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Jim Gerald Jim Gerald i(A97207 works by) (birth name: James Fitzgerald)
Born: Established: 1 Jan 1891 Darlington, Inner Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, ; Died: Ceased: 2 Mar 1971 Melbourne, Victoria,
Gender: Male
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BiographyHistory

OVERVIEW

Circus clown, acrobat, actor, vaudeville performer, pantomime dame, revusical writer, revue company leader, song writer, film actor/director/screenwriter.

Jim Gerald spent his childhood and youth touring the world as a circus performer. He returned to Australia ca. 1907 and continued to work as a circus performer and appearing in two films directed by his father (S. A. Fitzgerald). Although contracted to the Fullers as a comedian in 1912 he was leased out to Stanley McKay in 1914, touring with his No 1 Pantomime Company until he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces in early 1916.

After returning from the war, Gerald re-joined Fullers with a sketch act that co-starred his wife Essie Jennings. The pair joined Walter George's Sunshine Players in 1921, and the following year put together their own troupe, Jim Gerald's Miniature Musical Comedy Co. The company toured Gerald's one act musical comedy's (revusicals) up until the late 1920s. He also collaborated with actor/director Frank Neil on several Christmas pantomimes between 1926 and 1934, and while in the USA in 1928 wrote and produced at least two short films which he later exhibited in Australia while touring the Tivoli circuit. During the 1930s he turned to radio, while also continuing to appear in revues. After serving as an entertainment officer in World War II, Gerald return to the stage, touring in revues and working in radio up until the late 1950s.

DETAILED BIOGRAPHY

1891-1912: The seventh and youngest son of eminent Australian actor and film pioneer S. A. Fitzgerald, Jim Gerald was one of four siblings who followed their father onto the stage, the others being Lancelot Sherlock Fitzgerald (aka Lance Vane), well-known as an actor/variety artist and stage manager with Gerald's revusical company; Clifton Stephen Australia Fitzgerald (aka Cliff Stevens), a vaudeville comedian; and Richard McGuinness Fitzgerald, an actor who worked under the name Max Clifton and was long associated with entrepreneur William Anderson. From early childhood Gerald took to the world of entertainment, frequently playing truant from school so that he could go down to Sydney's Centennial Park. It was there that he learned acrobatic skills from the professionals and amateurs who regularly practised in sandhills. Australian Variety records that he made his first professional stage appearance at the age of four and won numerous prizes for dancing before the age of twelve (18 December 1919, p.3). Gerald is also said to have taken every opportunity to hang around his famous uncles' circus whenever it was in Sydney. Since he showed enormous talent even at age seven, his father allowed him to be apprenticed as a tumbler to German showman and strongman Oscar Pagel, who had previously worked for the Fitzgeralds. Gerald remained with this company for some ten years, touring such places as South Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America. During his time with the circus, he also shortened his surname to Gerald, apparently on the advice of his employer.

By the time he returned to Australia around 1906/07, Jim Gerald was truly a remarkable circus act. Although only seventeen, he could walk the high wire, complete sixty somersaults in sixty seconds, and, according to Charles Norman, was reportedly the first man in the world to do the 'loop the loop' around a steel cage on a motor bike (When Vaudeville was King, p.226), a feat he performed under the name 'Diabolo.' In 1907, while still involved in the circus industry, Gerald was engaged to play (in blackface) the character of Warrigal in Charles MacMahon's film adaptation of Robbery Under Arms, which was directed by his father. Three years later, Gerald and two of his brothers, Lance Vane and Max Clifton, appeared in The Life and Adventures of John Vane, the Notorious Australian Bushranger (1910). That film, also directed by S. A. Fitzgerald, is now viewed as a significant landmark in Australian cinema history, being the first recorded involvement in narrative film production by Charles Cozens Spencer, one of the leading figures in the early Australian film industry. Max Clifton is also known to have appeared in at least two other films around this period: The Squatter's Daughter (1910, William Anderson) and The Christian (1911, West's Pictures). Gerald continued working as a circus performer for about five years following his return to Australia, but in 1912 was forced into taking up another career. As Charles Norman recounts, Gerald was responsible for wrecking a wagon and about £1,000 worth of equipment while en route to a country show with Barton's Circus. Quitting before he could be fired, he decided to try out his comedic talents on the theatrical stage (pp.224-5). The decision to quit the circus may not have been entirely due to this event, but also partly in response to Gerald's physical health: he had by then broken numerous bones in circus-related accidents.

