Kenn Brodziak OBE 1913-1999

Kenn Brodziak

Kenn Brodziak

He was born in the suburb of Waverley on 31 May 1913. At school, his ambition was always to act and to write and produce his own plays; he even chose a stage name, ‘Richard Raymon’.

Brodziak’s subsequent ventures included a literary agency, a theatre party booking system, a film script assessment service and artist management.

 

Mr Show Business

‘Showbiz,’ said actor and producer Noel Ferrier, ‘has always needed showmen – producers with
a hard business sense mixed with flair, daring and the guts to take a gamble with their own brass – or, preferably, with someone else’s! What the business doesn't need is starry-eyed accountants, well-intentioned though their amateur attitudes might be. Kenn Brodziak probably has been one of Australia’s greatest post-war showmen. He’s always had a nose for a hit. He secured the Beatles for their Australian tour before they were big time. His failures could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Among those who rose around him were Harry M. Miller, Paul Dainty, Michael Edgley and, the youngest of the breed, Wilton Morley. Guys of that sort give the business excitement.’

For Kenneth Leo Brodziak, that excitement started in Sydney, where he was born in the suburb of Waverley on 31 May 1913. At school, his ambition was always to act and to write and produce his own plays; he even chose a stage name, ‘Richard Raymon’. He staged his first play, a thriller called The Killer, when he was 15, but to please his parents he agreed to study law. Soon he was leading a frenetic double life: during the day he was law student Kenneth L. Brodziak, but at night he became Richard R. Raymon, involved with The Entertainers, an amateur dramatic company. They staged his musical comedy The Mystery Girl in 1929; others followed.

It was the furore surrounding the banning of Clifford Odets’ anti-Nazi play Till the Day I Die that alerted Brodziak to the value of publicity. He determined to write a play that, too, would be banned. The result was Desire Brings Welcome, in 1936. Its plot revolved around (surprise!) a young law student named Kenn who wants to be a playwright. His play’s characters included a lesbian, a prostitute, a homosexual, a drug addict, a nymphomaniac, a sadist, a blackmailer and a social climber. Sir Benjamin Fuller agreed to be the production’s patron – and, as Brodziak had hoped, after a satisfying avalanche of publicity, it was helpfully banned.

Brodziak’s subsequent ventures included a literary agency, a theatre party booking system, a film script assessment service and artist management. Along the way he persuaded David N. Martin to stage the American comedy Susan and God at the Minerva in Kings Cross; it was a smash hit.

In 1941 Brodziak joined the RAAF. He trained as a navigator in Canada; this allowed him to spend his leave exploring the theatre on offer in New York. Later, while serving in Europe, he was involved in several bombing raids over Germany. During his West Africa posting he wrote and staged revues for the troops.

In London Flight Lieutenant Brodziak saw an innovative new show called Get a Load of This, part musical, part drama, part revue. When he returned to Australia he persuaded David N. Martin to produce it at the Tivoli; at the same time Brodziak also talked himself into a job as assistant producer.

 

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Biographical references

Ian Bevan: The Story of the Theatre Royal, Currency Press, 1993
John Cain: On With the Show, Prowling Tiger Press, 1998
Noel Ferrier: There Goes Whatsisname, Macmillan, 1985
Raymond Stanley: ‘Mr Kenn Brodziak OBE’, in Inaugural James Cassius Awards program, The Entertainment Industry Employers Association, 1998
John West: ‘Kenn Brodziak’ in Companion to Theatre in Australia, Currency Press, 1995