Person - Cedric Flower

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CEDRIC ARTHUR FLOWER (1920 - 2000)

Described by Ken McCarron as a wolf in queen’s clothing, Cedric was a flamboyant dresser in corduroy trousers, suede shoes and tie-dyed hessian shirts, with a light Public School voice and drifting expressive hands. Despite his “camp” appearance, he had a reputation as a sexual hit with women.

Cedric joined NT in 1943 and until he went overseas in late 1950 acted as the theatre's resident artist, designing sets for the wide shallow stage at 167 Castlereagh Street. His first set design was Lawson. He invited his artist friends Francis Lymburner and Elaine Haxton to the opening night but they hated it, probably, he reasoned, because they were intellectual snobs. He designed graphics for Counter Attack 1943, set and costumes for The Little Foxes 1944 followed by sets for The Eve of St Mark 1944, Tomorrow the World 1944, Decision 1944 (painted by Margaret Olley ), Tartuffe 1945 (assisted by Margaret Olley), Sons of the Morning 1945, They Came to a City 1945, The Bells Are Ringing 1946, Moony’s Kid Don’t Cry 1946, God Bless the Guv’nor 1946, Of Mice and Men 1946, The Shepherd and the Hunter 1947, Welcome Home 1947, Rocket Range 1947, My Life is My Affair 1947, What Happens to Love 1947, Sons of the South 1947, Woman Bites Dog 1947, and Deep Are the Roots 1947. In 1948 he designed the set for The Match Girls, directed The Dangerous Sex and designed its costumes ( set by Les Tanner ), and designed the sets of The Man of Destiny and The Alchemist (Cedric helped with the script and gave a "natural and satisfying performance" as Sir Epicure Mammon). He co-devised and co-directed and acted in the revue Pot of Message 1949, and in 1950 designed another revue Press the Point plus sets for Had We But World Enough, We, the People , An Inspector Calls and Lysistrata. After returning from overseas he designed Tartuffe 1960, A Penny for a Song 1965 and The Alchemist 1982. In 1963 Cedric designed Romeo and Juliet for Sydney University Players directed by Eddie Allison.

Cedric was a gifted performer, a "natural". He ad-libbed his way through Moliere, "milking" the audience as an over-dressed fop in incredible finery: wig, big suit and ridiculous boots.

Born on 22 August 1920 at Neutral Bay, Cedric worked in an aircraft factory after leaving home. He studied life drawing with Dattilo Rubbo and had his first exhibition at the Macquarie Galleries in 1941 followed by a major exhibition in 1943. He worked as an artist on the Daily Telegraph and as a designer for Gertrud Bodenwieser. Whenever he could he escaped to the bush; his parents' dairy farm at Tilba Tilba was the subject of some of his paintings.

For much of the period Cedric designed for NT he was living at The Rocks. Francis Lymburner found him a room on the top floor of "Buggery Barn" with a terrific view of the Quay. Erected in 1841, Buggery Barn was the stone three-storey slate-roofed Ship and Mermaid Inn at 82 Gloucester Street, its original tavern at street level. The haunt of whalers and seamen, Joseph Conrad and Robert Louis Stevenson were said to have stayed there. In the 1930s it was run by Louie Stephens, mother of unemployed Workers Art Club actor Jack Stephens, and WAC squatters moved there when they had to vacate 36 Pitt Street. By the time Cedric moved in, Buggery Barn had a tradition of bed bugs and bohemian inhabitants including the evicted Rosaleen Norton and medical student John Lyall (it took him nine years to get his degree). Sisters Oriel and Grayce Bennett lived there, as did musician Jimmy Somerville 1943-8. Other cheap places to stay in the area were "Venereal Villa" and "Lechery Lodge" (on the corner of Argyle Place and Trinity Lane, later listed by the National Trust). Buggery Barn was demolished in 1948.

During his involvement with NT Cedric worked as a kitchen hand/cook at the Hotel Australia. In the early 1940s he met Margaret Olley and a crop of beautiful talented women who’d studied at East Sydney Tech including the dazzling Yvonne Francart. Both women later designed for NT.

Cedric Flower married Pat née Bullen on 4 March 1949 immediately after her divorce from Bruce Jiffkins. They lived in Europe from 1950 to 1955. In London they met up with George Johnston and Charmian Clift with whom they’d been friendly in Sydney and in 1954 stayed with them on Kalymnos and accompanied them to Hydra where the women had easy access to barbiturates as well as cigarettes and alcohol. The Flowers went overseas again in 1971. Pat Flower suicided in 1977.

On reflection Cedric said it was a grim fact that three talented women -- his wife Pat, Charmian Clift and Cynthia Nolan -- all died untimely and unnatural deaths (by barbiturate overdose). Cedric remarried and settled on the South Coast.

See also Pat Flower.


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