Person - Jack Fegan

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JOHN JOSEPH FEGAN (1908 - 1981)

Jack Fegan had joined the WAC Players by January 1936 when he acted in Waiting for Lefty. This was followed by a Stormtrooper in Till the Day I Die 1936, Paradise Lost 1936, the First Corpse in Bury The Dead 1937 (his flexible voice suggested the occupancy of two worlds), Transit 1938, Blood on the Moon 1939, Joe the mechanic in They Came to a City 1945, and The Shepherd and the Hunter 1947. Although the show was panned, Fegan was praised as the lead in The Governor of the Province 1948 (one night he put his lit cigarette into his pocket, almost setting fire to his uniform). His next NT role was in Juno and the Paycock 1949. In 1953 he acted in The Traveller directed by Jock Levy for the Maritime Industries Theatre at Wollongong, its other cast Ken Warren, Pat Hill, Paul Williams, Paul Herlinger and Evelyn Docker . In 1959 Fegan was reviewed as terrific as the “tough but complex” warder Reagan in The Quare Fellow. By then, with consistently good crits, he had an agent (Telecast).

Fegan was 6ft 1” tall (his father had been 6’5”), a good conversationalist who enjoyed a beer, his hobbies chess and reading. Oriel Gray described him as “dependable and difficult”; another NT member said she never saw him smile once. It was Fegan who took the lead when police raided the Savoy Theatre in 1936, stepping on stage and addressing the Till the Day I Die audience. During rehearsals for Aristocrats 1938 he threatened to punch one of its two gay designers, after which both walked out in a huff. Fegan would immediately respond to calls for help when people were being evicted.

Fegan had a string of professional roles in films where he could demonstrate his horsemanship: The Overlanders, Sons of Matthew, The Kangaroo Kid, Kangaroo, Captain Thunderbolt (directed by Cecil Holmes with other NT actors Grant Taylor, Jean Blue, Loretta Boutmy, Pat Hill and Jerry Wells ), Smiley, Smiley Gets a Gun, The Siege of Pinchgut and The Sundowners. Professional theatre included Love Me Sailor and The Philadelphia Story. Fegan's performance as Tiresias was praised in John Tasker's 1960 production of Oedipus Rex at the Cell Block Theatre. He also worked freelance on radio. He kept his Irish accent.

Fegan's big break came as the head of the police squad in the TV series Homicide, retiring in 1969. Often mistaken for the real thing, he was invited to a policemen’s ball. He was cast in other police dramas and once felled Frank Packer, crushing his hearing aid, when Packer was demonstrating a headlock on him. Packer demanded he be fired on the spot. Told that Fegan was a guest artist, Packer responded: “Well, sack him when he’s finished”.

Born in Belfast on 18 July 1908, Fegan hated England and was put on a boat by the IRA and in 1927 arrived in Perth where he joined the CPA. He was further radicalised by the Depression when he jumped ships and trains over four States, and worked as a railway navvy, boilermaker, carpenter, salesman and quarryman. By 1930 he had settled in Sydney where he became an experienced boxer and shoplifter, considering himself a wharf labourer rather than an actor. During the Second World War he signed up after the Japanese attack on Darwin, and served in the AIF for four years.

Fegan, who married twice, died of lung cancer on 9 April 1981. He has a Wikipedia entry.


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