1912-1917: Jim Gerald's move into variety entertainment began when he took up an engagement with the Fullers. According to reviews around this period, his early turns were comic routines that utilised his circus skills, notably tumbling (often imitating a drunk), back flips, and a wire-walking act. One of his earliest performances was at the Majestic Theatre in Adelaide. It was here that Gerald met and married twenty-seven-year-old former Tivoli soubrette, Essie Jennings. According to Charles Norman, Gerald had been pestering Jennings for a date for several weeks, but she had refused his advances. It apparently took an on-stage accident to bring them together. Jennings offered to look after him during his recuperation, and they married some two weeks later while on tour in New Zealand (p.226). By 1913, Gerald and Jennings were a Fullers double act, performing sketches that included songs, comic routines, and Gerald's circus-inspired eccentricities. Jennings's stage career is believed to have started in the early 1900s, and she was possibly working as an illustrated singer and dancer for the Fullers in New Zealand around 1905/06 (see note below). The earliest recorded engagement for her found to date is a National Amphitheatre (Sydney) show in January 1907, but she may have been on stage as early as 1900. The 1920/21 Fuller News 'Pantomime Souvenir' issue indicates in this regard that Jennings would be 'remembered by playgoers as "Australia's Gibson Girl", when [American graphic artist] Charles Dana Gibson was the rage' (p.20) (see Historical Notes and Corrections 3.3).

A review of the Jennings and Gerald act as presented in Adelaide in 1913 (Australian Variety 5 November 1913, p.5) records that the pair had considerably improved their performance since last in the city, and subsequently scored a great number of laughs. (The critic also congratulated Jennings for having lost almost three stone in weight in the interim). Charles Norman again sheds some light on one of their earliest sketches ('The Actress and the Paper-hanger'), which saw Gerald arrive at the home of an actress requiring new wallpaper: 'Jim was the paper-hanger with great agility, cheerfully climbing trestles which collapsed all the time, falling onto tables that broke apart, and leaping from a concealed trampoline onto the chandelier, which also collapsed onto the floor. What a blow up finish! Nothing subtle. But it was this kind of work that helped to establish Gerald as a highly popular and renowned comedian' (p.226).

In 1914 Gerald and Jennings were leased by the Fullers to Stanley McKay, going into the entrepreneur's recently formed pantomime company as dame and principal boy respectively. The troupe later became known as Stanley McKay's No 1 Pantomime Company in order to differentiate it from a second company he formed in early 1915 (featuring Bruce Drysdale and Phyllis Faye as dame and principal boy). Gerald and Jennings remained with McKay until 1916, becoming firm favourites with audiences during that period. They did not entirely cut their connection with the Fullers, however, as McKay toured the troupe on the Fullers' Australian circuit for several months (including Adelaide, Western Australia and Sydney) before sending it to New Zealand in late 1914. Although the company's Auckland season was also produced under the auspices of the Fullers the remainder of the Dominion tour was managed by George Stephenson and Alf Linley (in association with Stanley McKay).

Within a short period of time, McKay relinquished day-to-day control of his No 1 Company, leaving the stage direction in Gerald's hands. Although Gerald said in a 1928 Australian Variety interview that he 'produced pantomimes for the Fullers three years before anybody else ventured into the same field with them' (p.46), the period he refers to was actually two years. It would be, however, the McKay pantomimes - notably Mother Goose (1914), Old Mother Hubbard (1912), and Bo-Peep (1910) - that allowed Gerald the opportunity to develop his dame character into what was to become perhaps the best remembered of his stage roles.

