Practitioners [W]

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GARNET WALCH

(1843-1913) Writer.

Arguably the most successful, writer for the Australian stage during the 1870s and 1880s, Garnet Walch wrote a wide array of genres and forms including pantomimes and variety sketches. His career appears to have undergone two significant peaks, the first during the mid-late 1870s and the second, through his collaboration with Alfred Dampier during the early 1890s. A number of his works were adapted by other writers and producers in later years, notably Archibald Murray and Samuel Lazar.

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ADA WALKER

Soprano, actress, entertainer.

After coming to the attention of the Brisbane Musical Union in 1884 Ada Walker was accorded four benefit concerts that enabled her to study in Melbourne and secure a three year contract with J.C. Williamson’s Comic Opera Co (ca. 1886-89). She later toured the East with Hudson’s Surprise Party (twice) and Australia with the Princess Comic Opera Co and F.M. Clark‘s Alhambra Company among others. Her last known Australian performance prior to leaving for the USA was at the Sydney Tivoli in 1894. Walker’s American engagements included New York (1896) and San Francisco (1899).

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WHIMSICAL WALKER (2)

American trick cyclist

Walker, Whimsical (2) [AV 8 Feb 1918]Billing himself as “the whirling wheelman” and “America’s comedy cyclist,” Whimsical Walker toured Australia between ca. 1916 and 1919 with a “hair-raising” act that involved various wheel contraptions and “tramp frivolities.” During his time in the country he played city engagements and toured regional circuits for firms such as Fullers’ Theatres and Harry Clay.

Image source: Australian Variety 8 Feb. (1918), n. pag.
NB: For details regarding Whimsical Walker (1) see “International Tourists” [W]

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GEORGE WALLACE

(1895-1960)  Comedian, songwriter, musician, artist, writer, film and radio actor.

Considered one of Australia’s greatest comedians, and renowned for his extraordinary versatility, George Wallace got his first big career break in 1919 with Harry Clay. He partnered Jack Paterson in the knockabout comedy team Dinks and Oncus (1920-23) before joining the Fullers‘ circuit. He formed the George Wallace Revue Company in 1924, presenting a series of original revusicals. After disbanding his troupe in the early 1930s Wallace went on carve out an equally impressive film and radio career. His son, George Wallace Jnr, was also a well-known comedian.

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GEORGE WALLACE Jnr

(1918-1968) Comedian, television host.

Wallace, George Jnr with 1963 LogieThe grandson and son of comedians George “Broncho” Wallace and George Wallace (aka “Oncus”), George Leonard Wallace appeared on Harry Clay‘s Sydney circuit with his parents as a small child. After his mother left the act George Jnr continued to make guest appearances with his father up until 1924. He started performing as a comedian while serving in New Guinea in 1942 and after the war turned to the professional stage. He toured his own revue companies before finding his niche in variety television, including his own Logie Award-winning vaudeville show Theatre Royal (1961-68). Wallace reportedly wrote more than 2,500 television comedy sketches.

After finishing school Wallace initially pursued a career as a commercial artist, having studied at Sydney Technical College. Although never quite attaining his father’s level of fame Wallace Jnr was nevertheless considered one of Australia’s top comedians of the 1950s and 1960s.
Image: George Wallace Jnr with his 1963 Logie for Theatre Royal. Source: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

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GEORGE H. WARD

aka Little Hermie / Hermie Shultz

Ward, George x 4 [GR June 1923, 11]

(1893 -1944) American actor, comedian, writer, manager, director. [Born: George Peter Jacob in New Jersey]

Reportedly the son of a US High Court judge, George Ward directed the Columbia Burlesque Company’s US productions before coming to Australia with partner Charles L. Sherman in 1920. He  later co-wrote and directed the Ward-Sherman revusicals and found much popularity with his alter-ego, “Hermie Shultz.” He ran the George Ward Revue Co (1925-28) and later headlined such troupes as The Merrymakers of 1929, The Co-optimists (1929), and the Frivolities of 1932. Ward also worked for J.C. Williamson’s and on radio – initially in Sydney for the ABC and later for Hobart’s 7HO (as “Uncle Hermie”). Ward died in Hobart on 27 November 1944.

Image source: Fuller News Dec-Jan. (1921-22), 21

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WARD & SHERMAN

(-1924) Comedy duo, writers, directors, troupe leaders.

Ward & Sherman [FN 25 Feb 1922, 14]George Ward and Charles L. Sherman came to Australasia in 1920 as a vaudeville act for Fullers’ Theatres. They made their debut at the Melbourne’s Bijou Theatre on 7 February and then spent five months touring the company’s Australian circuit before undertaking a six months tour of New Zealand (beginning in Wellington on 5 July). After returning to Australia in January 1921 they were given charge of their own troupe, Fullers’ American Revue Company (later the Ward-Sherman Revue Company). Presenting a series of original revusicals built around the its two principal comedians, the troupe toured the region extensively until Ward and Sherman ended their partnership in 1924.

