Sayles to Slavin ……. p.1
Small to Sylvaney ……. p.2
Minstrel comedian and “coon singer” Irving Sayles first toured the Antipodes between 1888 and 1891 with the all-black Hicks-Sawyer Minstrels (later the American Coloured Minstrels). After the company folded he formed a partnership with fellow endman Charlie Pope that became a theatrical institution in Australia under Harry Rickards management. When they parted ways in 1903 Sayles returned to the Tivoli circuit. Between 1909 and his death in 1914 he worked a popular partnership with Les Warton.
- See also: Pope & Sayles
(-ca. 1941) Comedian, elocutionist, singer, actor, stage manager, tour manager, film rep, writer.
Former soldier Harry Scales established himself as humourist in Adelaide and regional South Australia (ca. 1907-1911) before securing a position with Edward Branscombe’s Dandies in 1912 as a performer/stage manager and later as business representative (1914-18). Scales and Flockton Foster briefly toured the Scarlet Gaieties in 1918 and then took over the lease of Perth’s Olympia Theatre where they presented the English Pierrots (1918-19) and Huxhams Serenaders (1919-20). During the 1920s and 1930s Scales was employed as a representative for the Universal Film Manufacturing Company. Based in Melbourne, he also worked occasionally as an entertainer on stage and on radio.
- See also: Edward Branscombe’s Dandies
(1913-1996) Comedian, actor, pantomime dame, TV host.
Terry Scanlon left school at thirteen to perform with the Young Australia League (Y.A.L.). He spent the remainder of the 1920s and much of the 1930s developing his comedic skills touring throughout Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria. Although he found work in Melbourne at venues like the Kings, Savoy, Princess and Apollo theatres, it was not until the 1940s that Scanlon firmly established himself by securing regular work on the Tivoli circuit (he remained a regular for 26 years). Up until his forced retirement in the late-1960s (due to ill-health) he worked extensively overseas (including Great Britain, the USA, Africa and Vietnam), and appeared on television (including his own variety show).
1: Scanlon was legally adopted by Maurice and Harriet Scanlon in 1918. His adoptive mother was the midwife who helped deliver him at the Salvation Army home in Mount Lawley, Western Australia. She had cared for him full-time from when he was three days old. The elderly couple died in 1928.
2: In addition to the Tivoli circuit Scanlon had a long-time association with Harry Wren and was a popular headliner at several high profile Sydney nightclubs during the 1950s and 1960s.
Image source: Mercury (Hobart) M 17 May 1946, 5
(1892-1972 ) Dancer, singer, actor, entertainer.
Ivy Schilling learnt to dance with renowned Melbourne teacher Jennie Brennan and made her stage debut at age 12 in the pantomime Mother Goose. By her late-teens she was featuring n musical comedies and revues for J.C. Williamson’s. She and Fred Leslie teamed up as dance partners and moved to Britain where they found much success in vaudeville, pantomime and musical comedy. She also partnered Leon Kellaway at some stage. During her brief return to Australia (1920-21,) Raymond Longford cast her in his film The Blue Mountains Mystery (1921). Schilling’s career ended in the mid-1920s when she broke her knee while touring in the USA.
(1905-1965) Stage and radio actress, comedian, dancer, singer.
Bebe Scott toured with actors Muriel Starr and Harvey Adams (1928-29) before securing work with her half-brother George Wallace and his revue company (1929-30). Her radio career with the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) began in 1932 and continued into the late-1950s. During that time she co-starred in the children’s programme, The Cap and Bebe Show for 4QG (1933-38) with her husband, British stage, radio and film actor George Randall, and later starred as the Troublesome Child in Out of the Bag. From the mid-1940s Scott largely worked as a dramatic actress, both for ABC Radio and on stage. In 1957 she became the host of 3AR’s Where Old Friends Meet.
Scott’s fiancee, Kyrle McAllister, was killed in a car accident in 1929.
Details and image sourced from Lynne Murphy’s entry in Richard Lane’s The Golden Age of Australian Radio Drama Vol. 2 (2000), 18-20.
EDWIN LEWIS SCOTT
Edwin Lewis Scott started out his career in the late-1860s as an actor and some ten years later began establishing his reputation as a writer. He found success adapting and localising a series of pantomimes, and also produced a number of other theatrical works, including dramas and comedy sketches. After he retired from the theatre Scott became a draftsman for the New South Wales Lands Department. He died in the Sydney suburb of Petersham in 1921, aged 77.