What set Gerald apart from most other specialist dame comedians of the era (Barry Lupino, for example) was that he imbued his characters with the essence of circus clowning and acrobatics to a much greater degree. According to the numerous reviews available, he seldom failed to excite audiences with his spectacular feats. Responding to Gerald's Princess Theatre (Sydney) performance as Pansy Hubbard, the Theatre vaudeville editor, X-ray, wrote, 'Variety is imparted to Mr Gerald's performance by introducing a few well-executed somersaults. His acrobatic gifts further enable him to make some novel, decidedly clever exits' (September 1915, p52). Australian Variety records, too, that as Mother Goose, 'James Gerald... is an ideal pantomime dame, and a first-class knockabout expert; his funny ways all through gets him many hearty laughs' (5 August 1915, n. pag.).

On 5 May 1916, Gerald enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces (A.I.F.) and was subsequently posted overseas as a driver with the 1st Australian and New Zealand Wireless Signal Squadron (22nd Battalion). He reportedly spent most of his service in Mesopotamia, between Kut-el-Amara and Bagdad. He was not alone in joining from the ranks of McKay's organisation; four others (including McKay himself) volunteered their services. During his military service, Gerald involved himself as often as possible in theatricals. He claims, for example, to have had the distinction of presenting Bagdad with its first-ever pantomime production. While her husband was away, Essie Jennings continued to work the variety stage for the Fullers, securing an engagement with Bert Le Blanc's Revue Company for a period of time. She was with the troupe when they opened the company's newly built Majestic Theatre (Newtown) in June 1917. Jennings later travelled to India with the Voluntary Aid Division. While there, she too found an opportunity to work the overseas stage, procuring a nine-month engagement at the Gaiety Theatre in Calcutta. Both she and her husband lost a brother each during the hostilities: one of Gerald's brothers was killed in early 1916, while Jennings lost her sibling a mere three weeks before the armistice (see note below).

1918-1921: In late 1918, while waiting in Egypt for his regiment's return to Australia, Gerald received a cable from the Fullers offering him the dame role in their Christmas pantomime, Bluebeard. Although his post-war stage debut was a hit, the transition to civilian life was not entirely smooth for the comedian. While attending a production of Time Please at the Melbourne Tivoli a few months later, Gerald's shell-shocked nerves went awry during a comedy-realistic trench scene and he, along with several other returned servicemen, had to be taken away from the theatre in an ambulance. Gerald remained in hospital for some six weeks (Theatre Magazine February 1919, p.28). By late 1919, however, his health had returned to near normal and he began to concentrate his energies towards writing and producing his own works. This new aspect of his career was very likely a response to filling in time during his extended convalescence. Perhaps not surprisingly, he found a great deal of material in his war experiences.

The first of his original material to find popular appeal was a series of sketches that he again performed with Jennings. Undoubtedly the most successful was 'The New Recruit' (1919). 'Originality and cleverness mark the sketch', records the Theatre following their engagement as a first-part entertainment given prior to the Nat Phillips' Stiffy and Mo Company revue at Fullers' Theatre, Sydney. The review indicates that the sketch was exceptionally funny at times, particularly when Jennings played the military officer to her husband's raw recruit. The piece was not with a touch of pathos, however. 'High art indeed is his work in [a] monologue' that gave an account of how he lost his pal in the war, notes the critic (July 1919, p.23). Another sketch Gerald made his own around this period was the 'letter posting act', previously made famous by American Jim Barton. The routine revolved around a drunk's attempts to post a letter in the small opening of a postal box.

Gerald and Jennings continued to play the Fullers' Australian and New Zealand circuit as a vaudeville act until around 1921, at which time they joined Walter George's Sunshine Players. That troupe at various times also included leading Australian principal boy and soprano Amy Rochelle; ex-American Burlesque Company comedian Harry Ross; high-profile Australian-based patterologists Vaude and Verne; and two performers who would shortly begin to play major roles in Gerald's own revusical company, actor/comedian Reg Hawthorne and actress/dancer/choreographer Polly McLaren. Jennings and Gerald are believed to have left the Sunshine Players either before starting their commitments with the Melbourne revival of Bluebeard in December 1921 or sometime between March and May 1922. One of the couple's last appearances as a duo, prior to forming the Jim Gerald Miniature Musical Comedy Company, was at the Empire Theatre, Brisbane, around May/June 1922. It would appear that shortly after this engagement, they returned to Sydney and put together their own company, which they debuted in Newcastle in late July.

