Jack Bligh

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Jack Bligh (b. Ramsgate, Kent, 29/11/1889 – d. 25/09/1967, St. John’s Wood, London) was a stage, radio, film and television actor, as well as a producer for stage and television.


Jack Hodges Bligh, an English actor who travelled widely, was the son of William Bligh and Edith Cooke. His father was a printer and initially he worked as an assistant in his father’s workshop. After reportedly turning down an offer to play soccer for Arsenal, he became a member of the stock company at the British and Colonial Kinematograph Company. Originally he was a stunt man and at the outbreak of World War I he is said to have been with Vitagraph in the United States. He saw service in France, first with the Royal Fusiliers (Sportsman’s Battalion) and then in the Labour Corps. After the war he returned to the stage, appearing in the musical Violette (1918) for Bernard Hishin and in My Nieces (1921) for Donald Calthrop.

In 1926 he toured South Africa with Dennis Neilson-Terry [1] and Mary Glynne. Back in London he acted in a number of Edgar Wallace plays and, as early as 1929, appeared on television. His first wife, Henrietta Millar, had divorced him in 1921 and in 1929 he married Mary Holder (1895-1980), an actress with Frank Benson’s Shakespeare Company. In 1930 she and Jack performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon, with Mary in leading roles and Jack in supporting ones. The company also toured the United States and Canada.

In 1932 the couple came to South Africa, intending to stay for a year, but eventually settling there. They founded a theatre company in Johannesburg and also appeared on radio. Between 1935 and 1937 Bligh produced a number of plays for the Cape Town Repertory Theatre Society at the Little Theatre - including Musical Chairs, The Late Christopher Bean, Ten Minute Alibi and Hamlet - while in 1938 he played Simon van der Stel in the film Die Bou van ‘n Nasie (Joseph Albrecht/Andries A. Pienaar). During the 1940s he was a radio producer with the SABC in Johannesburg, though he also took time off to tour with the Gwen ffrangçon-Davies / Marda Vanne Company , appearing in The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Alhambra Theatre in 1945.

Jack spent a year-and-a-half in England, watching plays and working for the BBC, returning to South Africa in 1948 to take charge of dramatic production for the SABC in Cape Town. Here he produced numerous radio plays, including The Passionate Heart, on Olive Schreiner, and The Beaux Stratagem. In 1959 he acted in Leonard Schach's production of Look Homeward Angel for the Cockpit Players at the Hofmeyr Theatre and in Affairs of State, directed by Hugh Goldie for the Johannesburg Repertory Society. During the 1960s he appeared in a few British films, including two by Terence Fisher, and took occasional guest parts in a range television series, including Z Cars, Dixon of Dock Green, Till Death Us Do Part and Doctor Who. (FO)


Stage & Cinema, 13 May 1949 (Personalities of the air, No. 11)

Hatfield, Denis - Cape theatre in the 1940's: reviews of ballet and drama (1967)

Inskip, Donald - Forty Little years: the story of a theatre (1972)

Schach, Leonard - The flag is flying (1996)


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