Person - Jean Blue

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JEAN IRWIN BLUE (1906 - 1984)

Jean Blue joined the NTL in 1936 and became one of the theatre's most popular and reliable actors over a period of three decades. She looked after the young women who joined the theatre, protecting them from Stage Door Johnnies. As NT President from ca 1942 until at least 1948 (when she was made a Life Member), she was of interest to Security and its successor ASIO. In 1944 Jean was one of only three women (the others were with June Mills and Diana Gould) in a class of 20 studying anti-fascism and public speaking at Marx House. In 1945 as NT President she was fined £5 for holding entertainment in an unlicensed hall after a policeman paid his two shillings "donation" and then confronted her (the City Council was looking for ways to evict the theatre from 167 Castlereagh Street).

Jean's first role was as Edna in Waiting for Lefty in January 1936, followed by Bertha in Paradise Lost the same year. She was reviewed as "outstanding" as Martha Webster in Bury The Dead 1937, played the landlady in several productions of Where's That Bomb?, was in The Sword Sung and Trumpets of Wrath in 1938, played the wife in The Home of the Brave 1938, Theresa Carrar in Senora Carrar's Rifles 1939, was variously reviewed as "lacking vitality" and "restrained and effective" as Connie Boyd in Are You Ready, Comrade? 1939, was in Blood on the Moon 1939, directed and played Belle in the one-act So, It Didn't Work 1939, and in 1940 acted in Renegade, played Mary in Stampede and Bronwen in New Way Wins. Outdoors she participated in The Miners Speak recited in the Domain, and was Granny Herald in Vote "No" , played on the back of a truck. Both these 1938 agit-prop scripts were penned by Betty Roland .

Jean continued her involvement in agit-prop into the 1940s. Mainstage NT roles included the bush-dulled pathetic Mrs Spicer in Lawson 1943, Regina Giddens in The Little Foxes 1944, Mme Jourdain in Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme 1945, the mother in Western Limit 1946, ensemble work in Enemies 1946, a newspaper owner in Woman Bites Dog 1947, crusading reformer Mrs Besant in The Match Girls 1948, the bar owner in The Lion on the Square 1949, and she acted opposite Les Tanner in The Good Hope 1950. After an absence of some years she returned for Johnny Noble 1957, was Mme Pernelle in Tartuffe 1960, reviewed as vocally unsubtle in All My Sons 1960, revived Mrs Spicer for Lawson 1961 and was cast as a chain store rep in Our "Dear" Relations 1963. Her last NT roles were in 1965: A Penny for a Song directed by John Tasker and Come All You Valiant Miners celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Miners' Federation.

Acting work outside NT included JCW’s The Lawsons 1950 adapted as a stage play from Gwen Meredith’s radio serial. On film she was cast as Ma Parsons in The Overlanders 1946 (it made money for Ealing Studios with Chips Rafferty in the lead as a stockman), Ma McGinty in Eureka Stockade 1949 (for Ealing Studios starring Peter Finch with Chips Rafferty as Peter Lalor), Ma King in Bitter Springs 1950 ( with Chips Rafferty, Tommy Trinder, Bud Tingwell plus Michael Pate and Nicky Yardley who’d both acted at NT) and Mrs Ward in Captain Thunderbolt 1953 directed by Cecil Holmes , its cast including Grant Taylor, Jack Fegan, Loretta Boutmy, Pat Hill and Jerry Wells who had all acted at NT.

In 1978 Jean worked in the NT office while Secretary Miriam Hampson took her holidays. In 1979 she was hospitalised after breaking her leg in a motor vehicle accident. Jean Blue left NT a substantial bequest of $43 000 which was used for extensive rebuilding and renovation of the theatre office and backstage. The NT rehearsal room was named in her honour.

Jean Irwin Blue was born into a Presbyterian family at Riverstone NSW to Dr Archibald Irwin Blue and Maude Howard née Hutchins. She and her sister Leila Maud Irwin (1908-81) attended PLC Pymble and were on the committee of its Old Girls’ Union. By 1922 Jean was a pupil of elocution teacher Grace Stafford, playing Kent in extracts from King Lear and by 1929 she was Grace's assistant, participating in verse recitals. She acted in a comedy Her Shop with the Girls’ Secondary School Club at St James Hall in 1929. In 1931 she gave a natural performance as the young wife in A Woman and Reality at the Playbox Theatre directed by Duncan Macdougall, with Colin Jones playing the philanderer. By this time she had letters after her name: ATCL (Associate Trinity College London). In the 1930s she lived on Cleveland Street Redfern. By the 1950s she was at Havenhurst 22 Bellevue Road Bellevue Hill, the site of the family home. From there she moved to Bondi.

Jean's "real" job was as a nursing sister. She was secretary of the Hospitals Comforts Fund and connected with the Sydney District Nursing Association.

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