1922-1929: Although Jim Gerald's career between 1922 and 1935 is largely associated with his revusical company and the productions he wrote and directed for that troupe, during this period he also further established his credentials as a writer and director of pantomimes. Indeed, by 1926, Gerald and members of his revusical company had racked up five consecutive Christmas seasons for the Fullers. Two of the biggest pantomime successes involving the troupe were Little Red Riding Hood (1923) and Puss in Boots (1926). When the troupe began to stage its own first-part vaudeville entertainment in the mid-late 1920s (rather than having the Fullers supply guest performers), Gerald was able to return to presenting the type of comedy routines and sketches that he had performed when engaged on the Fullers circuit with Essie Jennings between 1919 and 1921. Among Gerald's famous solo routines during the 1920s were 'Paddy McGinty's Goat' (the text for this, with accompanying photographs, is published in the March 1923 issue of the Theatre Magazine, p.21) and his version of the knockabout 'letter posting act'.

In March 1928, Gerald ventured overseas in an attempt to establish his career outside Australia. While in the United States, he co-wrote and produced several two-reel films, one of which, Getting Through, was exhibited as part of his Australian stage shows in 1929. He also acted as a buyer on behalf of the Fullers, purchasing a number of ballets and revues for the firm. Gerald left America for England, staging a season of revusicals on the London stage. When the critics panned the show, he cut short his stay, returning to Australia in November 1928. Gerald's arrival back in Australia also saw him move away from the narrative-driven revusicals that had made him a household name around Australia and New Zealand. His new style of show, revue, was very much influenced by his observations in America and London the previous year, and several critics notes that he also brought with him a number of new ideas in terms of staging, notably the use of lighting rather than traditional scenic art. Several of the pantomimes that Gerald produced during the late 1920s/early 1930s, which also utilised members of his troupe, were collaborations with the Fullers' long-time house writer and composer Frank Neil. The first of these shows was the 1926 production Puss in Boots, and the last possibly Mother Goose in 1934.

1930-1939: On 17 July 1930, Gerald was one of a stellar cast of performers engaged by the ABC to open its new radio station 2FC. Gerald's connection with the national broadcaster continued throughout the late 1930s, although it appears that his style of comedy may have become somewhat dated. He continued to tour his revusical company up until around 1938, at which time he is believed to have temporarily retired from the live stage in order to form his own radio production unit. With its headquarters in Sydney, Jim Gerald-Lionel Lunn Radio Presentations employed such actors as Alex Kellaway and Kath Esler, with Sandra Parkes (daughter of George Edwards) as scriptwriter. His first production, a series called Private Jitters, was sold to a national sponsor and broadcast on relay out of Melbourne four nights a week. He returned to the variety stage for one night prior to the premiere of Private Jitters, to present the character as part of the Melbourne Tivoli Theatre's 'Radio Roundup' entertainment. He also presented another radio programme, The After Dinner Show, broadcast on the ABC on Saturday nights. Whether Gerald's plans to produce other shows, including a series called Baffles the Crazy Detective, went ahead is not known at this stage. In March 1939, his contract with the ABC was up for review, but according to correspondence forwarded to Keith Barry (Federal Controller of Music) by W. G. James (Federal Programme Controller), a renewal was not on offer. 'I have heard him on a few occasions,' writes James, 'and was not very impressed with his work. One or two of his "After Dinner" shows have been quite effective, But I would not recommend renewing his contract' (ctd. National Archives of Australia - Jim Gerald; Series SP173/1; No. SP173/1/0)

1940-1971: In 1941, Gerald and ABC music director Jim Davidson enlisted in the AIF, after having offered their services as entertainers. They embarked for the Middle East on 1 September, with Gerald commissioned as an honorary Lieutenant Colonel and given command of the A.I.F's Entertainment Unit based in Tel Aviv. With his vast experience in the variety industry, he quickly organised Captain Davidson's forty-strong band and several professional artists who specially enlisted from Australia, and was given authority to recruit any soldier already serving in the Middle East who had entertainment skills (but who was not deployed in key military areas). Some personnel had already seen fighting in Libya, Greece, and Crete.

