George Vollaire

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George Vollaire (b. Lambeth, London, **/**/1894 – d. Johannesburg, **/**/1971) was a British-born singer, actor and producer.


George Vollaire was probably the son of George Willis Vollaire, a civil engineer with the London Sanitary Protection Association and at the age of 16 he was a clerk in an engineer's office, possibly his father's. However, both his grandfather John Vollaire and his aunt Kate were in the theatre. After serving in the Royal Field Artillery during World War I, he started his stage career in the chorus of the D’Oyly Carte Repertory Opera Company in 1919-20 and seems to have made his first visit to South Africa in 1922. He was accompanied by his twin brother Arthur and they were both said to be in mining. He later appeared in the musical play Almond Eye (1924) at the New Scala Theatre in London and during 1924-25 went on a tour of Australia and New Zealand, featuring in musicals such as Good Morning, Dearie and Kid Boots. Back in England he joined Fred and Adele Astaire in Lady, Be Good! (1926) by Jerome Kern at the Empire Theatre in London, followed by Two Little Girls in Blue (1927), Blue Eyes (1928), Topsy and Eva (1928), Merry, Merry (1929) and The Highwayman (1929). In between, in 1927, he visited South Africa again when he and Bruce Anderson both came out to sing in White Horse Inn, one of the last shows to be staged at Cape Town’s Opera House. However, by 1932 he was back in England, acting in two minor British films, namely The Road to Fortune (1930) and Holiday Lovers (1932).

In 1935 he was in Singapore, appearing in the operetta The Chocolate Soldier, but afterwards he returned to settle in South Africa. He had a fruitful relationship with Cape Town’s Little Theatre, acting in such plays as Man and Superman (1937), directed by André van Gyseghem, and The Doctor's Dilemma (1938), directed by Leontine Sagan. In addition he directed a number of plays himself, amongst them Accent on Youth, The Two Mrs. Carrolls, Pride and Prejudice, You Never Can Tell, George and Margaret, Important People and A Hundred Years Old, all between 1937 and 1940. During this time he also appeared in the non-speaking role of Jan van Riebeeck in the 1938 film production of Die Bou van ’n Nasie (Joseph Albrecht and Andries A. Pienaar). In 1941 he produced Accent on Youth with the Pretoria Repertory Players and in 1943 Captain George Vollaire produced Squadron X, a play sponsored by the South African Air Force and staged at the Standard Theatre in Johannesburg. In 1944 he was part of the Gwen ffrangçon-Davies / Marda Vanne Company when they put on Flare Path and What Every Woman Knows at the Alhambra Theatre in Cape Town. This was followed by roles in Major Barbara (1947) and Saint Joan (1948), both at the Little Theatre.

During the early fifties he, Italo Bernicchi and Joseph Albrecht spent some years in East Africa, where they produced a number of films for the local African Film Productions office. The, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he turned up as production manager for a number of South African-produced features, including Diamond Safari (Gerald Mayer/1958), Die Jagters (Gordon Vorster/1960), Basie (Gordon Vorster/1961), Die Tweede Slaapkamer (Gordon Vorster/1961), As Ons Twee Eers Getroud Is! (Jan Perold/1962), Jy's Lieflik Vanaand (Gordon Vorster/1962) and Die Ruiter in die Nag (Jan Perold/1963), as well as for the Raymond Hancock documentary Century of Achievement (1962). One of his last stage appearances was in No Sign of the Dove (1968), produced by Sylvia Goldberg for the Jewish Guild Theatre. His wife, Verena (born Nänni, was Swiss and returned to Switzerland after his death in 1971. (FO)


Sunday Times, Sydney, 20 July 1924

News, Adelaide, 19 March 1925

Gänzl, Kurt - The encyclopedia of the musical theatre

Inskip, Donald - Forty Little years

Le Roux, André I. & Fourie, Lilla – Filmverlede: geskiedenis van die Suid-Afrikaanse speelfilm

Schach, Leonard - The flag is flying

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