No details regarding Ward and Sherman’s partnership prior to coming to Australia have yet been located. It has been reported that Ward had established himself as a leading burlesque comedian and director in the US but nothing is yet known about Sherman’s pre-Australasian career.
Image source: Fuller News 25 Feb. (1922), 14

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BERT WARNE

Vaudeville performer, singer, composer, lyricist.

A popular performer on Australia’s various vaudeville circuits during the 1910s and early 1920s, Bert Warne was regularly associated with Harry Clay‘s operations between ca. 1915 and 1919. As a songwriter, he collaborated with a number of locally based composers and lyricists, including publisher Joe Slater, and was involved in the writing of several patriotic (recruitment) songs during World War I.

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DAVE WARNE

Comedian, endman (bones), Tyrolian singer, acrobat, Irish impersonator, actor.

Dave Warne’s first known Australian engagements were with Baby Nicholl’s Tourist Party (1894) and the Elite Novelty Co (1895). He and Alice Davenport worked a comedy sketch act for Harry Rickards, Tommy Hudson, Harry Cowan, Syd Knowles, the Funny Folks Co, Thomas and Rotton (Western Australia), and their own troupe between 1895 and 1904, after which time he formed a new act with Lily Octavia (1904-12). Warne’s later involvement in the theatre included acting as secretary of the Green Room Club and appearing in both variety and legitimate theatre up until the late 1920s.

Several advertisements refer to Warne as an American.

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WARNE & DAVENPORT

(1895-1904) Song and dance/comedy sketch act.

“Tyrolian warblers” Dave Warne and Alice Davenport are believed to have begun their stage partnership in 1895 while touring with the Elite Novelty Company. Initially a song and dance turn the pair later found popularity presenting musical comedy sketches. They remained together until 1904 working for Harry Rickards, Tommy Hudson, Syd Knowles, the  Funny Folks Co, Thomas and Rotton (Western Australia) and the People’s Concerts (Melbourne) among others. Around 1902/03 they also operated their own company – billed variously as Warne’s Surprise Party or the Warne and Davenport Vaudeville Co.

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ED WARRINGTON

Comedian, director, producer, writer, lightning sketch artist, troupe manager.

Warrington, Ed [JI 9 Dec. 1926, 7]A key member of Famous Diggers during its early years, Ed Warrington (“the Lancashire Lad”) found work in post-WWI Great Britain as a variety performer and writer. He later joined the Famous Diggers as a light comedian, writer, caricaturist and director. The 1920s also saw him briefly operate his own troupes, notably the Issues Comedy Co , Royalties Co, and Ed Warrington Revue Co. Largely associated with Western Australian entertainment from 1924 onwards, Warrington appeared regularly on radio and also starred in Pat Hanna‘s two comic war films – Diggers (1931) and Diggers in Blighty (1933). He was still working as a lighting sketch artist in 1940.

Image source: Just It 9 Dec. (1926), 7.

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LES WARTON

Warton, Les - cu [FN Dec-Jan 1921-22, 23](ca. 1877-1942) Comedian, singer, actor (film/radio).

During more than four decades on the Australasian stage Les Warton established himself as a top flight comedian, especially during the five years he spent partnering African-American comedian Irving Sayles (1909-14). Warton’s professional career started with a ten year engagement with Kate Howarde‘s various companies (ca. 1900-1909). He toured the Warton-Moreni Revue Co (with Con Moreni) in the late 1910s, and in the 1920s toured with the Ward-Sherman Revue Co (aka Fullers’ American Revue Co) among others.  Warton also appeared in at least six films between 1934 and 1939 and on radio from 1932 until shortly before death.

Warton’s surname was often spelled “Wharton.”

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WEE DARRELL / WEE NOEL

(1910-1955) Darrell Anderson (born John Gambell): Juvenile contortionist.

One of Australia’s leading child contortionists of the late 1910s/early 1920s, Wee Darrell (aka Wee Noel) was adopted in 1915 by Lilian Ross and her husband Oscar Anderson. He made his stage debut six months later, working alongside their other adopted child, Little Verlie. Darrell later worked as a solo artist, appearing on the Tivoli, Fullers and Clay‘s circuits, while also undertaking a tour of South Africa with Little Verlie. He left the variety industry in 1925 (aged 15) after securing an apprenticeship with his adoptive father.