This all-digger troupe (apart from twenty female refugees, including seven Palestinian chorus girls) numbered over a hundred, and gave shows comprising traditional revue and vaudeville acts, including singing, dancing, juggling, acrobatics, comedy sketches and patterology, and trick cycling. The troupe was also complemented by a backstage production crew of set and costume designers, transport, properties, and lighting and sound technicians. Utilising a three-ton mobile transport vehicle, the unit could set up almost anywhere, and often played to upwards of 5,000 soldiers. His first production at Gaza was All in Fun, which, according to reports, was met with rapturous applause. A letter from a soldier, published in the ABC Weekly, claims that Gerald's shows were 'by the far the biggest and best... just like a very good Tivoli show at home' (25 July 1942, p.18). Some other shows staged were Dad and Dave, The Youth Show, Amateur Hour, and Inspector Scott. The unit was also able to arrange for the broadcasting of popular radio programmes to all hospitals in the Middle East and several camps stationed on the coast road in North Africa. Soon after establishing the Entertainment Unit, Gerald put together a number of smaller and faster units formed from the main body, and over the next eighteen months, these troupes presented shows during the Syrian campaign, playing places anywhere between Tobruk and the Turkish front line. They routinely visited frontline troops under fire, presenting their entertainment in caves, trenches, and storehouses. Late in the war, the original Entertainment Unit was redeployed to New Guinea.

Gerald returned to Australia in October 1942, following a recurrence of malaria that he contracted while in Syria. After having transferred to the retired list in December, he once again took to the variety stage. One of his first shows was the revue Stripped for Action, staged on the Tivoli circuit in early 1943. Gerald maintained a presence on the stage up until the 1960s, when he was aged in his seventies. In 1954, during the Korean conflict, he even wrote directly to Prime Minister Robert Menzies, offering to tour his own concert party through Korea and Japan. The offer was later gently turned down by the Minister for the Army, James Francis (ctd. National Archives of Australia - Series MO927/2; No. A12/1/170). Some of the productions Gerald appeared in during the last decade of his career were Ladies Night in a Turkish Bath, first staged in 1951, and revived for a Brisbane season in 1958 (Her Majesty's Theatre, 8 September); The Good Old Days, which co-starred George Wallace, Queenie Paul, and Maurice Colleano (Theatre Royal, Sydney, 20 September 1957); and Many Happy Returns, which included, among others, Gladys Moncrieff, Queenie Paul, George Wallace Jnr, and the Toppanos (Empire Theatre, Sydney, 28 January 1959).

After his wife Essie died in 1969, aged eighty-five, Gerald moved from his home in St Kilda, Melbourne, to a home at Rosebud, where he died two years later on 2 March 1971.

Most Referenced Works

Notes

  • 1. JIM GERALD'S COMIC STYLE:

    Regarded as one of the four leading Australian comics of the great vaudeville and revue era, along with Roy Rene, Nat Phillips, and George Wallace, it has been said that Jim Gerald differed from his competitors in that he was much more of an internationalist, preferring not to be too parochial in his settings and stories. While there may be some element of truth in this claim, it was more than likely a result of Gerald having spent his formative years overseas. His perception of what constituted Australianness would therefore have been shaped differently than those who had lived here all their lives (or who, like Nat Phillips, had left the country for extended periods later in their life). This criticism that Gerald's shows were insufficiently Australian appears to have been levelled at the comedian by academics and historians writing in the latter half of the twentieth century. There is certainly no evidence available in reviews or historical insights from the period that this was an issue of concern for Gerald's popular culture audience base. Indeed, there is no indication that either the audiences or critics considered his revusicals as being of an 'imported' kind. Although a number of his revues were set in overseas locations (he also found a niche specialising in the spoofing of foreign names), this was by no means uncommon during the revusical era. Nat Phillips and George Wallace also set several of their works in overseas locations.

