Hugh D. McIntosh 1876-1942

Hugh McIntosh

Hugh D. McIntosh

In 1929 his finances collapsed and he rushed home to face charges for, amongst other things, unpaid tax.

In 1930 Truth published a long, detailed expose of McIntosh’s life and loves.

He established a highly publicised chain of ‘Black and White’ milk bars, the first in the UK.

Aged 66, ‘Huge Deal’ McIntosh died in a London hospital on 2 February 1942.

 

Back in Australia, McIntosh tried to defend the local film industry from American influences.
His 1927 London production of the lurid melodrama The Climax, starring the vivacious Australian Dorothy Brunton, was a flop. He stood unsuccessfully for a seat in the British parliament. In 1929 his finances collapsed and he rushed home to face charges for, amongst other things, unpaid tax. He was forced to sell his Bellevue Hill mansion and The Sunday Times.

The sublessees of his Australian theatres were also severely affected by the Depression and the introduction of talkies, and ceased production. McIntosh bought the freehold of the Sydney Tivoli, hoping to sell it for redevelopment. He resumed production at the Melbourne Tivoli, where his stars included Joe Lawman (Toni Lamond’s father), Roy Rene ‘Mo’ and young Robert Helpmann, and he made lavish on-stage presentations to celebrities such as Don Bradman and Nellie Stewart. To keep his theatre open he bought cheap shows from the failed Sydney entrepreneur and ‘colourful racing identity’ Rufe Naylor, whose huge Empire Theatre was also in trouble.

In 1930 Truth published a long, detailed expose of McIntosh’s life and loves. Virtually broke, he moved from a luxury apartment at the Astor in Macquarie Street to a villa near Centennial Park. He and his wife sold cakes in a shop on the Tivoli site. Amid sensational disclosures of extravagance and doubtful business dealings, he was declared bankrupt and forced to surrender his seat in the NSW Upper House. He returned briefly to boxing promotion, fostering young fighter Ambrose Palmer, later Johnny Famechon’s trainer. He staged a racially charged bout between Fred Henneberry and the tragic Aboriginal boxer Ron Richards. After the death of entrepreneur and jeweller Stuart Dawson, McIntosh managed Dawson’s Blue Mountains home, ‘Bon Accord’, as a guest house. His neighbour was his old friend Norman Lindsay.

In 1934 McIntosh and his wife travelled third class to London, where was reunited with Vera Pearce, who had become a big West End star. He established a highly publicised chain of ‘Black and White’ milk bars, the first in the UK. In 1936 he was involved in yet another scandal, this time involving the highly publicised theft of a trawler called Girl Pat. At the end of 1938, the milk bar enterprise collapsed. McIntosh lived modestly at Maidenhead and tried unsuccessfully to recoup his losses in a lumber business.

Aged 66, ‘Huge Deal’ McIntosh died in a London hospital on 2 February 1942. His friends clubbed together to pay for his cremation.

Frank Van Straten, 2007

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Biographical references

Chris Cuneen: ‘Hugh Donald McIntosh’, in Australian Dictionary of Biography, volume 10, Melbourne University Press
John Hetherington: Australians – Nine Profiles, F.W. Cheshire, 1960
Nellie Stewart: My Life’s Story, John Sands Ltd, 1923
Frank Van Straten: Huge Deal – The Fortunes and Follies of Hugh D. McIntosh, Lothian Books, 2004
Frank Van Straten: ‘Hugh D. McIntosh’, in Companion to Theatre in Australia, Currency Press, 1995