-61). It was later renamed Hal Lashwood’s Minstrels. Lashwood’s political career began in 1931 when he helped found Actors’ Equity. He served as its president for 25 years (1951-76) and later as a Waverly Council alderman (1977-87).
1: Lashwood’s year of birth ranges from 1915 to 1920 in various publications. Websites published by Waverley Council and Labor Australia both provide the birth date 13 August 1915.
2: In “ABC Stars of the Air” (an article published around Australia in 1943), Lashwood claims that his grandfather was George Lashwood (1863-1942), a music hall singer who achieved much popularity during the First World War with his patriotic songs. This is yet to be verified.
Image: Hal Lashwood (Lasho) and Mo (Roy Rene), ca. 1946-49); Source: National Library of Australia.
Ernest Lauri started out his career in Brisbane as an illustrated/picture singer sometime prior to 1911. He also presented songs and dialogue to silent films (including later tours of The Kelly Gang) and appeared in seven films himself. After returning from World War I Lauri scored much success as the “Singing Anzac,” and debuted several hits including “Rose of No Man’s Land,” and “On the Road the Gundagai.” He retired from the stage in 1941 due to injuries sustained in World War II but travelled extensively for more than 15 years undertaking research for overseas radio broadcasts.
Image source: National Library of Australia.
(1909-1977) Comedian, singer, pantomime dame.
Joe Lawman started out as a child clog dancer, and later worked for Clay’s Bridge Theatre Co before making his Tivoli debut in 1930. After playing Nat Phillips‘ off-sider in the Whirligigs Co, he spent almost a decade touring with Stella Lamond. A popular Tivoli comedian and pantomime dame during the war years, Lawman appeared on radio from as early as 1934, and featured in many community concert broadcasts. He also appeared in at least one film – That Certain Something (1941). He and his second wife, Joy Robbins worked in Great Britain for ten years beginning 1945.
- See also: Stella Lamond [above]
Image source: Frank Van Straten. Tivoli (2003), 102.
ALF J. LAWRANCE
Alf. J. Lawrance published his first song at age 16 and went on to published more than a thousand by the mid-1940s (some in collaboration) for vaudeville, pantomime, revusical, revue and follies, radio and film. He first came to Australia in 1914 with his wife, singer Violet Carmen (as Carmen and Lawrence) and in the early to mid-1920s partnered singer Nell Crane before going solo. The 1930s saw him employed by Ernest C. Rolls as a pianist/songwriter for revues like League of Happiness, while also contributing music for radio and film. His radio career began in the late-1920s with the privately-owned Australian Broadcasting Company (as music director/ conductor). He joined the government-run ABC in 1937 and was still writing and publishing songs in the early 1950s.
1: Lawrance’s film scores included The Hayseeds (1933), Splendid Fellows (1934), The Flying Doctor (1936, with Willy Redstone) and Rangle River (1936). His songs also featured in at least two Hollywood films.
2: In late-1946 Lawrance teamed up with 19 year-old songwriter Robyn Teakle. The pair went on to write and publish a number of popular songs.
3: Lawrance’s first song, “Goodnight My Little Daffodil,” reportedly sold in excess of 40,000 copies in Britain. Daisy Jerome, Rev. Frank Gorman and Bert Le Blanc were among those Lawrance wrote songs for. The National Library of Australia holds more than 70 of his published songs.
(1885-1968) Melbourne-born singer, comedian, monologist, musician, radio broadcaster ,
Charles Edward Lawrence sang in his church choir and at eisteddfods as a youth. After a period working as a clerk he opted for a career as an entertainer and between the early 1900s and 1926 he worked with numerous companies and shows. These included tours with wrestler George Hackenschmidt (New Zealand), Edward Branscombe‘s Jesters, Tait’s Follies, English entertainer Margaret Cooper (South Africa), and the English Pierrots (1913-1920). Known largely noted for his pianologues, Lawrence secured employment on various vaudeville circuits during the 1920s. His radio career began in 1926. From then on he performed on radio and on stage variously as a comedian, entertainer, pianist/accompanist, and compare, and did voice-overs for Cinesound.
- For further details see: Jan Brazier. “Lawrence, Charles Edward (1885–1968)” Australian Dictionary of Biography 10 (1986). [sighted 18/07/2015]
(-1907) American minstrel comedian, manager.
Alfred Lawton came to Australia in 1882 with Clark and Ryman’s Minstrels, and remained in the Antipodian region until his death. During those 25 years he toured relentlessly, playing engagements for leading minstrel firms such as F. E. Hiscocks, F. M. Clark, the Cogill Bros, Harry Rickards, Dan Tracey and Frank Smith while also touring his own troupes at various times. He also worked for MacMahon Brothers, and Williamson, Garner and Musgrove in the 1880s. Lawton died of pneumonia in New Zealand while on tour with the Happy Moments Company.