    What set Gerald apart from most other comedians, aside from George Wallace, and helped establish him as one of Australia's great comedians and pantomime dames, was his remarkable gift for physical comedy. At the other end of the extreme, however, was his comedic delivery, essentially in the droll style. His performances, therefore, created a sense of paradox, the heightened physicality of his acrobatics and devil-may-care stagecraft juxtaposed with his quaint, laid-back characterisations. As a performer, he appears to have also refrained from delving into vulgarity, a factor that won him much approval as a wholesome comedian.

    • See also The Honeymoon Girl (below) for further insights into Gerald's comedic style.

  • 2. HISTORICAL NOTES AND CORRECTIONS (Jim Gerald):

    2.1. Jim Gerald's entries in the Australian Dictionary of Biography (Volume 14, 1996, p.263) and the Companion to Theatre in Australia (p.243) record that he was born on 2 January. His military records, including Gerald's self-written application forms, indicate, however, that the date was 1 January (ctd. National Archives of Australia, Series - B883; No - NX70922).

    2.2. A number of secondary sources have incorrectly claimed that Gerald was the nephew of Dan and Tom Fitzgerald (Fitzgerald Brother's Circus) and their younger brother John D. 'Jack' Fitzgerald (1862-1922), a prominent Sydney barrister, social reformer and Labor parliamentarian. In her 1996 entry on Jim Gerald for the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Martha Rutledge writes, for example, that he was a 'nephew of J. D. Fitzgerald,' and that he 'haunted his uncle's circus.' In this respect she is possibly referencing and expanding on Charles Norman's comment in When Vaudeville Was King (1983). On page 224 Norman writes: 'Jim Gerald came from a circus family. Some of his uncles were the top names of the day.'

    Robert Colomb, retired Reader in Information Systems, School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering (The University of Queensland), has discovered through extensive historical and genealogical research that the two Fitzgerald families were unrelated. In correspondence with AustLit in April 2013 he draws attention to Stephen Fitzgerald having been born in Clifton, Gloucester (England) in 1820. According to Bede Nairn's biography of John 'Jack' Fitzgerald (Australian Dictionary of Biography) he and his brothers Dan and Tom were the sons of schoolteacher John Daniel Fitzgerald and his wife Mary Ann, née Cullen, both from Limerick, Ireland. The elder brothers Dan and Tom were born in New Zealand in the late 1850s, while 'Jack' was born in Shell Harbour, New South Wales in 1862.

    Writing more than a decade after Gerald's death, Charles Norman has possibly assumed a familial connection with the Fitzgerald Brothers because the comedian's childhood background was in the circus. However, while Gerald toured the world as a child acrobat/clown it was not with the Fitzgerald Brothers but with a circus run by strongman Oscar Pagel.

    2.3. The Companion to Theatre in Australia claims that Gerald began his career in variety with Harry Clay. Extensive research into Clay's operations (see Harry Clay and Clay's Vaudeville Company 1865-1930) has failed, however, to find any evidence supporting this assertion. Gerald states in a 1928 Everyone's interview that he started with the Fullers and planned to finish with them (22 February 1928, p.46), which puts further doubt on the claim.

    2.4. For further details pertaining to acrobatic displays in the sandhills behind Centennial Park (Sydney), see Alf 'Redhead' Wilson's article, 'In the Sandhill Days', published in Australian Variety 17 January 1917, n. pag.

  • 2.5. It has also been claimed that Gerald did not write his own scripts (Companion to Theatre in Australia, p.243), which is clearly erroneous. Numerous references to Gerald being the author of his shows can be found through primary sources such as newspapers and industry magazines. Notable, for example, are Gerald's routinely mentioned wartime experiences having been the source of inspiration for 1914-1918 ; Or, For the Duration and 'The New Recruit'. Other sources indicating Gerald's authorship of particular works include a review of Step This Way, published in the Theatre Magazine in 1926, which reads, 'When Jim rests from acting, singing and dancing on the boards he presumably spends his leisure in writing scripts, which in turn gave him ample work as a producer. When he sleeps one can only guess... Step This Way is a capital specimen of the Gerald type of revue' (June 1926, p.13). As early as 1923, Gerald was also creating original pantomimes for the Fullers. The first was Little Red Riding Hood, which the Sydney Morning Herald records was 'written and produced by Mr Jim Gerald' (24 December 1923, p.6). See also Gerald's advertised bills in Fuller News (ca. 1922), which similarly indicate that he was the author of his shows.

