(b. **/**/**** - d. **/**/****). British-born actress, resident in Australia. Known both as a vaudeville performer and a dramatic actress, Hilda Attenboro (sometimes Attenborough) made some of her earliest appearances on the London stage in Sapho (1912) and The Woman Conquers (1913). In 1914 she was part of a theatrical company that came to South Africa and performed at the time that martial law was proclaimed in Johannesburg in response to the great strike. It was during this time that she met another visiting British actor, Dan Thomas, a noted pantomime dame. In September 1914 Thomas moved on to Australia and by the following year Attenboro was in Melbourne to act in Mary Latimer -Nun for the George Marlow Company, her first appearance in Australia. 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. Apparently Attenboro and Thomas had been living together as husband and wife and were reported to have had a child together.
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. This was followed by plays such as Damaged Goods, Daddy Long-Legs, Turn to the Right and Nothing But the Truth, all but the first for the visiting American Dramatic Company. Following the arrival of Marie Tempest, she joined her touring company for Good Gracious, Annabelle!, The Marriage of Kitty, Penelope, The Duke of Killicrankie and Parlour, Bedroom and Bath, all in 1918/1919 at His Majesty’s Theatre in Johannesburg. By this time the South African newspapers referred to her as Mrs. Dan Thomas. It was also during this time that she acted in three films for African Film Productions, namely Bond and Word (Dick Cruikshanks/1918), The Voice of the Waters (Joseph Albrecht) and The Bridge (Dick Cruikshanks/1918).
In 1910, the British comedian Claude Dampier and his wife, Irene Vere, left for Australia 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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