Person - Alan Herbert

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ALAN WARD HERBERT (1913 - 1966)

An electrician by trade, Herbert turned up in the late 1930s at Melbourne New Theatre (MNT) to help backstage and was asked by director Florence English to play a small part in Bury The Dead : “Aw – I’m here to do the lights – I couldn’t act. Besides I’d never remember all those lines”. After remembering his 12 lines other MNT roles followed: Plant in the Sun, Till the Day I Die, Colony, I’d Rather be Left and, in 1941, Showdown directed by Hilda Esson and David Newmark, its cast including Les Foxcroft.

Herbert moved to Sydney where he worked on ABC radio, and acted in and produced plays for the Sydney New Theatre League (NTL). A session on 2KY drama was followed by his direction of a scene from The Mother 1942, and performances in According to Plan 1942, The Little Foxes 1943, Stormtrooper Kraus in The Cave 1943 and 1944, lighting designer on Lawson 1943, the corporal in Counter Attack 1943, Donald Cameron in Pioneers 1944, acted in and designed lights for The Eve of St Mark 1944, was in The Proposal 1944, Decision 1944, a Nazi in Sons of the Morning 1945, intelligently gauche as Jourdain in Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme 1945, the villain in God Bless the Guv’nor 1946, a cynical attorney in Enemies 1946, Yakou in The Shepherd and the Hunter 1947, directed Welcome Home 1947, played the prosecutor in Sons of the South 1947, newspaper baron in Woman Bites Dog 1947, Sganarelle in A Physician in Spite of Himself 1947, co-directed The Match Girls 1948, played George Loveless in Six Men of Dorset 1948, directed Flowers for the Living 1949, and performed in Oriel Gray’s sketch Coal 1949. He took production photos. After rejoining NT in 1965 he acted in A Penny for a Song.

In 1966 Alan Herbert died during the run of Smugglers Beware! which he directed. He saw children’s theatre as important to bring in money and future audiences, and had played Herbert Huggle in the original production. He had problems with the crew, especially stage management, and the cast not picking up cues and entrances.

Herbert was spotted by a talent scout when playing the dignified but honest high school teacher Riggs in NT’s Decision and was given a screen test, landing him the role of Tommy Pethybridge in the film Smithy. Herbert also worked with Rosemary Benjamin’s Children’s Theatre and acted in the Mercury Players’ Diamond Cuts Diamond and The Broken Pitcher with Peter Finch. In 1952 he was one of the Australian actors supporting visiting comedian Tommy Trinder. Herbert played a messenger boy who arrived on stage with a telegram. This was blank except once when the cast decided to write something obscene on it. It was given to Trinder who saw the joke and handed it back: “Here. You read it to the audience!”

In 1956 Channel 7 offered Herbert the new children’s program The Captain Fortune Show which he was reluctant to do because he had to give up his “bread and butter” job on the radio serial The Smokey Dawson Show. As he didn’t drive he moved his family to Carlingford to be close to the Epping studio. Herbert played Captain Fortune until ill health forced him to retire in 1962 when he became a professional photographer.

Alan Herbert married 21-year-old NT member Julie Valma Crabtree in 1949. He died at his Carlingford home in May 1966.

See also Julie Crabtree.



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