World-renowned British contortionist Hector “Human Spider” Napier came to Australia in 1912 for Wirth’s Circus, and the Tivoli and Brennan-Fuller circuits. He developed his famous act in the USA around 1915, but came back to Australia in 1915 to join the Australian Imperial Forces (A.I.F.). After recovering from wounds in 1916, he teamed up with Yvonne Cartledge, who played the butterfly to his spider. The pair toured Australia between 1916 and 1919, returning in 1922/23 and 1925/26. They retired in the mid-1930s.
- More details
- “The Spider and the Butterfly” – USA, 1920 (filmclip)
- See also: Valantyne Napier [below]
(1923-2003) Contortionist, dancer, author.
The daughter of Hector and Yvonne Napier, Valantyne Napier also carved out a successful international career on the stage, both as a contortionist and a dancer. Between 1948 and 1969 she worked in vaudeville, revue and pantomime, often presenting a variation on her father’s Spider act. She also teamed up with her first husband Ted Weeks in an act billed as Vyne and Valantyne. In her later years Napier published several books about the variety industry.
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- See also: Hector Napier [above]
Frank Neil had his first career break with Cole’s Bohemian Dramatic Co ca. 1908. He later worked with George Willoughby, and in 1918 wrote and directed his first Fullers pantomime, Bluebeard. In 1925 he formed a comedy and toured for Fuller -Ward. Financial difficulties in 1929 led to a move to South Africa. He returned in 1931, and in 1934 took over the Tivoli circuit with Mike Connors and Queenie Paul. Neil died in 1940 after being hit by a car.
Leonard Nelson began his professional career in the early 1900s playing weekend harbour cruises in Sydney. He made his first appearance under Harry Rickards‘ management at a trial night and in 1902 undertook a tour of the East. He became a big star in New Zealand working for John Fuller and then spent 3-4 years with Rickards. From ca. 1910 until the mid-1920s Nelson was largely associated with the Fullers. He is known to have still been performing in the mid-1940s.
Sydney Nelson, his son Alfred and daughters Carry and Sara probably began performing together on the London stage in the early 1840s. Early the following decade they embarked on an international tour, playing engagements in America and Canada before coming to Australia in 1852. Their musical entertainment programme largely comprised songs (mostly written by Sydney) that ranged from comedy to sentimental, and which they performed as solos, duets, trios and glees. Additional items could include piano solos, sketches, comic interludes and farces. After lengthy periods in Melbourne and Sydney, the Nelsons left Australia in 1859.
- See also: Sydney Nelson.
Image source: Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer 6 Nov. (1852), 2.
English revue sketch artists, comedians, singers, dancers, patterologists.
Val and Lottie Newman came to Australia in 1915 for Brennan-Fuller, opening in Perth with their eccentric novelty revue “Tit Bits.” Over the next three years they toured the Fullers‘ Australian and New Zealand circuit, an engagement which also saw them join the Paul Stanhope Revue Company in 1917. Invariably billed along the lines of “the lean, lank comedian and his little partner,” Val Newman was highly regarded for his strong basso voice, as was Lottie for her character songs. After concluding their Fullers engagement in 1918 the couple briefly toured for other managements before leaving Australia to tour the East.
Not to be confused with American “unicyboxologists” Will and Linda Newman (also known as The Newmans) who toured Australasia in 1919-20 and again in 1924.
Ernest Alfred Nicholls performed as a singer in London from the age of 11 and appeared with various juvenile companies before immigrating to Australia where he worked in Melbourne as a cinema projectionist. In 1916 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces (A.I.F.) and eventually served with the 8th Battalion. Whilst based in England he formed The Perham Stars concert party, taking on both performer and business manager roles. Later renamed The Aussies, the troupe toured hospitals and other camps up until 1919. After being discharged Nicholls returned to Australia and became active with the Mosman Musical Society and the Thespians dramatic group. He also also heavily involved with the RSL, often performing at concerts and meetings. Following a move to Milton in New South Wales, he worked as Hospital Director and also District Coroner.
- For further information see “Nicholls, Ernest A. (Nick) (Private, 8th Inf Bn and Member of ‘Perham Stars’ No 1 Command Depot Concert Party).” Australian War Memorial. [sighted 13/01/2017]
- See also: Perham Stars
Image source: Australian War Memorial.
H. (HARRY) NICKLESS
Harry Nickless learned dance from Tom Delohery and Tom Donnelly and acrobatics at the Sydney’s Moore Park sandhills before making his professional debut with the Newtown Electrical Minstrels. Well-known around the Sydney suburbs during the early1900s, he was at one time a member of the Johnson Brothers Quartette (acrobatic/ banjo act). Nickless ran vaudeville schools in Redfern and Newtown then turned to film exhibition, first in Sydney and from 1914 onwards in Bathurst, New South Wales.
English-born variety dong and dance/patter comedian, actor, author, manager, company director.
Charles Norman came to Australia in the late 1910s and soon afterwards formed a song-and-dance act with Chick Arnold that appeared on Harry Clay‘s circuit for three years. After the act split up in the mid-1920s Norman worked in musical comedy, revue and revusicals in both Australia and Britain. He and Arnold teamed up again in the Britain for several years in early 1930s. Norman later became a director of Savoy Theatres and remained active in the industry up the late-1960s.
- More details
- ♫ Patter/”It’s De-Lovely” 1944 (mp3)
- ♫ “Pigsty Blues” 1929 (mp3).
- See also: Chic Arnold • Arnold & Norman