Garnet H. Carroll OBE 1902-1964

Garnet H. Carroll

Garnet H. Carroll

In 1938 Carroll provided the expertise for the first major operatic venture of Gertrude Johnson’s budding National Theatre Movement – The Flying Dutchman.

In 1946 they formed another partnership, Carroll-Fuller Theatres Ltd, to purchase the Princess.

In 1950 the Carroll–Fuller partnership restored the Palace in Sydney.

After Sir Ben’s death in 1952, Garnet H. Carroll assumed complete control.

 

During the Depression, Carroll supervised the closure of Fuller’s theatres, but when Sir Ben
rashly decided to return to live production, it was Carroll whom he chose to stage manage his financially disastrous 1934 Grand Opera Season. Carroll’s son, John G.H., was born that year.

Two years later, Fuller and Carroll were partners in Savoy Theatres. Neither put up money: wily Sir Ben realised that his name was enough to get them a bank overdraft, and he was able to find attractions among the many musicals to which he held the rights. They opened at the Apollo Theatre in Melbourne with a jolly George M. Cohan show called Billie, and romped on with revivals of The O’Brien Girl, No, No, Nanette, Lady, Be Good! and Funny Face.

When Francis W. Thring died, Fuller and Carroll took over the lease of the Princess in Melbourne. In 1938 Carroll provided the expertise for the first major operatic venture of Gertrude Johnson’s budding National Theatre Movement – The Flying Dutchman, which played for two nights at the Princess in October 1938. In 1941 Fuller and Carroll formed Gaiety Theatres Ltd, leasing the King’s in Melbourne and using it fitfully for live productions until 1951, often in association with Kenn Brodziak’s Aztec Services.

In 1946 they formed another partnership, Carroll-Fuller Theatres Ltd, to purchase the Princess. They reintroduced live shows there in 1947 with a season of Whitehall productions from the Minerva in Sydney. Carroll made the theatre available for the National Theatre’s ground-breaking annual arts festivals. Inaugurated with a stunningly successful production of Aida in February 1948, these paved the way for today’s Opera Australia and the Australian Ballet. Carroll was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1949.

In 1950 the Carroll–Fuller partnership restored the Palace in Sydney. The following year Carroll, along with Frank Tait and David N. Martin, resurrected the Theatrical Proprietors’ and Entrepreneurs’ Association, as today’s Live Performance Australia was then known.

After Sir Ben’s death in 1952, Garnet H. Carroll assumed complete control. For the following 12 years, often in association with other entrepreneurs, he presented an eclectic array of opera, ballet, musical comedy and drama, though he was constrained by the lack of an interstate circuit. At the Princess in 1954 he hosted the National Theatre Movement’s gala performance of The Tales of Hoffmann for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. 

Carroll’s drama presentations were frequently led by international stars: Jessie Matthews in Larger Than Life (1952), Ralph Richardson, Meriel Forbes, Lewis Casson and Sybil Thorndike in The Sleeping Prince and Separate Tables (1955), Melvyn Douglas in Time Out for Ginger (1955), Robert Morley in Hippo Dancing (1957), Noel Madison in The Diary of Anne Frank, Margaret Rutherford in The Happiest Days of Your Life and Time Remembered (1958), Richard Arlen in Anniversary Waltz (1959), Shirl Conway in Auntie Mame (1959), Michael Pate in The Tunnel of Love (1959), Basil Rathbone in The Marriage-Go-Round (1960), Edward Everett Horton in Nina (1962).

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Biographical references

Ivor Brown: Theatre 1955-56, Max Reinhardt, 1956
Alastair Duncan: Actors Blood
Julie McKinnon: ‘Garnet H. Carroll’, in Australian Dictionary of Biography, volume 13, Melbourne University Press
John West: ‘Garnet H. Carroll’ in Companion to Theatre in Australia,Currency Press, 1995
John West: Theatre in Australia, Cassell, 1978