NB: Lawton was the brother of whistler Frank Lawton and husband of entertainer/teacher Clara Spencer.
aka Emile Lazern
Emil Lazern emigrated to New Zealand with his parents and grew up in Wellington. His early fascination with conjuring saw him turn professional at an early age. With Charles Dalton he toured a magic act through New Zealand, Australia and internationally during the mid-1890s (their most prestigious engagement being London’s Crystal Palace). From the late 1890s he returned to working mostly solo (with an assistant). Lazern also toured his companies through Australasia and the East up until the mid-1920s, mostly with his wife May McCrystal (pianist/entertainer). Other business partners included Charles Dalton, ventriloquist Fred Mills and Happy Harry Salmon. Lazern’s Australasian tours included the Tivoli, Fullers and Harry Clay circuits.
Lazern was renowned for his beer making trick in which audience members attempted to out drink his magic bottle. In the early 1910s he developed a passion for photography and went on to specialise in racehorses. He subsequently became a familiar sight at Randwick Racecourse. Lazern died at his residence, 124 Anzac Parade, Kensington on 12 August 1928, 13 months after his wife. He was survived by his son, Jack.
Image: Emil and May Lazern. Source: Everyone’s 12 Dec 1928, 132
(1874-1949) Comedian, mimic, whistler, singer [Born: Wardrop Hamilton Lear in Bendigo, Victoria)
With a career spanning six decades Ward Lear cemented his reputation as one of Australia’s finest variety entertainers. A specialist mimic who could project sounds like trains, motor cycles, blowflies, scissors being sharpened and a cocktail being mixed, Lear was also known as a whistling/singing comedian and Chinese impersonator. He started out as an amateur in Melbourne during the early-1890s while also employed as a compositor for the Evening Standard, and was still working professionally as late as 1946. During those 50-odd years he worked in vaudeville, revue, and pantomime for numerous Australasian variety firms, including Harry Rickards, Fullers’ Theatres and Harry Clay. He also made the first of many radio broadcasts in 1925.
- See also: Ward Lear Jnr [below]
1: Lear is believed to have worked in Britain between mid-1900 and mid-1902. His son, James Ward Lear was born in Margate, Kent during that time.
2: One of Ward Lear’s earliest confirmed engagements was at Centennial Hall, Prahran in 1895. He appeared with the Diamond Variety Co, a Melbourne-based amateur variety troupe that also featured a young Fred Bluett.
Thanks to Michael and Anna Jacobs (Jacobs Family Tree) for family history details. Image source: Newsletter 23 Dec. (1911), 22.
WARD LEAR Jnr
(1902-1978) Comedian, theatre manager, publicity manager [Born: James Ward Lear in Margate, Kent, England]
aka James Lear / James Ward Lear
The son of Australian comedian/mimic Ward Lear, James (Jim) Lear also worked as a comedian during the 1920s and 1930s. Although his first confirmed engagements were as a specialist dame with O’Donnell and Ray‘s pantomime company in 1924 (billed as either James Lear or James Ward Lear), he reportedly began his stage career as a boy (ctd Jacobs Family Tree). Lear toured Australian and New Zealand with F. Gayle Wyer’s Bandbox Revue Co (1926-1929), and appeared in musical comedies in England during the early 1930s before turning to other areas of the entertainment industry. In 1940, for example, he took over the management of Newcastle’s Victoria Theatre, and in 1946 became Hoyts publicity manager in Melbourne.
- See also: Ward Lear [above]
1: In 1928 Lear took a break from Gayle Wyer’s company to appear in A Turf Secret, an “Australianised” adaptation of Willard Mack’s American racing melodrama Weather Clear, Track Fast. Produced at the Empire Theatre, Sydney beginning 21 November, A Turf Secret is described as a comedy drama with music.
2: He died in Surfers Paradise, Queensland, on 15 July 1978 survived by his wife, Louise (nee Chambers) and two children.
Thanks to Michael and Anna Jacobs (Jacobs Family Tree) for family history details. Image source: Everyone’s 15 Dec. (1926), 30.
BERT LE BLANC
(1884-1974) American-born Hebrew comic, musical comedy actor, singer, revusical producer and writer, film actor. [Born: Bertram Leon Cohen]
One of the pioneers of the Australian revusical, Bert Le Blanc and Jake Mack (as Ike and Morris) rivalled Nat Phillips and Roy Rene (Stiffy and Mo) in the 1910s and early 1920s. A favourite with audiences through his larrikin persona (despite portraying a heavily-accented Jew), Le Blanc came to Australia in 1913 with the American Burlesque Company and remained for the rest of his life. His career, which continued well into the 1940s included a role in Roy Rene‘s Strike Me Lucky and numerous radio appearances.
BOBBY LE BRUN
Eric Marshall took the stage name Bobby Le Brun “just for fun” prior to securing work on Harry Clay‘s Sydney circuit in 1928. He toured with Mo’s Merrymakers that same year and in 1929 made his Tivoli debut. Over the the next two decades Le Brun toured with Kate Howarde (1930-31), George Sorlie (1933-37), Barton’s Follies (1941-45) and the Great Levante. He also spent much time in Newcastle and Sydney and toured New Zealand (1948-49). Between 1949 and 1961 he ran Georgie Sorlie’s tent show with Grace Sorlie, and before retiring in 1975 appeared regularly on television on the club circuit.
