Bert Bailey 1868-1953

Bert Bailey

Bert Bailey

Bert Bailey finally retired in 1940. All those years sporting Dad’s whiskers had made him a wealthy man.

He died at his home at Darlinghurst, Sydney, on 30 March 1953, leaving an estate valued at £32,527.

Bailey and Duggan’s play is still revived. Adapted and directed by George Whaley, it was presented by NIDA at the Jane Street Theatre in 1979 with Don Crosby as Dad and Geoffrey Rush as Dave. Mel Gibson played Sandy, the wooer of Dad’s daughter.

 

Inevitably there were sequels, all starring Bailey and Macdonald. The first, in 1935, was Grandad Rudd. It had a lacklustre British release as Ruling the Roost. Next was Dad and Dave Come to Town in 1938. It was notable for introducing Peter Finch in a small role and for breaking the jinx in Britain where, as The Rudd Family Goes to Town, it was seen in 1800 cinemas – claimed to be a record for an Australian production. Similar British success greeted the last of the series, 1940’s Dad Rudd, M.P. It was Cinesound’s final feature and Bailey’s swansong. By then the characters of Dad and Dave were largely stereotypical caricatures, far removed from Steele Rudd’s brilliant conception. The long-running radio serial, with George Edwards as Dad and John Saul and, later, Patrick Penny, as Dave, took the process a stage further, as did Snake Gully with Dad and Dave, a virtually forgotten 1972 television series in which Gordon Chater played Dad with Garry McDonald as Dave. The somewhat awkward title resulted from a reluctance to acknowledge any obligation to the Davis/Rudd estate.

Bert Bailey finally retired in 1940. All those years sporting Dad’s whiskers had made him a wealthy man. He filled his leisure hours watching cricket, sailing, playing bowls, yarning about old times at the Savage Club on his visits to Melbourne, and frequently reminding anyone who would listen that ‘life is a melodrama’. He died at his home at Darlinghurst, Sydney, on 30 March 1953, leaving an estate valued at £32,527. In contrast, Arthur Hoey Davis, ‘Steele Rudd’, who had created Dad and Dave, had eked out his last years on a tiny pension and had died in poverty.

In 1995, exactly a century after the publication of Steele Rudd’s first ‘selection’ story – and 55 years after Bert Bailey’s last Dad and Dave movie – Anthony Buckley produced Dad and Dave: On Our Selection, an affectionate but ultimately awkward romp in which Leo McKern played Dad, Geoffrey Rush was Dave and Joan Sutherland made her only feature film appearance as Mum. George Whaley directed.

Bailey and Duggan’s play is still revived. Adapted and directed by George Whaley, it was presented by NIDA at the Jane Street Theatre in 1979 with Don Crosby as Dad and Geoffrey Rush as Dave. Mel Gibson played Sandy, the wooer of Dad’s daughter. It played in Brisbane, Perth and Canberra and, in December 1982, packed the Athenaeum in Melbourne, when Graeme Blundell directed it for the Melbourne Theatre Company with Frederick Parslow as Dad and Garry McDonald as Dave. This production was revived at the Arts Centre Playhouse the following year, with Parslow as Dad and Robin Ramsay as Dave. A Victorian country tour followed.

George Whaley recalled an amateur production in country Victoria: ‘Colbinabbin is a very small town – railway station, wheat silos, a pub and a few houses. I have never noticed a hall. The production made a profit of $11,000.’

Bert Bailey’s daughter, Doreen (affectionately known as Weet, Weetie or Tim), had been his constant companion on his tours and film shoots. The Sydney Morning Herald published several of her children’s stories. She died in 1985, having donated a large collection of family papers to the National Library in Canberra.

Frank Van Straten, 2007

Media Gallery

Photograph courtesy of National Library of Australia. an22985237

Biographical references

J. Beresford Fowler: The Green-Eyed Monster, Arthur H. Stockwell, 1968
Eric Irvin: Australian Melodrama, Hale and Iremonger, 1981
Eric Irvin: Dictionary of the Australian Theatre, 1788-1914, Hale and Iremonger, 1985
Helen Musa: ‘Bert Bailey’, in Companion to Theatre in Australia, Currency Press, 1995
Andrew Pike: ‘Bert Bailey’, in Australian Dictionary of Biography, volume 7, Melbourne University Press
Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper: Australian Film, 1900-1977, Oxford University Press, 1980
Hal Porter: Stars of Australian Stage and Screen, Rigby, 1965
Margaret Williams: Australia on the Popular Stage, 1829-1929, Oxford, 1983