(1906-1993) Dancer, comedian, stage, film and television actor. [Born: Ronald McMurty]
The son of an acrobat and equestrienne Ron Shand started out in the circus at 14 and made his professional vaudeville debut in Perth as Ronnie McMurty. Later, as Ron Shand (aka Wacko Shand), he established his comedic credentials with Harry Clay and the Tivoli circuit. Shand worked an act his first wife, Laurel Streeter, and dancer Eddie Clifford in the 1920s and with second wife Letty Crayden appeared in musical comedy, revue throughout Australia during the 1930s and 1940s. He later tuned to legitimate theatre, including Shakespeare, and became a television star in the 1970s through his role as Herb Evans in No 96.
- See also: Letty Crayden
Image source: National Library of Australia.
First identified in 1893 as advance rep and occasional singer for Lyle’s Dramatic Company, Gerald Shaw worked with various theatre troupes and companies within Australasia for several decades. He and serio-comic/burlesque artist Mary Connolly were partners between 1894 and 1914. Among the companies Shaw was associated with were Hugo’s Buffalo Minstrels (1896), Patey and Shaw’s Famous Merrymakers (1900), Martini and Shaw’s Circus Varieties (1900), Frasier and Shaw’s Gaiety Co/Shaw’s Gaiety Co (1901), Wilson Forbes Dramatic Co (1902), and W.F. Hawtrey’s English Comedy Co (1903). He is also linked to Perth’s Palace Gardens. Additionally, Shaw and Connolly operated their own family troupe at various times between 1903 and 1914. His last known stage performances were in 1916.
- See also: Mary Connolly • Gladys Shaw [below] • Keith Connolly • Gerry Connolly • Shaw’s Entertainers
1: During the early 1900s the Shaw family resided for lengthy periods in the Penrith/Nepean region of New South Wales (ca. 1902-03), Perth (ca. 1904-07), New South Wales (ca. 1907-1911), and Western Australia (ca. 1911-12). The marriage between Gerald and Mary was stormy, however, and the couple underwent several separations, including a period during the years 1907-1908 when Gerald returned alone to Western Australia. After he and Mary separated for good (ca. 1912), Gerald likely lived in Cue, where the Gladys mine was located. He married in New South Wales in 1917 and had another family, but doesn’t seem to have used the Shaw name again, either professionally or personally.
2: Shaw is sometimes referred to as a baritone.
Image source: Sharon Connolly
(1895-1960) New Zealand-born comedienne, whistler, dancer, musician (sax/banjo) [Born: Muriel Gladys Connolly]
Once described as “a wonderful whistler and a saucy soubrette,” Gladys Shaw performed with her family’s variety troupe from age six and worked as a solo performer in Western Australia during World War I. She joined the Royal Strollers (2) in 1919, along with her brother Keith Connolly, and became a prominent Fullers artist in partnership with songwriter Fred Webber. She and her brother later toured with Nat Phillips’ Stiffy and Mo Revue Co (1922-25) then established Keith’s Syncopating Jesters (later Gladys Shaw’s Syncopating Jesters). Shaw’s career between the late-1920s and her retirement in the 1950s saw her associated with numerous companies, including Connors and Paul‘s League of Notions, Coles Varieties, and Sorlie’s travelling theatre [see George Sorlie]. Shaw also occasionally appeared on radio during her career, both as a solo act and with some of the companies she was with at the time.
- More details (Sharon Connolly)
- See also: Mary Connolly • Gerald Shaw [above] • Keith Connolly • Gerry Connolly • Keith’s Syncopating Jesters • Shaw’s Entertainers
1: Shaw’s mother, Mary Agnes Warrington, was a variety and burlesque artist known as Claire Delmar in the early 1890s and later worked as Madam Marie Shaw. She left her first husband, draper Edward Connolly in 1894 and soon afterwards began a long-term relationship with basso and theatrical manager Gerald Shaw (aka Harry Thomson and Harry Shaw). Their family troupe toured under several names, including Shaw’s Royal Entertainers, Shaw’s Merrymakers and The English Pierrots. Gerald Shaw (Snr) was also involved in a series of mining ventures during the early-1900s.
Thanks to Sharon Connolly for the above information and image.
JOHN F. SHERIDAN
(1848-1908) American comedian, female impersonator, director, producer, writer, manager, lessee.
