Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Edwards, George (1886–1953)

by Coral Lansbury

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

George Edwards (1886-1953), pioneer of the radio serial in Australia, was born Harold Parks on 11 March 1886 at Kent Town, South Australia, elder son of Lewis Arthur Parks, grocer's assistant and later manager of Crawford Co., Adelaide, and his wife Sarah Jane, née Turbill. After leaving North Norwood Public School at 11, Hal worked as an office boy with D. & J. Fowler, wholesale grocers and importers, and later with Wood, Son & Co. He joined the Appendrena Club of Dramatic Players; a talented mimic, he also performed comic duets with his brother Albert Lewis (Lew). In later years he recalled that a stutter, which vanished when performing, had been alleviated by Lionel Logue. The stammer was a reality, but the association with Logue, who had assisted King George VI with his speech, was a fiction, although Logue did come from Kent Town. At 18 Parks left for England, returning after three years to musical comedy with J. C. Williamson Ltd at the Princess Theatre, Melbourne. On 6 August 1907 he married Margaret Rose Wilson with Congregational forms; they had one daughter.

Hal became an acrobatic dancer and patter artist in vaudeville and costume farce. He toured Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America and, during World War I, South Africa, but never achieved major success. On 9 May 1925 he married Mollie Hughes in Sydney, and in 1929 was a featured entertainer on the Sydney Show Boat. By this time vaudeville was dying and in 1927-31 he made a number of short films including The Haunted Barn (1931). He also acted as a theatrical agent with his brother.

In 1931, encouraged by Lew, Parks moved into radio, doing comedy sketches for the Australian Broadcasting Company, sometime in partnership with his daughter Chandra. He changed his name to George Edwards, not bothering to dispel popular confusion with the celebrated George Edwards, London theatrical entrepreneur. In October to December 1931 he broadcast with the A.B.C. Light Opera Co.; in December he and Chandra were among the A.B.C. Players whose repertoire included The Ghost Train, often cited as the play which drew public attention to Edwards. Early in 1932 he had a new partner for his comedy routines, a young soubrette, Helen Dorothy Malmgrom, who had worked with him on the Show Boat and who now took the name Nell Stirling. Early in 1933 George moved to the commercial radio station 2UE, and in May George, Nell and an enthusiastic writer, Maurice Francis, went to 2GB as the nucleus of the George Edwards Players, masters of the melodramatic and comic serial.

To save money Edwards played a variety of roles—and became known as 'The Man with a Thousand Voices'. It was a ventriloquial gift that encompassed small children, every variety of male voice, aged women and foreigners. The maximum number of voices Edwards produced for a single scene was six; in the course of a single episode he would often double it. By 1936 when he moved to 2UW Edwards led the list of the ten favourite Sydney radio personalities. Beginning at breakfast with Darby and Joan, George Edwards Productions, whose scripts Maurice Francis wrote with extraordinary rapidity, would see the night out with Famous Trials. In between were historical dramas, detective thrillers and children's serials ranging from Inspector Scott of Scotland Yard to the popular Dad and Dave, begun in May 1937. Edwards's last radio serial, in 1953, was Ralph Rashleigh. At first performed live, the serials were later recorded without rehearsal under the Columbia imprint and sold throughout Australia and New Zealand.

George divorced his second wife in 1933 and married Nell on 29 March 1934 at St David's Presbyterian Church, Haberfield; many pieces of hand-knitted baby clothes were received through the mail when their daughter was born in 1942. The radio programmes netted them a large fortune, embodied in their luxury apartment house, Darjoa (short for Darby and Joan) at Point Piper, but much of his wealth was lost by George to horse-racing, alcohol and night club ventures. The Edwardses were divorced in 1948. Nell remarried next year and on 20 February 1953 George married Coral Lansbury. Edwards died of liver disease on 28 August, shortly after the sudden death of Nell; he was cremated. His estate was valued for probate at £32 766.

Select Bibliography

  • R. R. Walker, The Magic Spark (Melb, 1973)
  • A. Pike and R. F. Cooper, Australian Film 1900-1977 (Melb, 1980)
  • Wireless Weekly, 24 Apr, 9, 23 Oct, 6, 20, 27 Nov, 4 Dec 1931, 29 Jan, 12 Feb 1932, 5 May 1933, 20 Apr 1934, 4 Oct 1935
  • 10 Jan 1936, 29 Jan 1937, 29 Apr, 6, 13, 20, 27 May 1938
  • Radio Pictorial, 1 July 1935
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 29 Aug 1953
  • Bulletin, 22 July 1980.

Citation details

Coral Lansbury, 'Edwards, George (1886–1953)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/edwards-george-6093/text10439, published in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 19 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014