Information for this entry sourced from Barbara Peek (daughter).

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ALBERT WHELAN

Whelan, Albert [albertwhelan.com](1875-1961) Mimic, comedian, singer. [Born in Melbourne]

After making his name in Western Australia (ca. 1895-96), Melbourne-born entertainer Albert Whelan worked for Williamson and Musgrove (1897-99), Jones and Lawrence (1900) and Harry Rickards (1900) before moving to England in 1901. After making his debut at the Empire (London), he developed his trademark act – entering and exiting the stage whistling his signature tune (Robert Vollstedt’s waltz from The Jolly Brothers) and in between singing, dancing and playing the piano act in bow-tie and tails. An excellent mimic, he became one of Britain’s most popular comedians and appeared in at least four films.

  • See also: Ronald Whelan [below]
Image source: albertwhelan.com

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RONALD WHELAN

(1905- 1965) Actor, dancer, singer assistant film director and production manager [Born Ronald Albert Whelan in Fulham, London]

Whelan, Ron [tvrage.com]A son of comedian Albert Whelan, Ronald Whelan spent his youth alternating between England and Australia (where he resided in Melbourne) before establishing himself in Britain as a juvenile actor/dancer in musical comedies and revue. He also appeared in revue in Australia in the mid-1920s, including the 1924 revival of Snap (1922). He returned in 1933 having appeared in more than 100 British films and initially worked on the live stage. Between 1936 and the late 1950s, however, he was largely involved in film production (as assistant director, actor and unit manager), while also appearing in radio as an actor. His last known role before moving to Hollywood was in Whiplash (1961). Whelan’s US career was largely in television.

  • See also: Albert Whelan [above]
In the early 1920s Whelan was associated with the Jovers company in England. He died in Los Angeles, California, USA, on 8 December 1965.
Image source: TV Rage.

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WILL WHITBURN

(ca. 1863-1928) Comic, endman, farce writer, singer, horse trainer and breeder.

Whitburn 1The only Australian blackface comedian/ cornerman to sport a moustache, Will Whitburn came to the Australian public’s attention in the mid-to-late 1880s with F.M. Clark, the US Minstrels, and the Cogills. Between the mid-1890s and 1907 he worked almost exclusively for Harry Rickards. Whitburn also specialised in delivering comedy lectures (aka ‘stump speeches’), songs and dialect characterisations. Some of his biggest song successes were Lance Lenton‘s larrikin-inspired numbers “The Larrikin Hop” and “Woolloomooloo.” Away from the stage he was a respected trainer of trotting horses.

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FREDERICK (FRED) WHITLOW

Female impersonator/comedian/singer/dancer.

Fred Whitlow joined the Smart Set Diggers while serving with the 27th Company, 4th Division, Australian Imperial Forces (A.I.F.). Although often referred to as a female impersonator his roles were largely presented in the comic dame tradition. After the war the Diggers toured Europe and Britain and then returned to Australia under contract to J. and N. Tait. Whitlow’s forte as an all-round variety entertainer, equally proficient at singing, dancing and character sketches made him a popular member of the troupe for more than a decade.

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BILLY WILLIAMS [1]

(1878-1915) Singer [Born Richard Isaac Banks]

Williams, Billy [angelfire.com]Originally known as Curly Banks and later as the”Man in the Velvet Suit,” Billy Williams played Melbourne smoke nights and Sunday concerts before making his debut with Harry Rickards. He moved to England in 1899, becoming a huge star as a singer of chorus songs and as one of Britain’s first great recording artists. In all he made over 500 records, many of them in collaboration with songwriter Fred Godfrey. Williams’ 1910 Australia tour for Harry Rickards was his last time in the country. He died in Brighton in 1915 due to complications that followed an operation.

Not to be confused with another Australian variety performer named Billy Williams [2] (who is known to have been active during the 1920s), or Newcastle-based dancer/teacher Miss Billie Williams (aka Billy Williams) who was active during the late 1920s and 1930s.
Image source: Angelfire.

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ALF “REDHEAD” WILSON

Knockabout comedian, humourist, raconteur, animal impersonator, journalist.

Alf Wilson established himself as a comedian with Hiscocks’ Federal Minstrels in the mid-1890s. In 1902 he teamed up with Joe Morris to form one of Australia’s greatest-ever knockabout comedy duos. After a decade touring the Australasian region for Harry Rickards, J.C. Williamson, John Fuller and William Anderson among others, the pair spent several years overseas. Wilson returned to Australia alone in late 1916, having refined his act to that of an athletic humorist/raconteur. His last known engagement was a season in Perth in 1920.

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CARDEN WILSON

(ca. 1873-1911) Actor, mimic, entertainer.

