Practitioners [R]

Racoons to Rinaldo ……. p.1
Roberts to Ruddles ……. p.2



aka The Racoon Bros / The 3 Racoons / The 4 Racoons / The Great Racoons

(1908-ca.1913) Gymnasts, acrobats, child and dog act.

Racoons [NAB 18 Apr 1912, 2]The Racoon Brothers (Paddy and Michael) and their dog staged their popular comedy acrobatic act as a trio before expanding it (ca. 1910) to include a young boy. According to reviews the performances included forward, backward and flying somersaults, pyramid work, tumbling, and rolling, with their dog creating much merriment in response to its enthusiastic participation. Among the firms known to have engaged the acts were Harry Clay, James Brennan, Harry Rickards, Birch and Carroll (Queensland), Dix-Baker (Hunter Valley), Davis’ Vaudeville Co (Hunter Valley), Tom Brennan (Newcastle), the Puglieses (Alhambra Theatre, Sydney), Ted Holland (Brisbane), West’s Pictures, A.R. Shepard (Adelaide), and Sayers and Lennon (South Australia/New South Wales) among others.

The identity of the dog (or dogs) is unclear. Several names have been recorded in various newspapers over the period the act was active. These include: “Um” (1908), “Paddy” (1910), and “Tony” (1911). If not different dogs, the one animal may have had its name changed several times. Alternatively some of the journalists reporting on the act may have simply got the name wrong.
Image source: National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW) 18 Apr. (1912), 2.



ralston-edna-ss-28-sept-1924-29Actress, entertainer, hairdresser.

The eldest daughter of actor John Ralston, Edna Ralston was educated at the Bethlehem Covent, Ashfield, as were her two sisters, Mascotte and Pauline. She and Mascotte followed their father’s footsteps, taking to the stage during their youth and eventually securing employment with J.C. Williamson’s. They also worked on radio (together and individually) and variety, with Edna working on the Tivoli circuit in the late-1920s and with Clem Dawe (Midnight Frolics) and the Jim Gerald Revue Company in during early 1930s. After leaving Gerald’s company in early 1935 she appears to have scaled back her commitments as an entertainer to radio (1935-38) and amateur theatre before establishing herself in the 1940s as a hairdresser.

Image source: Sun (Sydney) 28 Sept. (1924), 29.



Comedian (incl. panto dame), librettist, ballad singer, producer/director, troupe proprietor.

Ray, Bert [BC 6 Apr 1928, 10]Bert Ray started out with Cohen’s Mohawk Minstrels and later appeared with the Pollard Opera Company. He was engaged by his future business partner (and brother-in-law) Jack O’Donnell for a 1908 tour of New Zealand and later became involved in O’Donnell’s balloon and parachuting show which toured throughout Australasia and the East. Ray returned to vaudeville in 1912 before co-founding the O’Donnell and Ray partnership in 1921. The company, which specialised in pantomimes and musical comedy, toured extensively around Australia and New Zealand up until at least the late-1930s. Ray was also often heard on radio during the later 1920s and early 1930s, and continued to work professionally as a comedian until the early 1950s.

Ray’s radio appearances included solo or duo comedy routines and sketches. He was also involved in a number of live broadcasts of O’Donnell and Ray stage productions (as a cast member).



Raye, Shannon [GR Mar 1923, 9]Soprano, actress, entertainer.

South Australian soprano Shannon Raye was given her first big break by Edward Branscombe after she left school. With a magnetic personality and mellow singing style soprano voice Raye became sought-after performer around the country after touring with Branscombe’s Dandies. She was later associated with Walter George‘s Smart Set, Jim Gerald’s Miniature Musical Comedy Co, Nat Phillips’ Whirligigs, the Moon and Morris Revue Co, and the Ideals Revue Co. Raye is thought to have retired from the professional stage in the late 1920s.



(1905-1976) New Zealand-born comedienne, actress, dancer, singer

Raynor, Molly [TBT 5 Jan 1928, 27]Molly Raynor learned dancing as a child and was involved in theatre in Auckland before moving to Sydney in the late-1910s. Between 1921 and 1927 she performed with the amateur Cheer-Oh Girls variety concert party both on stage and on radio (1925-27). She turned professional in February 1927 having secured a role in Kate Howarde‘s Gum Tree Gully, and later appeared in Avery Hopgood’s The Alarm Clock (while also maintaining an association with the Cheer-Oh Girls until late 1927). By 1928 Raynor had risen to leading lady status. She featured in several locally-made films in the early 1930s before continuing her stage and film career in Britain. Raynor was married to actor John Warwick.

