aka The Racoon Bros / The 3 Racoons / The 4 Racoons / The Great Racoons
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.
- More details (research notes)
NB: 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.
Comedian (incl. panto dame), librettist, ballad singer, producer/director, troupe proprietor.
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.
NB: 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).
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
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.
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).
- See also: Bert Gilbert • Goodie Reeve [below]
NB: 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.
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.
NB: 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.
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).
- More details
- See also: Stiffy and Mo • Nat Phillips’ Siffy and Mo Revue Co • Sadie Gale
- “Roy Rene“ (a selection of film clips available at Australian Screen)
- ♫ Roy Rene. “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now” ca. 1940s (mp3)
- ♫ McCackie Manson: “The Xmas Present” ca. 1947-49 (mp3)
- ♫ Roy Rene and Hal Lashwood as Phillip and Aubrey (incl. “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo”) ca. 1940s (mp3)
- ♫ Roy Rene & Sadie Gale. “Mr Machine.” 1930 (mp3)
- For further recordings by Roy Rene see Stiffy and Mo.
NB: “McCackie Mansion” started out as a segment of Calling The Stars in 1946.
(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.
- See: Freda Cuthbert • Joseph Rinaldo [below] • A Day in Dogtown
- For further details see: Andrea Lemon. “A Gradual Disappearing Act.” Age 11 May (2007)
NB: 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.
NB 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.
NB 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.
NB 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).
English-born theatre, film, and radio scriptwriter.
Vic Roberts first came to Australia around 1926/27 as a comedian and in 1928 directed his own companies The Mirthquakers (Brisbane) and Smilestones (Perth) before heading back to Britain. After returning to Australia in the early 1930s he became a much sort-after writer, working in theatre, film and radio. One of his earliest film scripts was a collaboration with George D. Parker on Roy Rene’s [above] 1934 film Strike Me Lucky. Although it has been claimed that Roberts contributed scripts for Stiffy and Mo no evidence of his contributions (if any) have yet been identified.
(1898-1978) Soprano, pantomime principal boy, child impersonator, pianist, musical comedy artist.
Sydney Conservatorium-trained singer, Amy Rochelle made her first stage appearance in 1912 aged 14. After becoming one of Harry Clay‘s leading attractions (1914-1918) she spent the next 10 years on the Fullers’ Theatres circuit – notably as a pantomime principal boy and with Nat Phillips’ Stiffy and Mo Revue Company. She also expanded her vaudeville repertoire with child impersonations and as a pianist. Rochelle continued performing into the 1950s, appearing on radio as a singer and actor. Her first husband was Harry R. Kitching (editor of Australian Variety and occasional manager/producer).
- More details
- ♫ “Dearest I Love You” 1940s (mp3)
Billy Romaine came to Australia in 1912 under contract to Fullers’ Theatres. He was later involved in setting up a number of dance halls in Sydney and engaged as bandleader at the White City Ballroom. In 1918 he toured Australia’s first jazz band for the Fullers and during the 1920s was associated with the Palais Royal and Glacarium dance venues (Sydney). The early-1930s saw Romaine engaged as music director at Brisbane’s Tivoli Theatre (1931-32) and Newcastle’s Empire Palais (1933), while also appearing on radio. His career continued up until at least 1948, and included entertaining troops in Papua New Guinea.
- See also: Tivolians (Billy Romaine)
Image source: Hood Collection, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW
(1905-1992) Magician, bullet-catcher.
Maurice Rooklyn (best remembered as the “Human Target”) was born in London and immigrated to Australia with his parents in 1912. By age 12 he was performing an amateur magic act in Sydney with his brother Harry. When a “Substitution Trunk” trick went wrong Harry abandoned magic for a career as a vaudeville musician. Maurice began his professional career in 1920, initially mixing magic with juggling, ventriloquism and mind-reading and in 1928 was elected President of the Australian Magicians’ Club. He devised his own “bullet-catching” act in 1934 (with a .303 rifle) and was shot twice while performing it.