Image source: http://www.joseflebovicgallery.com
Lance Lenton established his reputation as a Negro and Dutch character comedian in the mid to late 1870s before turning to writing(including songs, sketches, burlesques and pantomimes). Among the artists to have had hits with his songs were F.M. Clark, Slade Murray, Horace Bent and Will Whitburn. Although in demand as both a comedian and dramatic actor Lenton retired from performing in the late-1880s to work as a journalist.
(aka The Only Leon / The Great Leon )
Francis Leon made his professional stage debut in 1858 and quickly established himself as a soprano-singing prima donna and danseuse. It was with Kelly and Leon’s Minstrels (1863-1880) that he is best remembered, however. When the company came to Australia in 1878 Leon was one of the first female impersonators to appear on the Antipodian stage, and certainly one of the most revered. Following the end of their partnership in 1880 Leon formed the Mastodon Minstrels before leaving for London and eventually America. He returned to Australia in 1885 with the Leon and Cushman Minstrels and briefly revived Kelly and Leon’s Minstrels in Chicago in 1900.
- See also: Kelly and Leon’s Minstrels • Edwin Kelly • Opera House (Sydney) aka Kelly and Leon’s Opera House • Kelly & Leon
Image source: Houghton Library, Harvard University.
(ca. 1882-) Dancer, singer, choreographer, producer, actor.
Fred Leslie first appeared on the stage with his father and uncle (the Leslie Brothers). After establishing his reputation as dancer in vaudeville he joined J. C. Williamson‘s in 1901 appearing in musical comedies, revues and pantomimes. He later formed a dance partnership with Ivy Shilling that was a hit in both Australia and Britian. Leslie continued to work in Britain as a dancer/ choreographer up until the late 1940s.
- See also: Ivy Schilling
(aka Les Thiers)
Initially comprising siblings Ada, Maud and George Thyer, Les Thieres began performing in Brisbane during the early 1890s. By 1894 they were appearing with Lawton and Leslie’s All Nations Co (Theatre Royal) and York and Jones Empire Minstrels (Gaiety Theatre), and in Williamson and Musgrove‘s Sydney pantomime Cinderella. The Thyers continued to perform around Australia throughout the 1890s and early 1900s, eventually becoming a quartet (with the addition of Charlie), and securing engagements with Harry Rickards and Percy Dix (New Zealand) among others. Known as the Thieres Quintette in 1901 their last known performances were in 1903.
- For further details see: Claire Marshall’s blog page “Theatrical Family History” at Claire Marshall Choreographer (sighted 6/08/2013)
Source: Claire Marshall. Image: Les Theires at the Sydney Tivoli (1899). Courtesy of Claire Marshall and Lucas Thyer.
LEVANTE / THE GREAT LEVANTE
(aka Levant / Les Cole / Magician Cole)
Regarded as one of the world’s greatest magicians, Les Cole began learning magic in his early teens before touring an escapology act as Levante. In 1927 he and his wife and daughter left Australia to tour the east and Europe before moving to Great Britain where he gradually expanded his show into a revue extravaganza. He returned to Australia in 1940 and continued touring until the late 1950s.
LINN SMITH’S ROYAL JAZZ BAND
aka The Linn Smith Jazz Band
Linn Smith debuted his Royal Jazz Band at the Majestic Theatre (Newtown, Sydney) with musicians Dave Meredith (trombone), Paul Jeacle (sax), Sammy Cope (drums) and Arthur Curnick (violin). Although largely associated with Fullers’ Theatres during the 1920s, and mostly as a vaudeville act, the band featured in J. C. Williamson’s 1924 production of the US musical Good Morning Dearie, and in 1925 secured an engagement at Adelaide’s Palais Royal as a dance band. Smith briefly disbanded the ensemble in 1926 to work a vaudeville act then out together the Linn Smith Jazz Band the following year. It touring the Fullers’ circuit up until late-1929.
- See also: Old Time Nigger Minstrels  (Fullers)
Smith’s first name is sometimes spelled Lynn.
Image: Linn Smith. Source: Sunday Times (Sydney) 7 Feb. (1926), 23.
(ca. 1904-1991) Child acrobat, contortionist, balance and pose artist.
The adopted child of Lillian Ross, a leading teacher of juvenile vaudeville performers, Little Verlie became one Australia’s premiere contortion and posing acts during the 1910s and early 1920s. With another of Ross’s adopted children, Wee Darrell, she also toured South Africa in 1917/18. She also worked under the names La Petite Verlie and Little Winsome.
ALF G. LUMSDEN
Starting out as an amateur illusionist/mentalist in the early 1890s, Alfred Lumsden made his name in regional Victoria for his act Mysteria. He briefly used the name Czerny in the early 1900s, and between late 1905 and 1907 toured New Zealand and Australia for William Anderson. Lumsden turned to management in 1908, initially as representative at the Bijou Theatre (Melbourne) and as tour manager for Beaumont Smith and Allan Hamilton among others. He also wrote the pantomimes (including songs) Babes in the Wood (1909) and Sinbad the Sailor (1914) and four-act comedy Bill Adams (1915).
Image Source: State Library of Victoria.