Australia’s George Wallace

Well now, here is a third famous George Wallace we have to keep straight in our heads, a comedian, yet not the same as the contemporary African-American one, and certainly not the same as the racist Alabama politician, This one (1895-1960) was one of the most popular comedians in Australia in the early 20th century.

Wallace was a second generation performer. His parents appeared in minstrels shows and panto and George appeared onstage with them as early as age three. George became a professional himself at age 16. For a time he was in a two-act called Dinks and Onkus (The Two Drunks) with a gent named Jack “Dinks” Patterson, and then broke off as a solo act, touring the Tivoli and another Australian circuits. Unlike many of his countrymen, Wallace appears never to have sought fame in London, New York, or Hollywood, preferring to be a big fish on a small continent. His many skills (slapstick comedian, songster, sketch writer, etc), assured him constant work. He was often compared to Charlie Chaplin. From vaudeville, he moved to musical revues in the 1920s. In the ’30s he was an Australian film star, until the industry essentially folded, for a time. In the ’40s he was a major Australian radio performer. Television got a much later start in Australia than the US and the UK, else he might have been a major star in that medium as well. In the ’50s, he remained popular on radio and in live theatre, however. His son George Wallace Jr, also became a comedian.

For more on vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic comedy read  Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.