The son of Irish immigrants, John Francis Sheridan was born in Rhode Island (USA). He later established his reputation there as a Hebrew comedian and female impersonator, eventually finding international success as the Widow O’Brien in Fun on the Bristol (1879). Sheridan made his Australian debut in 1884 and toured the Australasian region regularly over the next two decades, collaborating with local writers and composers (including Alfred Dampier, Pat Finn and F.W. Weierter) on works such as The Cuckoo (1884), Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1886), and Mrs Goldstein (1902). He died in Newcastle (New South Wales) on Christmas Day 1908.
Image source: Theatre Magazine Jan. (1909), 9.
CHARLES L. SHERMAN
Comedians Charles L. Sherman and George H. Ward (the “banana kings”) came to Australia in 1920 as a Fullers‘ vaudeville act. The following year, however, they began touring their own original revusicals around Australasia with Fullers’ American Revue Company (later the Ward-Sherman Revue Co). Sherman left the company in 1924 and over the next decade worked as a solo entertainer and in companies such as Charles Zoli‘s Chuckles of 1924, F. Gayle Wyer’s Band Box Revue Co (1928), Lorna-Lance Concert Co (1929) and the Jim Gerald Revue Co (1934). A gifted musician, he often incorporated the piano into his monologue turns and revusical roles.
Image source: Fuller News 18 Feb. (1922), 5.
(1871-1909) Comedian, singer, pantomime dame, troupe proprietor.
Although his career was tragically cut short at only 38-years of age, Harry Shine nevertheless established himself as one of the finest comedians and pantomime dames to be associated with the Australian variety stage. He came to Australia in 1892 to appear in J.C. Williamson‘s Gondoliers and spent close to 15 years in the region. During that time he worked for all the major theatrical firms, including George Coppin, George Rignold, Harry Rickards, and Percy Dix. He was also associated with F.M. Clark (including the Clark and Shine Co, 1904). Forced to retire due to ill health after his 1908 New Zealand tour, Shine was hospitalised for some time before his death in Sydney.
1: Born into a theatrical family with strong links to Manchester, Shine was apprenticed to Welby Cook’s Circus at age seven and later toured Britain and the Continent with the Conne Barry Troupe. In his early teens he returned to Manchester to complete his education but at age 14 left to tour with a stock company. By age 20 he had secured the dame role in Babes in the Woods at Leicester. Although contracted to play in Williamson’s Gondoliers his actual debut was in The English Rose. After pulling out of Jack and Jill in 1909 Shine’s replacement was the young Clyde Cook.
2: Shine married Australian contralto and variety performer Violet Elliott  in 1898. They had one daughter Violet Mary E. Shine in 1901. The couple separated while in England a few years later and eventually divorced in 1907. He was survived by his second wife.
3: Shine’s two brothers John L. Shine and Wilfred E. Shine were also well-known comedians in Great Britain.
Image source: A. G. Stephens. J.C.W. Memorial (1913).
EDWIN “TEDDY” SHIPP
Billed during his early career as “Australia’s Champion Pedestal and Sand Jig Dancer, Comedian and End Man,” Edwin Shipp’s earliest recorded engagements were with The New Orleans Minstrels (1882), Hugo’s Buffalo Minstrels (1884) and Anglo-American Minstrels (1885). From 1885 to 1887 he was employed by Frank Smith as stage/business manager and endman (tambo) at Sydney’s Alhambra Music Hall. He toured throughout the county with his wife, Minnie, between 1888 and ca. 1901, working for numerous companies (including Harry Rickards, Dan Tracey, Kate Howarde and the Australian Eleven) while also taking his own troupes on the road. His last known professional activity was operating a touring pictures and vaudeville show in 1909.
- See also: Minnie Shipp [below] • Les Shipp [below)] • Maude Shipp [below] • Shipp’s Entertainers
1. Shipp was involved in management as early as 1884, and was likely the manager/owner of the Anglo-American Minstrels in 1885. His involvement with Frank Smith began with the opening of the Alhambra Music Hall in May 1885.
2: He is believed to have met his future wife, Minnie Pullen in 1886 while they both engaged at the Alhambra. The couple, who separated sometime in the early 1900s, had three children, Les, Maude and Rose.
3: Although Edwin and Minnie are routinely billed as the Shipps or Mr and Mrs Shipp between 1888 and 1900, no marriage certificate has yet been located. Interestingly, Edwin’s name is absent from Leslie Shipp’s 1887 birth certificate. He is identified as the father on Leslie’s 1974 death certificate, however.
