Harry Stodel (1869-1951). Boxer and Music Hall entertainer.
Born in London in 1869 of Dutch-Jewish descent. He had an excellent voice and sang in a synagogue choir as a young man. He also took part in amateur dramatics and honed his boxing skills. He arrived in South Africa in 1889, landing in Cape Town and travelling to Johannesburg via Kimberley. Harry married the daughter of his previous employer in London, Amelia Kruyer, in December 1891. The couple were blessed with eight children. His sons Jim and Jack were also well-known personalities in the South African entertainment industry.
He passed away on 16 June 1951, aged 82.
Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance
As a travelling salesman he earned enough money to establish a small hotel which he called Stodel’s Music Hall. By 1897 he leased the Gaiety Theatre in Johannesburg as a music hall. This was done in competition with the Theatre Royal, run by Luscombe Searelle, who soon sold out to him.
During the Anglo-Boer War the Stodels moved to Cape Town. Harry bought the Tivoli Music Hall in Darling Street in 1910. He occasionally leased the Opera House for visiting comedy and dramatic companies. He also acquired the Gaiety Theatre in Oudtshoorn which was both a cinema and vaudeville venue. In 1908 he established a film distributing company and in 1912 he bought the Alhambra Theatre at the foot of St Georges Street, bringing in drama and comedy companies.
The entertainment industry having been bankrupted by over-exploitation, he threw in his lot with I.W. Schlesinger. He was appointed resident Cape director of the new African Theatres circuit as well as of African Theatres Trust. The mail boats brought variety artists on a regular basis to tour the country.
Fletcher, Jill 1994.
Tucker 2006. pp 32-39.
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