Hilda Attenboro

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(b.**/**/**** - d. **/**/****). British-born actress, resident in Australia. Known both as a vaudeville performer and a dramatic actress, Hilda Attenboro (sometimes Attenborough) seems to have made one of her earliest stage appearances in Johannesburg. She was performing there during the great strike of 1912 and it was during this time that she may have met another visiting British actor, Dan Thomas, a noted pantomime dame. In 1914 Thomas moved on to Australia and by September 1915 Attenboro was in Australia to act in Mary Latimer – Nun for the George Marlow Company, her first appearance in that country. While there she was named as “the other woman” in a 1916 court case in which Daisy Yates, the wife of Dan Thomas, sued her husband for divorce. Attenboro and Thomas had been living together as husband and wife and there seems to have been a baby. In 1917 Thomas returned to South Africa and in October of that year he and Attenboro appeared in the revue S'Nice at the Empire Theatre. In 1918 Ms. Attenboro performed with the touring company of Marie Tempest, appearing with Tempest, Harcourt Collett and Dick Cruikshanks in Good Gracious, Annabelle; with Edward Donnelly, Florence Roberts, Richard Scott and Cecil Kellaway in Nothing but the Truth at His Majesty’s Theatre; and, in 1919, also at His Majesty's, in Palace, Bedroom and Bath, with Roberts, Collett, Edith Cartwright, Elise Hamilton and Moss Siegenberg. It was also during this time that she acted in three films for African Film Productions: Bond and Word (Dick Cruikshanks/1918), The Voice of the Waters (Joseph Albrecht/1918) and The Bridge (Dick Cruikshanks/1918).

The British comedian Claude Dampier and his wife, Irene Vere, departed for Australia in 1910 and, in 1917, embarked upon an extended tour of South Africa that was to last up to October 1921. When he returned to Australia he was accompanied by Hilda Attenboro and there was some speculation that Ms. Attenboro was Dampier’s second wife as together they toured the vaudeville circuit in Australia and New Zealand. They were a most popular duo and the local critics used adjectives such as “clever”, “charming”, “beautiful”, “vivacious” , “piquant” and, on one occasion, “plumply graceful” to describe her qualities. The Vice-Regals (1922) was especially popular, as was the film The Adventures of Algy (1925), which starred Dampier and was directed by Beaumont Smith. The following year she took the title role in the play Our Liz at the Grand Opera House in Sydney. However, by that time Dampier had established a new partnership with comedienne Billy Carlyle and Ms. Attenborough joined first Stuart Mack’s Dramatic Players and then the Frank Neil Comedy Company. For the latter she acted in such plays as Meet the Wife, Ladies’ Night in a Turkish Bath, The Unkissed Bride and The Best People. In 1935 a vaudeville programme called Quick Fire on national radio featured Attenboro and her Professional Idiot and as Claude Dampier used to bill himself as such, it is reasonable to assume that the Attenboro in question was, in fact, Hilda. (Incidentally, another ex-South African resident, Grafton Williams, acted with Dampier in Hullo Marmaduke (1924), to which The Adventures of Algy was an unofficial sequel.) (FO)


New Zealand Herald, 16 October 1915

NZ Truth, 7 October 1916

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