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Dearth, Henry Alan (Harry) (1908–1964)

by Diana R. Combe

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Henry Alan Dearth (1908-1964), by unknown photographer

Henry Alan Dearth (1908-1964), by unknown photographer

Australian War Memorial, 139391

Henry Alan (Harry) Dearth (1908-1964), radio producer, was born on 12 August 1908 at Fulham, London, son of Henry Dearth and his wife Edith Eliza Eleanor, née Bristow, well-known singers. Young Harry attended (1917-23) Cranleigh School, Surrey, passed the Oxford and Cambridge examination, and claimed to have spent six months in the 20th Middlesex (Artists) Rifle Volunteers in London. Reaching Sydney in the Largs Bay on 31 May 1926, sponsored by the Big Brother Movement, he worked as jackeroo on Garangula and Cunningar stations, near Harden, and later at Wingadee, Coonamble. Early in 1929 he sought theatrical work in Sydney. Engaged by J. C. Williamson Ltd, he progressed from the chorus to minor roles in musical comedies, among them Our Miss Gibbs (Melbourne, 1933).

On 15 June 1935 at St Philip's Anglican Church, Sydney, Dearth married a soubrette Mona Potts. He had found a stable position with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Late in 1934 he moved to Macquarie Broadcasting Services Pty Ltd's 2GB as an announcer and 'personality', presenting programmes such as 'Melody and Mirth with Harry Dearth'. Gifted with a 'fine, resonant voice', he took singing lessons to learn correct breathing. He occasionally played supporting roles with the 'BSA Players' (Broadcasting Services Association Pty Ltd) and developed his interest in producing radio drama. In addition, he sometimes took roles under (Dame) Doris Fitton at the Independent Theatre and was later a director of the John Alden Company.

In April 1939 Dearth joined J. Walter Thompson (Australia) Pty Ltd as producer of an Australian version of the popular American programme, 'Lux Radio Theatre', for broadcasting nationally over the Macquarie network. He also produced 'Australia's Amateur Hour'. In December 1941 the company transferred 'Lux Radio Theatre' to station 2UW, owned by M. F. Albert's Commonwealth Broadcasting Corporation Pty Ltd. Dearth continued its production until he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 18 September 1942. He was commissioned on 18 December. As flying-officer (from June 1943) attached to various R.A.A.F. headquarters, he was in charge of an entertainment party which gave performances on the mainland and in operational areas of New Guinea. His appointment terminated on 19 December 1945.

Dearth returned to J. Walter Thompson as producer of the 'Lux Radio Theatre' and remained until the programme ended in 1951. Back at 2GB, he was producer-compere of 'Leave It to the Girls' and the 'General Motors Hour' (1952-54), before moving to 2UW for 'Harry Dearth's Playhouse'. Involved in television as producer of (ultimately disappointing) simulcasts for 2GB/ATN-7, he was appointed production manager at ATN in 1960. He produced and appeared in the television series, 'Jonah' (1962).

Tall, slim and athletic, Dearth loved his golf and belonged to the Lakes club. Ever conscious of his image, he dressed extremely well. He brought showmanship to live radio drama and was reputedly the only producer to leave the panel-operator's booth and 'direct' the cast from centre-stage. He had a great respect for actors—he wished to be one himself—and tried to give them further recognition by introducing a 'curtain call' for live radio productions. While he was overseas in 1963 studying television techniques, his respiratory illness worsened. Survived by his wife, son and daughter, Dearth died of cancer on 7 July 1964 in his home at Cammeray, Sydney, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Kent, Out of the Bakelite Box (Syd, 1990)
  • Wireless Weekly, 10 June 1938, p 33
  • Listener In, 19-25 Jan 1946, p 3, 16-22 Mar 1946, p 3, 6-12 Apr 1946, p 20
  • Herald (Melbourne), 19 Apr 1933
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 4 Sept 1954, 8 July 1964
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 28 July 1957
  • private information.

Citation details

Diana R. Combe, 'Dearth, Henry Alan (Harry) (1908–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/dearth-henry-alan-harry-9934/text17595, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 20 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

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