Gladys Moncrieff OBE 1892-1976
With the money she made from Rio Rita, they set up Gladys Moncrieff and Tom Moore Productions, debuting at the Palace Theatre in Melbourne in June 1929 with ‘a sensational play of the air’, The Zeppelin Terror.
To Moncrieff’s disappointment Williamson’s failed to contract her for The Desert Song and
The Vagabond King, but Fullers’ snared the rights to Rio Rita, realising it was an ideal vehicle for her. She was wary of working with a new management, but Sir Ben Fuller cannily cabled his brother, who was handling the negotiations: ‘No Gladys Moncrieff, no Rio Rita. Tell her she will lose nothing in prestige or honour by joining us.’ Moncrieff’s success in Rio Rita was second only to her triumph in The Maid of the Mountains. It toured for two years.
By now Moncrieff’s relationship with her husband was strictly that of star and manager. With the money she made from Rio Rita, they set up Gladys Moncrieff and Tom Moore Productions, debuting at the Palace Theatre in Melbourne in June 1929 with ‘a sensational play of the air’, The Zeppelin Terror. Apparently the ‘terror’ of the title was Mr Moore’s invention: the piece had played briefly on Broadway as simply Zeppelin. They followed this with ‘a chilling, thrilling, killing mystery’ – The Gorilla – and a comedy called The Man From Toronto. The ‘talkies’ and the Depression took their toll and the venture failed. Moncrieff and her husband lost everything, including their marriage. Perhaps understandably, the episode is not mentioned in Moncrieff’s autobiography.
Moncrieff sang in cinemas and on radio, and recorded her most popular songs. She returned to J.C. Williamson’s for more revivals, including, of course, The Maid of the Mountains. In 1933 it was with that show that Moncrieff fittingly closed Her Majesty’s in Sydney and the Theatre Royal in Melboure, both lamented victims of the Depression.
With no prospect of new challenges from Williamson’s or Fullers’, Moncrieff turned to entrepreneur Francis Thring. In 1933 she starred in his first major stage production, the Australian musical Collits’ Inn, and made some recently discovered test recordings of its score. Unfortunately plans for a film version were aborted. Thring featured her in two more Australian musicals, The Beloved Vagabond and The Cedar Tree, and in Jolly Roger.
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Ian Bevan: The Story of the Theatre Royal, Currency Press, 1993
Peter Burgis: ‘Gladys Moncrieff’, in Australian Dictionary of Biography, volume 10, Melbourne University Press
Alwyn Capern and John West: ‘Gladys Moncrieff’, in Companion to Theatre in Australia, Currency Press, 1995
Adrian Magee: Gladys Moncrieff – Australia’s Queen of Song, Reed Library, 1997
Gladys Moncrieff: My Life of Song, Rigby, 1971
Charles Osborne: Max Oldaker – Last of the Matinee Idols, Michael O’Mara Books, 1988