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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hugh Joseph Ward (24 June 1871 – 21 April 1941) was an American-born stage actor who had a substantial career in Australia as comic actor, dancer, manager and theatrical impresario.

History

Ward was born in Philadelphia in 1871, and arrived in Australia as an actor, first appearing in June 1899 at Her Majesty's Theatre, Sydney in the Hoyt – McKee company's production of A Stranger in New York, which toured extensively throughout Australia to rave reviews. The company returned to America after playing New Zealand in February 1900, all except Ward, who had been offered a contract by J. C. Williamson. He visited London in 1903, playing at Drury Lane with the Arthur Collins company, played at New York for the notorious Klaw and Erlanger, then returned to Australia in 1906. He produced a number of plays for George Willoughby.[1] In 1909 he formed a company of his own, which toured India, Burma and China for Allan Hamilton and, reportedly, displayed a gift for publicity stunts by faking the abduction of a princess,[2] before returning to Australia, where he is made his "last appearance on stage" on 4 March 1910, in a revival of The Man from Mexico, though Melba-like, he made another farewell appearance in The Girl from Rector's in Brisbane in March 1911.[3]

He joined "The Firm" of J. C. Williamson in 1908, for whom he worked with considerable success as a managing director. On the death of Williamson in July 1913 he became chairman of directors. He announced his resignation in March 1922 to form his own management business, Hugh J. Ward Theatres. Ltd., in association with the Fuller brothers.

He was a notable fundraiser for patriotic causes during the First World War, and in recognition of his aid to Belgium he was made Knight of the Order of Leopold II. He became a naturalised Australian in 1922,[4] and his obituaries report him as receiving an OBE, though he had hoped for a knighthood,[2] but this is hard to verify and must surely be fictitious. He retired from the theatre in September 1926, but maintained a high public profile until shortly before his death of heart failure in 1941.

He was notable as an organizer of activities in conjunction with the Sydney sesquicentenary celebrations in 1938.

Tributes

Ward was a blue-eyed handsome, benevolent, outgoing fellow, a raconteur with a ready wit, who could entertain his friends for hours with anecdotes of the stage and performers.

On his death E. J. Tait, managing director of J. C. Williamson, Ltd., paid tribute to him as "... 100 per cent, in earnest all through his career, and never appeared in a "flop", except The Emerald Isle .... The longer I knew him, the more I admired his strength and great will-power. The theatre will sadly miss him." John Fuller said of Ward "... he was a gentleman in every respect, and a noteworthy judge of things theatrical. He had associated himself with everything that was cultural and beautiful in the life of this country. He had been a great and noble citizen."

The theatre critic of the Sydney Morning Herald, calling him a "picturesque theatrical personality" praised his public-spiritedness and dedication to his craft.[5]

Performances

He was a clever and agile dancer, described as an early Fred Astaire. His "Scarecrow Dance" (perhaps invented by Johnny Coleman)[2] received favorable reviews in New York and London, as well as in Sydney.[5] Though appearing in many musicals, critics never mentioned his singing ability, though he must have been an adequate basso as he played in at least one Gilbert and Sullivan opera. Grace Palotta (1870 – 21 February 1959) was the leading lady in most of these productions.

He achieved great success in a wide variety of comic characters:

Other performances may have included (no dates found):[8][9]

Other interests

Ward was a foundation member of the Millions Club on Rowe Street, Sydney and a member of the Lambs Club of New York (satirised as "actors trying to be gentlemen"). He was a regular movie-goer, an aficionado of Grand Opera and ballet, and of course the theatre, for which he maintained a lifelong interest.

He was a director of the Sydney Hospital and a generous contributor to worthy causes.

Family

He married (Mary) Grace Miller ( – ) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on 30 June 1897;[4] they had two sons:

  • Hugh F. Ward (c. 21 January 1901[10] – 1955)
  • Melbourne "Mel" Ward (1903 – 6 October 1966) married Halley Kate Foster on 27 October 1931. Mel was a noted naturalist.[11]

They had a home at Potts Point, Sydney. Grace Miller (as she was professionally known) was fine soprano and a successful singing teacher whose pupils included Gladys Moncrieff, Dorothy Brunton, Gracie Lavers, Cecil Bradley, Gladys Cole and Bessie Storey.

Archive

The State Library of New South Wales has a collection of Ward artefacts. See Ward family papers 1831–1983

References

  1. ^ "Mr. Hugh J. Ward Dead". The Sydney Morning Herald. 22 April 1941. p. 11. Retrieved 30 December 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  2. ^ a b c "This Comedian Was No Pessimist". The Sunday Herald. Sydney. 28 December 1952. p. 10. Retrieved 31 December 2015 – via National Library of Australia. A lively read, but a dubious source of information.
  3. ^ "A Theatrical Farewell". The Brisbane Courier. 6 March 1911. p. 6. Retrieved 31 December 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  4. ^ a b Martha Rutledge, 'Ward, Hugh Joseph (1871–1941)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 31 December 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Music and Drama". The Sydney Morning Herald. 26 April 1941. p. 8. Retrieved 30 December 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ "Last Night's Amusements". The Sunday Times. Sydney. 18 June 1899. p. 2. Retrieved 30 December 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ "Advertising". Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate. 26 June 1911. p. 8. Retrieved 31 December 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ ""The Man From Mexico"". The Advertiser. Adelaide. 7 August 1906. p. 5. Retrieved 31 December 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  9. ^ "Music and Drama". The Mercury. Hobart, Tas. 14 March 1922. p. 3. Retrieved 31 December 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  10. ^ "Coming-of-Age Party". The Sunday Times. Sydney. 22 January 1922. p. 5. Retrieved 31 December 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ Martha Rutledge, 'Ward, Charles Melbourne (1903–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 31 December 2015.
This page was last edited on 10 December 2020, at 15:38
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