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Theatre in the Blood
            The Fuller introduction to the stage
          was itself the stuff of theatre. The story
          goes that John Fuller senior, a printing
          compositor in London with a good, but
          untrained voice and a yearning for a
          life on stage, rescued a drowning man
          from a canal. He was a music teacher
          who gratefully offered Fuller singing
          lessons, which put him on the rungs of
          the vaudeville ladder.
            Fuller arrived in New Zealand in
          1893 with most of his family,
          determined that they would make a
                                             ‘Hilarity without vulgarity’ - Fuller and sons - Ben (left) and John Jnr. (right) flank their
          mark as producers and performers.
                                             father. Source: St James Theatre NZ Souvenir Program 1991.
          Daughter Hetty was a soprano, Lydia
          performed recitations, Walter was a  style and innovative touches such as  The NZ cinemas were sold to the
          solo pianist and accompanist, and  boxes angled to give the best possible  Kerridge chain in 1945. Co-director
          youngest son John later trained as a  view of the stage.             Garnet H. Carroll carried the Fuller
          projectionist. Benjamin was still in  Sir Benjamin (he was knighted in  torch for live theatre into the sixties. Sir
          England. Apprenticed at age nine to the  1921 for services to the theatre, the war  Benjamin died on a ‘working holiday’
          Young Doyley Opera Company, he had  effort and Sydney University) wanted  in London in 1952 at the age of 77. In
          a fine voice and was gifted with perfect  to rename the Princess the St James.  semi-retirement, he loved nothing better
          pitch.                            His fondness for this name was thought  than scouting for possible shows. John
            Benjamin joined his family in   to relate to memories of London’s St  died in 1959 at the age of 80.  ★
          Auckland in 1894 and within four years  James theatre.
          was in charge of the family enterprise.  The conversion of the cinemas to
                                                                               Theatre In Australia  John West Cassell
          His father was content to sing and let  sound was a financial strain from which
                                                                               Aust. 1978
          his son manage the shows.         the company never really recovered. A
                                                                               Cinemas of Auckland  B.W Hayward
            The Fuller’s first link to Melbourne  quote attributed to Sir Benjamin, “I  and S.P. Hayward. Lodestar Press
          came in 1900 when the company     don’t have to put up with          Auckland 1979.
          brought to NZ the figures from the  temperamental actors any more. Now  Curtain Call  Nancye Bridges. Cassell
          Waxworks, Bourke Street and used  they deliver them in a tin every   Aust. Ltd 1980
          them as prelude to a night of theatre.  Saturday”, was more a joke than an  When Vaudeville was King  Charles
          First came an inspection of the figures  indication of his true feelings, because  Norman. Spectrum Publications Melb.
          – royalty, celebrities, the notorious and  he continued to put money into live  1984
          the chamber of horrors - while Punch  shows. His sponsorship of the  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
          and Judy acted out their domestic  financially disastrous Opera season of  Fred Page conducted the reference
          drama in the background. Then came  1934 was a gesture to Melbourne in its  search.
          the stage show - ballads, comic songs,  Centenary year.
          impersonations and humorous
          dialogues. The Auckland Observer
          wrote of this show: ‘When it is over,
          the one thing you reflect on is how Mr.
          Fuller can, for the charge of a sixpence
          give you so much that is good.’ Their
          unofficial slogan was ‘hilarity without
          vulgarity,’ a policy that was to help
          build a theatre empire.
            By 1908 Fullers Ltd. were
          proprietors of a chain of quality
          vaudeville theatres. The Fuller-
          Hayward Theatre Corporation grew to
          63 cinemas in NZ.
            The brothers’s contribution to
          theatre design was their support for
          Dunedin-born architect Henry White.
          White’s re-modelling of the Princess
          and the Palace (Melbourne 1921-22)
          and the new St James (Sydney 1926)
          demonstrated his flair for the Adam
                                             The Princess, south wall. The scroll words read, United We Stand – Dieu Et Mon Droit –
                                             Advance Australia.

          12  2004 CINEMARECORD
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