- For further details see: Maurice Rooklyn. Spherical Sorcery and Recollections of a Pro’: A Treatise of Advanced Manipulations with Billiard Balls and Memoirs of a Magician (1973) • Kent Blackmore. “Maurice Rooklyn, The Human Target.” Magic in Sydney [sighted 21/05/2014]
Images sourced from Maurice Rooklyn.
HARRY ROSS (1)
Australian tenor, revusical actor.
After establishing his reputation with one of J. C. Williamson’s companies, Harry Ross toured with the Grotesques Comedy Co in 1912 and the following year joined the American Burlesque Company as a member of the Grafters Quartette. and later toured the Fullers circuit with Paul Stanhope’s Revue Company. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces (A.I.F.) in 1916 and was eventually assigned to an Australian concert party (the Anzac Coves). With that troupe he performed both at the Front and in England. After returning to Australia Ross rejoined the Fullers’ organisation, appearing in revusicals with the Tom Haverley Musical Comedy Co (1919-20) and Walter George’s Sunshine Players (ca. 1920-22) and in the mid to late 1920s was a member of George’s Smart Set. He was also often on radio during the 1920s and 1930s
NB: Differentiating between Harry Ross (1) and Harry Ross (2) becomes exceedingly difficult from early 1928 onwards (when the second performer was no longer associated with Clara Keating).
HARRY ROSS (2)
Harry Ross met Australian soubrette Clara Keating in the USA in 1919. They brought their rapid-fire patter act to Australia in 1921 for Fullers’ Theatres and were later associated with Harry Clay among other firms. Ross eventually went on to produce revusicals, toured his own troupe (the Harry Ross Revue Co) and briefly performed with Nat Phillips’ Stiffy and Mo and Whirligigs companies. He and Keating separated around late-1927 or early-1928. It is believed that he may have remained in Australia up until at least the mid-1930s.
NB: No information regarding Harry Ross’s life or career prior to his arrival in Australia has yet been located, apart from his military records. These indicate that he served with the British expeditionary force from the outbreak of WWI.
Thanks to Tony King (great nephew) for additional information.
Singer, dancer, song-writer, violinist, actress.
The daughter of a well-known British concert performer, Madeline Rossiter first toured Australia in 1914 as a member of the Royal Strollers (with Sydney James). She returned to Australia in 1919 following James’ death in the East and was later associated with the Town Topics, the Famous Diggers, Tivoli Frolics and the English Pierrots. A number of her songs were also published in Australia during the 1920s. Rossiter left Australia for the East in 1925 and soon afterwards formed her own musical comedy company.
- ۩ “On the Promenade” (1913) by Madeline Rossiter [NLA Digital Collection, Sheet Music]
- ۩ “I Cannot Forget” (ca. 1910s) by Madeline Rossiter [NLA Digital Collection, Sheet Music]
- ۩ “Josie” (1923) by Madeline Rossiter/Oswald Anderson [NLA Digital Collection, Sheet Music]
DR ROWE AMD MYSTIC MORA
(1880-1952) Richard Rowe: Conjurer, hypnotist, theatre lessee, author [Born in Ballarat, Victoria]; Mystic Mora (-1965): Telepathist [aka Maud Rowe]
Richard Rowe started performing stage magic in 1895 and by 1900 was a popular act at Melbourne’s People’s Concerts. During the early 1900s he worked for John Fuller (New Zealand), Ted Holland, J. C. Bain, Ada Delroy, James Brennan etc, and toured Britain before teaming up with Mystic Mora (ca. 1912). They toured for the Harry Clay, Fullers’ Theatres, Dix-Baker and Birch and Carroll circuits and with troupes like Post Mason’s Mahatma Company before undertaking their first tour of the East (including China, Java and the Malay States) in 1916. Later international engagements included the USA, Great Britain, and Jamaica. After settling in Melbourne in the late-1920s, Rowe became President of the Australian Magicians Club.
