Cyril Ritchard 1898-1977 and Madge Elliott 1898-1955

Cyril Ritchard and Madge Elliot

Cyril Ritchard and Madge Elliott

Cyril Joseph Trimnell Ritchard was born on 1 December 1897 at Surry Hills in Sydney.

Leah Madeleine Elliott was born in London on 12 May 1896 and grew up in Toowoomba, Queensland, where she learnt to dance.

In 1932 Cyril and Madge returned to Australia for J.C. Williamson’s.

Their stay in Australia climaxed with their wedding – 15 years after they had first met.

 

The Singing Lunts

‘He is a light comedian and dancer with the creative humour and alertness of a Jack Buchanan,
the head and legs of a Noel Coward, and better looks than either, and with a charm and personality all his own’ – that’s how Theatre World magazine summed up Cyril Ritchard when he hit London in 1925.

Ritchard achieved an international career that lasted for 60 years. He danced, sang, acted and directed on stage, film and television with a grace and charm that endeared him to audiences and to his fellow artists. He was as at home in revue as he was in Restoration comedy, as adept at beguiling youngsters as a jaunty Captain Hook as he was at directing the Metropolitan Opera. And he was for thirty yeas half of the most glamorous and most loved stage partnership Australia has produced.

Cyril Joseph Trimnell Ritchard was born on 1 December 1897 at Surry Hills in Sydney. His distaste for blood sent him scurrying from medical studies at Sydney University to Her Majesty’s Theatre where, in 1917, he debuted in the chorus of The Waltz Dream. For the next seven years J.C. Williamson’s cast him in increasingly important juvenile leads in a succession of popular musicals.

Leah Madeleine Elliott was born in London on 12 May 1896 and grew up in Toowoomba, Queensland, where she learnt to dance. She was a member of the children’s ballet in the Melba Grand Opera Company in 1911. She shot to stardom as a vivacious blonde dancer and singer in J.C. Williamson musicals. It was Williamson’s ballet mistress Minnie Hooper who suggested that young Cyril would make an ideal stage partner for her. Already a stage veteran, Miss Elliott declared, ‘I don’t dance with beginners.’ It took Cyril two years to make her change her mind. In 1919 they soared to popularity in the ‘aeroplane musical’ Going Up. Before long they were Australia’s answer to Vernon and Irene Castle.

In 1924 Ritchard made his New York debut in the revue Puzzles of 1925. Later that year he and Madge appeared in London in the revue Bubbly and went on to work together in a further half dozen frothy West End musicals. Cyril had the distinction of appearing in Britain’s last silent film, Piccadilly, as well as its first talkie, Hitchcock’s Blackmail.

In 1932 Cyril and Madge returned to Australia for J.C. Williamson’s. The public loved them. They were mobbed when they opened the nation’s very first milk bar – Mick Adams’ Black and White 4d Milk Bar in Martin Place – on 4 November 1932. Crowds flocked to see them in musicals like Cole Porter’s Gay Divorce and Jerome Kern’s Roberta, which Cyril directed. They also appeared in the Australian musical Blue Mountain Melody (1934). Their stay in Australia climaxed with their wedding – 15 years after they had first met. On 16 September 1935 a vast crowd – mainly women – gathered outside Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral to wish them well, ignoring the sectarian objections to the marriage: the bride was Protestant and the groom was Catholic.

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Biographical references

Ian Bevan: Theatre Royal, Currency Press, 1993
Alwyn Capern: ‘Madge Elliott’, in Companion to Theatre in Australia, Currency Press, 1995
Judy Harris: Cyril Ritchard: http://users.bestweb.net/
~foosie/cyril.htm John Rickard: ‘Leah Madeleine Elliott and Cyril Joseph Ritchard’, in Australian Dictionary of Biography, volume 14. Melbourne University Press, 1996
John Thomson: ‘Cyril Ritchard and Madge Elliott: A Glamorous Couple’, in National Library of Australia News, May 2006
Who’s Who in the Theatre, various editions, Pitman
John West: ‘Cyril Ritchard’, in Companion to Theatre in AustraliaCurrency Press, 1995