Thomas Pauncefort

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(b. Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, 22/12/1884 – d. Ealing, London, **/**/1963). British actor, producer.


When, in 1920, Thomas Pauncefort sailed for Australia, the S.A. Pictorial called him “one of the cleverest and most versatile comedians South Africa has ever seen”. Certainly, during the four years he spent in the country, “Tommy” Pauncefort became immensely popular with the theatre-going public. He was born Thomas Pauncefort Bailey and was active in repertory from an early age, with the internet reflecting several appearances at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh. In 1907 he acted in When Knights Were Bold, which is probably when he met actress Eva Leonard Boyne, whom he married in 1908. In October 1912 he was part of a group of actors (including Reginald Denny) who left for Yokohama via Bombay for an extended tour of the Far East and there is a record of him appearing in The Girl in the Taxi at the Victoria Theatre in Singapore. In June 1914 he was back in England to support Florence Wray on her tour of the counties.

When Wray and her writer/producer R.G. Hunter came to South Africa in May 1916, he was with them and made his first appearance at the Empire Theatre in Johannesburg on 29 May 1916. When Wray and Hunter returned to England, Pauncefort transferred to the London Gaiety Company, which is where he met Rita Reuas (real name Rita Sauer), an Australian actress who had originally come to South Africa with the chorus of the J.C. Williamson Gilbert & Sullivan Company. He and Eva Leonard Boyne were divorced in 1915 and he married Rita in Cape Town in October 1916. For the London Gaiety Company he acted in many plays, usually starting off at His Majesty’s Theatre in Johannesburg and then taking them to the Opera House in Cape Town and the Theatre Royal in Durban. In May 1918 it was announced that the couple would be joining Maurice E. Bandman for a tour of India, but an offer from African Theatres to make him a producer persuaded him to stay on. During this time he also acted in his only film, starring opposite Madge Fabian in Fallen Leaves (1919), directed by Dick Cruikshanks. Finally, in May 1920, he and Rita sailed for Australia under contract to J. & N. Tait Ltd and he made his first appearance in Sydney in the very popular musical Irene.

In 1921 he resumed his theatrical career in England, but made one more visit to South Africa, appearing in a command performance of the musical Sally (1925) at the Empire Theatre for the Prince of Wales (King Edward VIII) when he visited the country. Thomas and Rita were divorced in New South Wales in 1939, with he returning to England and she remaining in Australia, where she enjoyed a successful acting career, particularly in the long-running radio show Ada and Elsie, which was on the air from 1941 to 1954. As Rita Pauncefort she also acted in a number of films. In later years offers from producers became and fewer and fewer, and in December 1949 Thomas Pauncefort applied for a job in the Civil Service. He is said to have died in 1963. (FO)

Stage Appearances

Stage appearances in South Africa include: Tonight’s the Night, Betty, The Quaker Girl, The Girl in the Taxi, Mr. Manhattan, The Red Widow, Theodore & Co, So Long, Letty, The Country Girl, The Maid of the Mountains, Princess Caprice, Dick Whittington and his Cat (pantomime), The Pink Lady, High Jinks, Arlette, Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp (pantomime), Follow my Leader, The Bing Boys on Broadway, Bubbly & Babes in the Woods (pantomime).


Stage & Cinema, 13 April 1918

South African Pictorial, 17 April 1920

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