24 May 1885 (opening night of Alhambra Music Hall). Source: Australian Variety 15 July (1914), 8.
Comedian, dancer, patterologist, manager, dance teacher, entrepreneur, radio compare.
Les Shipp toured with his parents billed as Master Leslie Shipp from as early as 1899. Over the next six decades he was involved in most aspects of the entertainment industry, initially building a reputation as a solo singer/dancer, then in duos like Shipp and Gaffney and Shipp and Little. He found his greatest success as a performer with Fullers’ Theatres and Harry Clay during the 1910s and 1920. He also managed troupes, worked as a producer, and in the 1930s and 1940s established himself as a regional entrepreneur in the Illawarra and Hunter Valley regions. Shipp was active in radio as both performer and compère between 1926 and the mid-1940s, and continued performing up until at least 1954.
- See also: Shipp and Gaffney [below] • Edwin Shipp [above] • Minnie Shipp [below] • Maude Shipp [below] • Shipp’s Entertainers
1: Shipp’s parents were Edwin and Minnie Shipp and his step-father, actor/manager Ernest William Dean (known professionally as Ernest Archer). His sisters, Maude and Rose (possibly aka Rosie Elleslie) were also popular variety entertainers.
2: Although largely linked to Sydney radio station 2GB, for which he worked as a comedian for five years, Shipp is also recorded as having broadcast from 2FC and 2BL.
3: Shipp opened a dance school in Newtown, Sydney, in 1919.
Image source: Newcastle Sun 4 July (1931), 3.
aka Maudie Pullen
Maude Marion Shipp made her stage debut as “Little Maudie Pullen the child prodigy” while touring with her parents’ vaudeville troupe in 1899. She was later billed as “Little Maude Shipp, the Wonderful Baby Performer.” Seemingly absent from the variety industry between 1902 and 1914, she established her reputation during the war years and went on to work with numerous vaudeville, revue and pantomime companies around Australia until at least 1948. Shipp appeared on radio as both a performer and personality during the 1930s and 1940s (as “Auntie Maude” she had regular spots with 2UE and 2SM) and during World War II was appeared in fundraising and morale-boosting variety shows and talent quests.
- See also: Edwin Shipp [above] • Minnie Shipp [below] • Les Shipp [above] • Shipp’s Entertainers
1: Also often billed as Maude Shipp, her parents were Edwin and Minnie Shipp, and her step-father, actor/manager Ernest William Dean (known professionally as Ernest Archer). Her brother Les and sister Rose (possibly aka Rosie Elleslie) were also popular variety entertainers.
2: Shipp married actor John Read in 1941. The pair had worked together as early as the 1920s. Her last recorded stage appearance was in a “non-stop” pictures and vaudeville programme in Liverpool, New South Wales in December 1948.
Image source: National Portrait Gallery
aka Minnie Pullen
(-1953) Serio-comic, dancer /singer, burlesque actress [Born Alice Maude Pullen in Maitland, New South Wales]
Minnie Shipp’s first known professional billing was as Minnie Pullen in Tasmania in 1885 (with her sister Rosie Pullen). The pair returned to New South Wales the following year, establishing themselves in Sydney at various venues. Minnie likely met Les Shipp, while engaged at Frank Smith‘s Alhambra Music Hall in 1886, and between 1888 and ca. 1901 she toured the country with him, working for numerous companies as well as helping to operate their own troupes at various time. In the late-1890s they even toured with Kate Howarde‘s company. The Shipps appear to have separated sometime around 1901/02. Sometime later she married actor/manager Ernest Archer (aka Ernest William Dean).
- See also: Edwin Shipp [above] • Maude Shipp [above] • Les Shipp [above] • Shipp’s Entertainers
1: Edwin and Minnie Shipp had their first child, Les, in 1887. Their other children were Maude (1895-1964) and Rosie.
2: Shipp’s solo billing often included references to her being “Australia’s champion American sand jig danseuse,” and “the charming burlesque actress.” From the early 1900s she and Edwin also worked society sketch turns and were known as “genteel song and dance artistes.”
3: Shipp’s association with Kate Howarde began in 1897 (touring with Edwin). Her re-engagement from October 1899 to ca. March 1900 was without her husband.
SHIPP & GAFFNEY
(1912-1919) Patter comedians and novelty dancers.
