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Source: Australian Variety Theatre Archive
Mo and His Merrymakers Mo and His Merrymakers i(A106088 works by) (Organisation) assertion (a.k.a. Mo's Merrymakers)
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In 1929, shortly after Roy Rene and Nat Phillips disbanded the Stiffy and Mo Revue Company for the final time, Rene put together his own revue troupe, The Merrymakers. The troupe toured for several months on the Fullers' circuit, presenting a first-part vaudeville and second-part revue. The troupe at that time included Mayo Hunter (the Hawaiian jazz band leader and multi-instrumentalist) and Rene's fiancée Sadie Gale. Around April that year, Rene accepted an engagement from Clay's Bridge Theatre Company to tour its Sydney circuit (Everyone's 8 May 1929, p.37). He was later offered the opportunity to tour the company's old North Queensland circuit, where it had returned only once (in 1927) after Clay was forced to cancel the circuit in the wake of the 1919 flu epidemic.

Mo's Merrymakers began its tour only days after Rene and Gale were married, and subsequently the pair spent their honeymoon working. Reviews published in the various regional newspapers indicate that the troupe's shows were met with large audiences, no doubt due to Rene's well-established (almost iconic) status and the fact that he and Phillips had never ventured outside the major metropolitan centres during their eleven years together. 'Mo will make his first appearance in Rockhampton,' wrote the Morning Bulletin theatre critic. '[He] has been credited with all kinds of gags, the same as car gags are hung on to Henry Ford and economic gags on to Harry Lauder. But Mo first and last, is a true humorist, and too clever to stoop to the vulgar gag. The fact of his starring for 15 years in all the principal theatres of Australia should be sufficient guarantee of Mo's entertaining abilities' (17 September 1929, p.3). A few nights later, the same paper noted that 'the humour, though undeniably broad, was of the type on which these artists' reputations were gained, and was apparently expected by the crowd' (23 September 1929, p.3).

Although the critics deemed the tour a success, Rene's biographer Fred Parsons claims that, overall, the tour was disappointing for its star performer. According to Parsons, Mo had been 'unfavourably compared with George Wallace, who had [once] cut cane up there for a living and that this rankled with [him] especially as George had been Sadie's first boy-friend' (A Man Called Mo, p.27). Towards the end of the tour, too, Rene began to showing symptoms of peritonitis. After the conclusion of the Queensland tour, he and Gale disbanded the troupe and travelled to Melbourne to appear in Frank Neil's production of Clowns in Clover at the King's Theatre.

Most Referenced Works



    Rene and Gale also married only a few days after Rene's divorce from his first wife was settled. The divorce was apparently much publicised and humiliating for the comedian. According to an Everyone's article that highlighted the divorce proceedings, he and Gale were then receiving £70 per week on their contract with Clay's. Referred to as Harry Vander Sluice, Rene is said to have told the registrar (in opposing an alimony increase from £10 to £15) that he held the fear 'that when his Clay contract finished there would be difficulty in him securing remunerative employment because of the talkies' (31 July 1929, p.39).


    [The makeup of the troupe engaged to play Clay's Sydney circuit in 1929 is at this stage unknown, apart from Sadie Gale and Mayo Hunter. Several or all of the members of the Queensland tour may have therefore also been a part of the Sydney troupe. Artists with 'Qld' beside them are known to have been involved with the 1929 Queensland tour.]

    1. Binns and Alma (Qld), Billy Bovis* (Qld), Peter Brooks, Clyde and Yvette (Qld), Stella Collier (Qld), May Daly, Sadie Gale (Qld), Lulla Fanning, The Four Rainbows (Qld), Mayo Hunter, Alex McKinnon, Charles Megan, Ben Miller, Robert Raymond (Qld), Irene Vando, Dan Weldon.

  • Entries connected with this record have been sourced from historical research into Australian-written music theatre and film conducted by Dr Clay Djubal.
Last amended 7 Feb 2014 15:51:15
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