Gladys Moncrieff OBE 1892-1976

Gladys Moncrieff

Gladys Moncrieff

The last phase of Moncrieff’s long professional career began in January 1959 when she starred
in another Harry Wren extravaganza, Many Happy Returns.

She made her last public appearances in Sydney in 1973, at the opening of the Opera House and the new Her Majesty’s Theatre. ‘Our Glad’ died on 8 February 1976.

 

The last phase of Moncrieff’s long professional career began in January 1959 when she starred
in another Harry Wren extravaganza, Many Happy Returns. After packing theatres wherever it went, its marathon run ended in Hamilton, New Zealand, on 5 July 1961. Of course, her final song had to be ‘Love will find a way’ from The Maid of the Mountains. She wrote: ‘It was rather sad that I finished my career in variety rather than in my first love, musical comedy, but in the theatre you take what comes and view these things philosophically.’ The gown she wore that night is preserved in the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.

In 1962 Moncrieff made a couple of guest appearances on George Wallace Jnr’s television show Theatre Royal, then she and her companion, Elsie Wilson, spent some years travelling. In 1968 they retired to the Isle of Capri on the Queensland Gold Coast. From her balcony, Moncrieff would wave greetings to the tourists on passing pleasure boats.  Her autobiography was published in 1971. She made her last public appearances in Sydney in 1973, at the opening of the Opera House and the new Her Majesty’s Theatre. ‘Our Glad’ died on 8 February 1976. Her husband, Tom Moore, attended her funeral.

Gladys Moncrieff is remembered in many ways. Her name is commemorated in the Federal Gold Coast electorate of Moncrieff, a hibiscus, the library at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, an Isle of Capri public park, and the municipal theatre in Bundaberg, her birthplace. In 1989 she and Roy Rene were pictured on an Australia Post stamp. Many of her finest recordings have been reissued on CD and her life has been celebrated in a nostalgic theatre show. In 2006 the NSW State Government granted $9000 for the restoration of her crumbling grave at Sydney’s South Head Cemetery.

Dame Joan Sutherland paid this tribute: ‘Gladys Moncrieff was the Queen of Musical Comedy during my childhood and for much longer than that. Her right to that title will never be disputed.’

Frank Van Straten, 2007

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Biographical references

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