Although best known for their patterology, song and dance act, Les Shipp and Jim Gaffney first came together as managers (and performers) of the touring Elite Vaudeville/Pictures Company in early 1912. From July 1912 “the Nimble Two,” worked primarily exclusively as a vaudeville act, initially at James Brennan‘s National Theatre, Sydney, and later with key managers like Harry Clay, J.C. Bain, Holland and St John, Dix-Baker, Brennan-Fuller and Fullers’ Theatres (and for which they toured New Zealand in 1916). Other employers included Graham and Howard, Harry Barrington, C. Post Mason, Haywood’s Vaudeville Co, and Harry Sadler. The pair parted ways in early 1919 following a season at Harry Clay’s Bridge Theatre (Newtown, Sydney).
- See also: Les Shipp [above] • Jim Gaffney
1: The Elite Vaudeville and Pictures company, which undertook a tour of New South Wales from the Hunter Valley to the Northern Rivers, as least as far as Lismore, was initially managed by Jim Gaffney (from February 1912). Les Shipp is associated with the venture from late-March.
2: Shipp and Gaffney’s association with Harry Clay included the return leg of his 1913 New South Wales/Queensland tour.
The Australian-based act known as the Sisters Phillips has first been identified in connection with engagements in Manila (Philippines) for agent W.R. Sinnotte in 1900. Although the women, identified as Ethel and Hilda Phillips, were several times reportedly on their way home (both in January and April 1900), it appears that they did not return until August the following year. Up until late 1907, at which time their act seems to disappear from the public record, the pair worked throughout Australia – notably for Percy St John, Kenna’s Empire Minstrels, John Fuller, Ted Holland, Harry Clay (incl. 1904 Queensland tour), Dix-Baker, and Lennon, Hyman, Lennon.
1: Not to be confused with the Phillips Sisters (Eileen and Bessie).
2: While the Manila engagement indicates that the Sisters Phillips had already established themselves as a professional act no record of an act using that name prior to 1900 has yet been identified (apart from the English duo who toured Australia with the Brothers Lorenzi in 1898/99 as the Four Comical Cards). It is therefore possible that the Australian pair may have worked under another name and began using Sisters Phillips after the English danseuses returned home. Ethel has also been referred to as “Gertie.”
(1895-1932) Soldier, poet, lecturer, playwright.
Regarded as an accomplished recite and debater during his youth, Thomas John Skeyhill was (supposedly*) blinded by a Turkish bomb at Gallipoli in May 1915. Soon after being invalided back to Melbourne he made his Tivoli debut as the “blind soldier poet,” and drawing on the sympathy of the public toured Australia for two years reciting poetry and delivering lectures based on the Gallipoli campaign. His popularity was such that his Soldier Songs from Anzac (1915) sold more than 20,000 copies in four months. Skeyhill became a celebrity in the USA through his fundraising lecture tours, and in 1918 miraculously regained his sight.
- For further details see: Jeff Brownrigg. Anzac Cove to Hollywood: The Story of Tom Skeyhill, Master of Deception (2010) • Gerald A. Moloney. “Skeyhill, Thomas John (1895-1932)” Australian Dictionary of Biography 11 (1988). “Tom Skeyhill.” AustLit: The Australian Literature Resource.
* NB: Jeff Brownrigg provides compelling evidence arguing that Skeyhill feigned his blindness as a means of escaping from Gallipoli, and that his lectures were also a mix of fact, fiction and exaggeration. Prior to his death in an aircraft accident in the US, Skeyhill wrote a number of plays and a biography of US war hero Sgt. Alvin York (which became the basis of Howarde Hawk’s 1941 film starring Gary Cooper).
SLAVIN & THOMPSON
Comics, sketch artists, patterologists, singers [Art Slavin – song writer, revue and sketch writer, revue producer; Lily Thompson – soubrette].
Art Slavin came to Australia in the 1880s as a child and initially pursued a career as a chemist before turning to the variety stage. After finding success on Harry Rickards‘ circuit during the early 1900s, he and Lily Thompson formed a life-long partnership, touring for Rickards and other leading variety organisations from 1910 up until at the 1930s. Between 1915 and the early-1920s, however, they were largely associated with Harry Clay, who engaged Slavin as a revusical producer and company manager for much of that time. The couple, who continued working up until the early-1940s, also worked in radio during the 1930s as studio comedy sketch artists and in community singing broadcasts.
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