    2.6. Jim Gerald and Essie Jennings were married on 21 July 1913 at St Peter's Anglican Church, Wellington, New Zealand.

    2.7. M. A. Keup records in the 13 October 1927 issue of Just It that Gerald made a number of changes to The Honeymoon Girl following its Melbourne season, 'so as to make it quite fresh to Sydney audiences' (p.28). A search through Melbourne newspapers for 1927 has not located any details of a production there, however, even during the company's 1926-1927 season at the Princess Theatre. It is possible, therefore, that Keup mistakenly referred to Melbourne when they meant Brisbane, where the musical comedy was staged between 6 and 19 August. The company's Sydney engagement began on 8 October, only four weeks after departing Brisbane.

  • 2.7. Jim Gerald's known siblings were Lancelot Sherlock Fitzgerald (aka Lance Vane), well-known as an actor/variety artist and stage manager with Gerald's revusical company; Clifton Stephen Australia Fitzgerald (aka Cliff Stevens), a vaudeville comedian; Morris Fitzgerald (no information available); and Richard McGuinness Fitzgerald (see below). Family research undertaken by Rita Thorne indicates that Lance Vane married wardrobe mistress/costume designer Bertha Hillyard in Sydney in 1928. Hillyard's daughter Phyllis du Barry (born Gertrude Phyllis Hillyard) was a stage and screen actress who worked alongside Vane in Jim Gerald's revusical company during 1927-1928 (and later appeared in the George Ward Revue Co). She moved to the USA with her mother in 1932, however, and went on to appear in more than forty Hollywood films. Lance Vane travelled to Los Angeles in 1932, but returned some time later. He died on 21 October 1942 in Sydney. Clifton Fitzgerald married Ellen A. Lucre in Newcastle in 1916 and died in Sydney in 1946.

    2.8. An article on Jim Gerald published in the February 1919 issue of the Theatre reports, 'A brother (Max Clifton was his stage name) was killed early in the war' (p.28). Thorne has confirmed that it was Richard McGuiness Fitzgerald who was killed on 4 August 1916 and that his name is remembered on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial. It is likely, then, that he was otherwise known as Max Clifton, the actor who for many years was associated with William Anderson's Dramatic Company and who played opposite such well-known actors as Roy Redgrave, Bert Bailey, Edmund Duggan, and J. B. Atholwood.

    • NB: Information regarding Phyllis du Barry and the Fitzgerald siblings has been supplied through personal correspondence by Rita Thorne (UK).
  • 3. HISTORICAL NOTES AND CORRECTIONS (Essie Jennings):

    3.1. Born Esther Patience Futcher in Ballarat, Victoria, in 1884, Essie Jennings was the oldest child of Thomas William Futcher and Susan Patience Porritt. She had at least two siblings, Horace Gordon (1887, also born in Ballarat) and Thomas Frederick (1888, born in Richmond).

    3.2. As an illustrated singer during her early career in vaudeville, Essie Jennings would have performed sentimental or patriotic songs in front of background scenery or mood visuals. Prior to the widespread use of film in Australia, these effects were created by heating calcium oxide (lime) to white heat in an oxy-ether lantern, which in turn created enough light to allow slide pictures to be projected onto a screen.

    3.3. Charles Dana Gibson's iconic illustrations of beautiful and independent American woman were first published in the 1890s. By 1900, his 'Gibson Girls' were seen as the representative ideal of contemporary womanhood in many Western nations, as well as America.

  • This entry has been sourced from research undertaken by Dr Clay Djubal into Australian-written popular music theatre (ca. 1850-1930). See also the Australian Variety Theatre Archive

    Additional historical information as been provided by Robert Colomb.~

Last amended 26 Apr 2018 08:14:25
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