Hugh D. McIntosh 1876-1942

Hugh McIntosh

Hugh D. McIntosh

In 1917 he was one of the founders of the Theatrical Proprietors’ and Managers’ Association (the forerunner of today’s Live Performance Australia)

He paid £150,000 to buy the Sydney Sunday Times..

From 1917 McIntosh abandoned vaudeville and steered the Tivoli upmarket, concentrating on lavish revues, plays and musicals.

McIntosh produced two of the most lavish musicals staged in Australia to that time – the stylish operetta The Lilac Domino and the Arabian Nights extravaganza Chu Chin Chow.

 

Because the war made the importation of acts for the Tivoli nearly impossible, McIntosh turned to revue, a format perfected by his friends Charles B. Cochran and Florenz Ziegfeld. The Tivoli Follies was enormously successful, and toured Australia and New Zealand for two and a half years. He supported numerous war charities and distributed gold passes to winners of the Victoria Cross. In 1917 he was one of the founders of the Theatrical Proprietors’ and Managers’ Association (the forerunner of today’s Live Performance Australia), and he and Benjamin Fuller were the first vice presidents. McIntosh had little time for performers’ unions. He eventually had to accept the Australian Vaudeville Artists’ Association, the Musicians’ Union and the Actors’ Federation. ‘All I’ve got to say’, he growled at a TPMA meeting, ‘is that we’re lucky they didn’t wake up to us years ago.’

McIntosh dabbled in film exhibition, promoting the classic Italian epic Cabiria. He paid £150,000 to buy the Sydney Sunday Times, and the sporting weeklies The Arrow and The Referee, and started his own theatrical weekly, The Green Room, employing as drama critic Zora Cross, later known for her erotic poetry. The revered boxer Les Darcy made guest appearances for him at the Tivoli, but McIntosh later played a key role in ruining his career in the United States. Appointed by Holman to the NSW Legislative Council, McIntosh was described by Jack Lang as ‘Holman’s crony, a political fixer’.

From 1917 McIntosh abandoned vaudeville and steered the Tivoli upmarket, concentrating on lavish revues, plays and musicals. He persuaded the colourful Mildura-based dried fruits entrepreneur and pioneer aviator Jack De Garis to buy Tivoli shares; in return, the circuit staged what was, effectively, the very first Australian musical comedy, FFF, which De Garis had written. The show, with its thinly disguised portrayal of McIntosh, was a disastrous flop and De Garis eventually suicided.

McIntosh produced two of the most lavish musicals staged in Australia to that time – the stylish operetta The Lilac Domino and the Arabian Nights extravaganza Chu Chin Chow, the latter, complete with camels, donkeys and doves, was created by Geelong-born theatre legend Oscar Asche. McIntosh employed his old friends Maggie Moore and Nellie Stewart to assist with these productions. He developed plans for a school of drama with Nellie Stewart at the helm, and organised a tour by the brilliant young Russian pianist Mischa Levitzki. However, McIntosh’s financial profligacy finally caught up with him. His theatrical empire collapsed suddenly and spectacularly, he retired from production, sold his shows to J.C. Williamson’s and subleased the Tivoli Theatres to other managements.

From 1921 to 1929 McIntosh divided his time between his Sydney mansion at Bellevue Hill and ‘Broome Park’, the former stately home of Lord Kitchener, near Canterbury. He also had an apartment near Downing Street and offices in Australia House. He staged a lavish party for the stars of Cochran’s revue Dover Street to Dixie, the first London show with a mixed race cast, and brought the Dubbo buckjumper ‘Snowy’ Thompson from Australia to compete in Cochran’s Rodeo Championships at the new Wembley Stadium. With colourful Canadian entrepreneur J.D. Williams he contracted with Rudolph Valentino to star in the film The Hooded Falcon. He claimed to have clinched the deal by giving Valentino’s wife a mysterious ring that Lord Carnarvon had taken from Tutankhamen’s tomb, but the film was never completed.

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Biographical references

Chris Cuneen: ‘Hugh Donald McIntosh’, in Australian Dictionary of Biography, volume 10, Melbourne University Press
John Hetherington: Australians – Nine Profiles, F.W. Cheshire, 1960
Nellie Stewart: My Life’s Story, John Sands Ltd, 1923
Frank Van Straten: Huge Deal – The Fortunes and Follies of Hugh D. McIntosh, Lothian Books, 2004
Frank Van Straten: ‘Hugh D. McIntosh’, in Companion to Theatre in Australia, Currency Press, 1995