Wilson, Carden - cu [CHT 23 Sept 1905, 5]The third son of scenic artist/entrepreneur W. J. Wilson, E. Carden Wilson began his theatrical career at an early age, and like his brother Frank (Hawthorne), started out as a dramatic actor while developing a similar talent for mimicry. His “legitimate” career included engagements with Williamson and Musgrove, and Allan Hamilton. As a variety artist he specialised in comedy impersonations and recitations for firms such as Wilson and St John, Harry Rickards, J.C. Williamson, Percy Dix (New Zealand), and James Brennan. Wilson died from consumption in Sydney aged only 38, leaving behind his wife, variety artist Pearl Helmrich.

Image source: Clipper 23 Sept. (1905), 5.

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ANONA WINN

aka Anona Wynn / Anona Wynne

Winn, Anona [wikipedia](1904-1994) Singer (soprano), stage, radio and film actress, radio host, songwriter. [Born Anona Edna Winn-Wilkins in Sydney]

Anona Winn studied piano as a youth and later won a Melba Scholarship to study opera at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and Melba Memorial Conservatorium of Music. She decided against a “serious” music career, however, and after working briefly as a journalist turned to the vaudeville stage in 1925 – appearing on both the Tivoli and Fullers‘ vaudeville circuits (as Anona Wynn). She moved to England in 1927, establishing a career on the stage (in musical comedy, operetta, pantomime and music hall), in radio, film and television and also as a recording artist. Winn was perhaps best known in the UK for her involvement in such BBC radio programmes as Just a Minute, Variety Bandbox, Twenty Questions and Petticoat Lane.

In 1933 Winn sang in Britain’s first television revue – backed by a chorus line of the Paramount Victoria Girls. Her one film role was On the Air (1934). Winn’s sound recordings (for HMV, Decca and Columbia) included original compositions like ‘What More Can I Ask’ (a hit in 1934). She also contributed lyrics to the 1933 film My Lucky Star (starring Oscar Asche).
Image source: Wikipedia.

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FRED WITT

Singer (tenor), pianist, dancer, actor, radio.

witt-fred-1954-tbrs-15-aug-1954-37Americans Freddy Witt and Mike Connors came to Australia in 1916 for Fullers’ Theatres as the “the harmony boys” and in 1917 joined Bert Le Blanc’s Travesty Stars. After Connors left in 1918, Witt remained with the company until 1920 (his stay included a New Zealand tour). In the mid-1920s he worked an act with Jean Keith and in the 1930s toured with Cliff O’Keefe‘s Big Four vocal quartet, appeared in revue for Ernest C. Rolls and was heard almost weekly on radio as a pianist and/or singer. Witt joined 2KY (Sydney) in the late-1930s, eventually taking on positions as music director and program manager. He was still with the station as late as 1952, and performed on air with a re-united Big Four in 1954.

Witt’s work as a musical entertainer in the 1930s included partnerships with Len Maurice and Eric Walker. He also worked solo.
Image source: Truth (Brisbane) 15 Aug. (1954), 37.

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F. GAYLE WYER

Wyer, F Gayle(-1930) American actor, comedian, writer, director, troupe leader/lawyer.

Forrest Gayle Wyer studied to become a clergyman but eventually turned to law. He joined the Canadian forces in 1914, transferring to the US Army in 1917, and after being discharged worked in the theatre industry for several years. His decision to establish a business career eventually led to him coming to Australia in 1923. The following year Sir Benjamin Fuller persuaded Wyer to return to the theatre industry, and he subsequently formed his Band Box Revue Company. The troupe toured the Fullers’ circuit up until shortly before Wyer’s sudden and unexpected death in Melbourne  on 8 April 1930.

Thanks to Jason Maxwell (great grandson) for additional information and corrections.

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WYKEHAM & PRESTON

Reg Wykeham (ca. 1879-1955);  Pressy Preston (1881-1949). Actors, variety entertainers, radio celebrities

Wykeham-PrestonActor, producer, director and entrepreneur Reginald Wykeham was associated with Hugh J. Ward, George Willoughby and J.C. Williamson’s during the early 1900s. His career in vaudeville was largely in partnership with Pressy Preston beginning ca. 1912. The couple, who married in 1916, also appeared for such managements as the Fullers and Birch and Carroll during the 1910s. Both were involved in radio from the 1920s, and toured with Wykeham’s own troupes, including his Company of Comedians, Arrivals of 1922, and Reg Wykeham and Co.

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Image citation details for entries without expanded biographies are noted at the bottom of the overview. All other image details are provided in the expanded PDF biographies.
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Published on May 6, 2011 at 10:19 pm  Comments Off on Practitioners [W]