Image source: Table Talk 5 Jan. (1928), 27.



American-born singer, songwriter, businessman, teacher.

(1833-1910) Once described as a sad, pathetic-looking performer, Beaumont Read was nevertheless considered the greatest male alto singer to appear on the Australian stage. He toured the USA and Europe with various troupes, notably Hague’s Georgia Slave Troupe (when it included white performers), and came to Australia via South Africa in 1874 with Anna Bishop. After a failed attempt to run a photographic business in Melbourne in the late 1870s he returned to the stage, , working for Kelly and Leon, and Bent and Bachelder among other minstrel companies before eventually becoming a huge star with Hiscocks’ Federal Minstrels. Read retired in 1903 and moved to Adelaide where he taught singing.



Reeve, Ada - postcard(1874-1966) English actress, singer, entertainer. [Born: Adelaide Mary Isaacs]

Considered one of the biggest stars of late nineteenth and early twentieth century international variety and musical comedy, Ada Reeve also had an extensive association with Australia. She came to the country professionally no less than six times between 1897 and 1929, and from 1929 to 1935 lived and worked here. Linked to all the biggest firms in Australian theatre, namely J.C. Williamson’s and the Tivoli and Fullers circuits, Reeve even produced her own tours. In addition to her work in musical comedy, vaudeville, revue, and pantomime she also worked in comedy drama, cabaret, films and radio (including the early Australian film and radio industries).

Reeve’s association with Australia became stronger after the late-1910s when both of her daughters emigrated to the country. Unfortunately her two marriages (to comedian Bert Gilbert and actor/manager Alfred Cotton) also ended in Australia. During several of her tours Reeve was also involved into personal and professional litigation.



(ca. 1896-1978) Actress, entertainer, songwriter, radio host.

Reeve, Goodie [NLA]The daughter of Bert Gilbert and Ada Reeve, Goodie Reeve established herself as a British-based musical comedy/revue artist during the mid-1910s. She came to Australia in 1917 as one of the stars of Tivoli circuit‘s production of The Better Ole, and in 1926 began her 46 year career in radio, first with 2FC, then 2GB (1928-) and later with 2CH. Reeve performed in vaudeville and revues during the 1920s and 1930s, published songs and at one stage was the Referee’s “Theatrical Gazette” columnist. Known in later years as “Auntie Goodie” she maintained a high public profile well into the 1960s.

Reeve and her sister Bessie first visited Australia during their parents 1897/98 tour. Bessie also emigrated to Australia in the late 1910s, marrying Melbourne physician, Dr McGillieuddy (he died in 1922). Bessie remained in the country until her death in 1954. The iconic Aeroplane Jelly jingle was first sung in the early 1930s on the Goodie Reeve radio show.
Image: Reeve arriving back in Australia in 1932. Source: National Library of Australia.



(1891-1954) Comedian, singer, and revusical, pantomime, film and radio actor. [Born Harry Van der Sluice]

One of Australia’s greatest ever larrikin comedians, Roy Rene is best remembered for his early career partnership with Nat Phillips as “Stiffy and Mo.” The pair toured the Fullers‘ Australia and New Zealand circuits as the stars of a series of Phillips’ original revusicals and pantomimes between 1916-24 and 1927-28. In the early 1930s he co-produced revues, starred in the film Strike Me Lucky (1933) and continued to be a variety top-liner into the 1940s. He began his extraordinarily successful radio career in 1940 with The Misadventures of Mo (with his wife, Sadie Gale) and had his greatest radio success with the McCackie Mansion series (1947-50).

“McCackie Mansion” started out as a segment of Calling The Stars in 1946.