NB: Rowe’s billing people’s Concerts billing in 1900 refers to him as “Dr Rowe, world-renowned prestidigitateur, necromancer [and] magician.” No evidence has yet been found that supports such a claim. During the 1920s the Rowes toured lecture-style entertainment known as “The Mahatma Mysteries.” Rowe also published several books on magic, including Thirty Pocket Tricks That Anyone Can Do (1929) and Fifty Easy Pocket Tricks (no date).
Image source: State Library of Victoria.
Comic, endman, monologist.
After establishing himself with Frank Smith during the late 1880s/early 1890s Sydney comedian Sam Rowley (“the Little Man with the Big Voice”) went on to carve out a three decades-long career in America. During that time he intermittently returned home – appearing for example with the Court Variety and Ballad Company (alongside W. Horace Bent) in 1895. His later Australian tours included engagements with Harry Rickards, Percy St John, Jones and Lawrence and Fullers’ Theatres.
(1882-1946) Comedian, writer, songwriter, director/producer, troupe proprietor. [Born Joseph Henry Toon]
The son of comedian George Rocks, Joe Rox began his career in the late-1890s and by 1902 was with Ted Holland‘s Vaudeville Company. In addition to regular billing with James Brennan (1905-12) he also worked for Holland and St John, Harry Clay, J.C. Bain, John Fuller and his sons (New Zealand), Dix-Baker and Harry Barrington among others. Rox later played a key role with Clay’s firm (1914-21, 1926), starred with Harry Borradale‘s Sparkers (1921-22), managed his own troupe (mid-1920s), toured with Stanley McKay (early-1930s), worked in radio and entertained troops in Brisbane during the war.
Bert Royle came to Australia as a variety performer in 1888 and soon afterwards began his long association with J. C. Williamson. Initially employed as an actor in Williamson, Garner and Musgrove productions he was later engaged as Williamson’s literary secretary. His biggest successes were the pantomimes Djin Djin (1895) and Matsa (1896). Royle went to New Zealand in 1898 as Williamson’s representative and managed Tom Pollard’s opera productions for four years. He remained Williamson’s New Zealand representative until his death in 1929.
aka Dorothy May
(1893-1940) Revue and pantomime artist, soprano.
Dorothy Rudder (initially known professionally as Dorothy May), appeared in numerous amateur concerts between 1914 and 1917. After touring the East with Edgar Warwick’s company (1918-19) she returned to Australia, spending the next decade associated with such troupes/firms as Harry Borradale‘s Sparklers, the Ideals of 1922, Fullers’ Theatres (notably with Walter George Sunshine Players and F. Gayle Wyer’s Bandbox Revue Co), and Harry G. Musgrove (as principal girl for The Forty Thieves, 1923). She was heard on radio regularly during the early to mid-1930s and appeared in opera in London ca. 1938 before dying suddenly in a Sydney hospital.
- More details (Cathy Koning)
THE THREE RUDDLES
aka The Ruddles / The Three Ruddles and the Miniature Charlie Chaplin
The Ruddle siblings, Bill, Olive and Violet likely put together their acrobatic, song and dance act sometime around 1910/11 while still juveniles. Their first known engagement was with Belcher and Smith’s Australian Vaudeville Entertainers in the Hunter Valley (New South Wales) in December 1911, at which time they were described as “wonderfully skilful.” Over the next few years they developed into a high-class act with other small-time vaudeville firms and eventually secured engagements with Harry Clay (1914-19) and Fullers’ Theatres (1915-18). By 1915 they were headlining bills on occasions or worked as feature “between films entertainment” at picture houses. Bill, the youngest, also worked in a highly popular Charlie Chaplin impersonation by 1916.
- More details (research notes)
Image source: Top – John Eddy (Olive’s grandson). Thanks to Mary-Ellen Evans for corrections and additional information.