In 1946 a six-year-old Port Elizabeth girl Gabrielle van der Riet decided she was going to be an operatic soprano.
For her size and age she had a strong, sweet, voice. Her parents encouraged her to follow her dream and to become a soprano singer.
Then one day, while rehearsing a difficult passage one morning her, her voice broke on the top note.
She was quite ready to forget about the vocal crack but a well-meaning friend tried to encourage her by telling her she could still be a fine contralto.
But Gabrielle was either going to be a soprano or nothing.
Thus it was, in 1967, aged 17, Gabrielle forgot about her singing and turned to straight acting.
In her early 20s, Gaby spent part of her time in England and part near the Kalahari.
Contribution to SA theatre and film
Her directional debut in a major play followed her success in directing prize-winning school productions for her old school, St Dominic’s Priory, and the 1965 Salters’ Cup play festival, which she won an award with The Death of Bessie Smith.
In 1966 Gaby’s intensive thought was obvious when she produced Look Back in Anger on the Port Elizabeth amateur stage.
Her portrayal was described as “magical in a professional performance beyond criticism”.
Gabrielle van der Riet took her last look at her backstage dressing room at a Port Elizabeth theatre, closed the door, walked away and moved to Durban.
Among her tutors at Anne Freed’s Theatre School was Catherine King, the academy’s senior voice coach.
The following year Gaby Getz moved to Johannesburg and was well on her way to becoming an established film actress on the South African scene.
But she found film more appealing and eventually she landed a small roles in Mr Kingstreet’s War, with overseas actors John Saxon and Tippi Hedren, and in Taxi the South African film version of the popular radio series by [[Joe Stewardson], with co-stars Tony Jay, George Korelin and Pat Sanders.
Hymie Udwin gave her a role in the Johannesburg run of the wildly successful farce, Move Over, Mrs Markham, with Rex Garner and Shelagh Holliday but she was still only being cast as the “dumb blonde”.
This was her first major senior role.
Because she was so beautiful her dramatic potential was being overlooked in films but she stuck it out until film director Ivan Hall offered her a starring role as the selfish, impetuous, warmhearted sophisticate, Agnes, in Dans van die Flamink. an adaptation of the then-popular radio series along with Sigfried Mynhardt, John Boulter, Rod Alexander, Johan Swanepoel and Sandra Britz.
This movie was filmed in and around Johannesburg, with an American film star, Vic Morrow, in the leading role.
Weekend Post Parade, magazine, May 11, 1974.
SACD 1974; 1975/76.
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