EDWARDS, GEORGE (1886–1953)
Born Harold Parks in Kent Town, South Australia, George Edwards was a pioneer of radio serials in Australia. He began in amateur theatre in Australia, moving to England at the age of 18 to perform in music halls and theatre for three years. He changed his name to George Edwards before returning to Australia to work, first in musical comedy with J.C. Williamson Ltd at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne and later in vaudeville. As the popularity of vaudeville began to wane, he moved into radio, working first for the Australian Broadcasting Company in 1931, producing and acting in variety shows and comedy sketches. He made a number of short films in the period 1927–31, including The Haunted Barn (1931), and was briefly a theatrical agent.
With his move to commercial radio in the early 1930s, Edwards began to exploit his mimicry skills. ‘The Man with a Thousand Voices’ produced and acted in a range of shows, at times playing as many as 12 characters in the one program. While working for 2GB Sydney in 1933, he established the George Edwards Players with his partner (and later third wife) Nell Stirling (Helen Dorothy Malmgrom), with whom he had earlier worked in musical comedy theatre, and the talented emerging writer Maurice Francis.
A number of Edwards’ shows—such as Darby and Joan—were highly popular. But it is Dad and Dave for which he is best known. Starting in 1937 on 2UW Sydney, to which he had relocated in 1936, this program ran four nights a week and was sponsored by the American chewing gum company Wrigley’s. It portrayed the daily lives of an ordinary Australian family, with episodes incorporating special events such as the Melbourne Cup and Christmas Day, timed to be broadcast as they happened in real life. With the move to 2UW, the George Edwards Players were heard nationally on the station’s Commonwealth Network, and recordings of programs were also shipped daily to New Zealand.
Playing ‘Dave’ until his death in 1953, Edwards was at the forefront of making radio serials part of the everyday life of radio listeners. Underpinning this success were the George Edwards Players, which he and Nell Stirling managed together until their divorce in 1948, when she took on sole responsibility. The company had signed a contract with EMI Columbia in 1936, a move that helped with recording facilities and gave the three founders greater stability.
REF: Sumner Locke Elliot, ‘The Man with 1000 Voices’, Bulletin, July 1980.