REXO [2]

aka Charles Rexo

(ca. 1874-1918) Juggler, equilibrist, trick skater, magician. [Born Charles Griffin in Winchester, England]

Charles Griffin (aka Rexo) arrived in Australia in 1886 and began his professional variety career eleven years later with the United States Specialty Company (billed as “the demon skater”). By 1899 he had developed a juggling and balancing act along the lines of Cinquevalli. His original specialty was to juggle while balancing on a rolling ball. Rexo spent 1899 to 1906 in New Zealand touring for J.D. Rowley, Percy Dix, John Fuller, Frank Clark, and George Dean among others. From 1907 to 1908 he worked in an act known as Lesso and Rexo, and from 1909 to 1916 as The Rexos (with his sister). This period saw him secure work with such firms as James Brennan, the Puglieses, Harry Clay, Harry Rickards (Tivoli circuit), and the Fullers. He died in Sydney unexpectedly on 12 March 1918.

1: Not to be confused with contortionist Ernest Rexo [1] who came to Australia with Sell’s Circus in 1891 in an act known as Rexo and Reno. Thy returned to the USA in 1893 after having also worked in variety theatre. Ernest Rexo came back to Australia in 1897 as a solo vaudeville act.
2: In email correspondence with the AVTA Zoe Bianchi notes that Griffin, her great-great uncle, came to Australia with his father Alfred and brother Harry aboard the S.S. Liguria.
3: In 1902 Rexo briefly operated his own variety company in New Zealand. Quite a few reviews during his career also suggest that he included conjuring as part of his act – in addition to an automated “yeller” cat.
4: The Rexos are described in 1912 as being a “brother and sister act.” No details relating to the sister have yet been located, apart from her possibly being married to a man named Alfred Dollar.
5: Rexo died in a cab while being taken for medical treatment. He’d been found unconscious by his brother-in-law, Alfred Dollar, in the hall of a house at 82 Surrey Street, Darlinghurst.
Image: Charles Griffin (ca. late-1880s/early-1890s). Courtesy of Zoe Bianchi.



(ca. 1924-) The daughter of animal trainers Freda Cuthbert and Joseph Rinaldo, Cleo Rinaldo was named after the lion that toured with her parents during the early-1920s. She spent much of her early life on the road, and likely began making novelty appearances on the stage from the early 1930s. From around the mid-1930s she began receiving individual billing as a singer and acrobatic dancer. In 1938 aged only 14 she was apprenticed to Bullen’s Circus, and in a 2007 Age interview remembers seeing her parents every couple of years. Cleo eventually married Alfred and Lilian Bullens’ eldest son Stafford (1925-2001). Her early life in the circus included work as a baton spinner.

In 1968 Stafford and Cleo Bullen established the African Lion Safari at Warragamba (New South Wales).



aka Flaneur / Rinaldo Flaneur

(ca. 1882-) Animal trainer, performer, stuntman, magician [Born: Joseph Zahn Rinaldo in Austria]

After moving to Australia from New Zealand in 1919 Joseph Rinaldo put together a vaudeville act with dogs. Billed as “A Day in Dogtown” he toured the “canine pantomime extravaganza” through New Zealand (for Fullers’ Theatres) and Australia (Tivoli circuit) in 1920 and 1921. Between 1922 and ca. 1936 Rinaldo and his wife, dancer Freda Cuthbert toured their own independent canine vaudeville entertainment package around regional Australia – most notably as A Day in Dogtown. His last known stage appearances were in Western Australia in 1936. At that time he was billed both as Rinaldo (master magician) and as Flaneur (comedy dog act). The couple’s 12 year-old daughter, Cleo, was also in the show.

1: Although sometimes referred to as Dutch or Czecho-Slovakian, Joseph Rinaldo was identified as a 33 year-old Austrian by New Zealand authorities when interned on Somes Island ca. 1914 as an enemy alien. Prior to then he had been living in Wellington and reportedly married. Freda Cuthbert is believed to have been his second wife. Rinaldo’s Tivoli billing in 1921 reads “direct from London.” There is no evidence to support this claim.
2: Cleo Bullen (nee Rinaldo) indicates in a 2007 interview (see above) that her father was a stuntman. Although no details relating to this career have yet been confirmed, it is possible that he may have worked with animals on one or more Australian films. These engagements would not have been credited.
3: In 1921 Rinaldo was charged with animal cruelty following an on stage incident at Melbourne’s Tivoli Theatre. For further details see, for example, ““Performing Dog Punished: Trainer Fined for Cruelty”.” Argus 11 Oct. 1921, 6).


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Published on April 27, 2011 at 8:05 am  Comments Off on Practitioners [R]