Michael McNeile

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Michael McNeile (1916 – 1983) was a British-born writer, actor and theatrical producer.


Michael Arthur Malcolm McNeile was born in Taplow, Buckinghamshire on 25 November 1916 to Herman Cyril McNeile and his wife, Violet Baird Douglas. His father was the popular writer Sapper and the creator of the character of Bulldog Drummond, who featured on stage, in books, comics, films, radio and later on television. He was educated at Cheltenham College and was acting with the Bristol Repertory Company when he was seen by the producers of Bulldog Drummond Hits Out, a play started by his father and completed by Gerald Fairlie. It enabled him to make his first West End appearance in December 1937 and after a short run at the Savoy Theatre it went on tour throughout Great Britain. It was the beginning of a successful stage career, which included such plays as Good-bye, Mr. Chips, No Medals and Dear Murderer. He also wrote a play himself. The Way Out was first produced at the Little Theatre in Bristol. In England he had a role in Journey Together (1945), a film by John and Roy Boulting in which everyone was uncredited.

In 1939 he married Pamela Joan Calthorp and 1950 the couple came to South Africa, settling in Durban. There he founded the Intimate Theatre Company. Leading players included John Hussey, Norman Coombes, Joan Brickhill, Helen Braithwaite and Maureen Adair. In 1954 he moved to Johannesburg and became known as the writer of a series of radio programmes entitled This Africa of Ours, which ran for two years. For a while he also took over the management of the Windmill Theatre in Bree Street, staging such plays as High Temperature and It’s a Girl, both in 1956. In addition he acted he acted in Werner Grünbauer’s film Paul Krüger (1956), in which he played Dr. Jameson.

In 1957, following a heart attack, he was forced to relinquish his involvement in the theatrical world and concentrated on his writing. He turned the stories that featured in his radio programme into two books – True Stories of This Africa of Ours (1957) and More True Stories from This Africa (1958) – and then wrote Africa: Slumbering Giant? (1959). He supplied the story of David Millin’s first feature, Donker Afrika (1957), starring Al Debbo, and Millin also used his story Female of the Species as an episode in The Brave! The Rough! The Raw! (1972). He died on 7 October 1983.

Actor (Theatre)

1954 – Tea and Sympathy (Director: Taubie Kushlick), 1955 – Book of the Month (Director: Anthony Farmer).

Actor (Films)

1945 – Journey Together (Directors: John & Roy Boulting), 1956 – Paul Krüger (Director: Werner Grünbauer), 1956 – Where Are You Driving, Mrs. Dean? (television episode) (Director: Alf Kjellin), 1958 – Diamond Safari (Director: Gerald Mayer).


Rand Daily Mail (various issues)

Sunday Times (various issues)


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