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Ordell, Talone (Tal) (1880–1948)

by Martha Rutledge

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Talone (Tal) Ordell (1880?-1948), actor and writer, was born probably in Calcutta, India, seventh child of Victorian-born parents William Odell Raymond Buntine, drover, and his wife Susanna, née Mawley, and named William Odell Raymond. The Buntines were pioneers and small landowners in south Gippsland from the early 1840s; 'Mother Buntine', his grandmother, was a bullocky. His father later traded horses to India. Brought up in Gippsland, young Buntine was educated in Melbourne (where his cousin Walter Buntine was a schoolmaster). He became a fine horseman, riding over jumps and at country race meetings.

In Sydney in the late 1890s Buntine studied drawing and painting under J. S. Watkins, and became a friend of Henry Lawson and Will Ogilvie. In June 1901 he made his first stage appearance in a comedy, Nurse, and married an actress Maude Henrietta Edwards on 16 February 1902. About 1905 Buntine became an itinerant bushworker. Returning to the stage, probably as 'Raymond Odell', in 1908-12 he was based in Sydney. In 1913-16, now known as 'Talone Ordell', he played mainly humorous roles in stock melodrama at the Theatre Royal, Brisbane, which staged his play, The Little Home in the Valley, in 1915. Buntine had been rejected by the Australian Imperial Force as medically unfit. For many years he contributed verses, paragraphs and short stories to the Bulletin under such pseudonyms as 'Talord' and 'Tal Ordell'. In 1918 he was described by Zora Cross as a writer of 'excellent verse'.

In 1917-18 Ordell played Dad Hayseed in three films made by Beaumont Smith. From October 1917 he toured with Marie Tempest for a year then appeared in the American Jewish 'Potash and Perlmutter' comedy, Business Before Pleasure, followed by other plays and a Shakespearian season with Allan Wilkie. In 1920-21 Ordell portrayed Dave in Raymond Longford's films, On Our Selection, and its sequel. His screen roles in 1921 included the villain in Silks and Saddles and The Gentleman Bushranger and the hero Bob Brothers in While the Billy Boils. That year he directed his own two-reel comedy, Cows and Cuddles. Between engagements he frequently returned to the bush, always accompanied by his terrier.

Divorced in July 1919, Buntine had married Ethel May Phillips, manageress, on 28 August in Melbourne. He appeared in vaudeville in Brisbane in 1922, copyrighting his own sketches, and achieved great success as Ginger Mick in the Carrolls' stage production of The Sentimental Bloke. His three-act play, Kangaroo Flat, ran for ten weeks in Melbourne from January 1926, failed in Sydney, but then toured. Next year he directed an ebullient children's film, The Kid Stakes, based on the comic strip, Fatty Finn, and featuring his 6-year-old son Robin. Although Ordell toured Australasia in 1930 as the sergeant major and later as the scholarly schoolmaster Osborne in Journey's End and acted in a couple of films in 1932-33, he recognized the decline of theatrical business and by 1934 was established as an Australian Broadcasting Commission storyteller. His instructional chats with Robin soon developed into a children's serial, 'Wattletown', that ran for five years. He wrote and acted in other radio plays and sketches for children, and published a series of stories about 'Vicky'. At Chatswood on 12 October 1938 Buntine, as a widower, married Ivy Lilian Smith, née Dowling, a widow with two children. They lived at Vaucluse. Earlier that year he had moved to 2UE as a story-teller and also produced 'Our Neighbour', based on daily life.

'Long and lean in build, with aquiline features', Buntine was 'a quiet, cultured man fond of intellectual society' and outdoor sports. He loved literature and frequently read Australian books over the air, and continued to paint for pleasure. Buntine died of coronary vascular disease at Waverley on 8 June 1948 and was cremated. His wife and son of his first marriage survived him; Flight Lieutenant Robin Ordell, D.F.C., had been killed over Holland in 1945.

A versatile and experienced character actor and proudly Australian, Ordell was above all a comedian. His popularity blossomed on a wave of enthusiasm for bush characters. Although not conspicuously successful in 1927, The Kid Stakes is now widely regarded as one of the major achievements of Australia's silent cinema.

Select Bibliography

  • L. Braden, Bullockies (Adel, 1969)
  • A. Pike and R. Cooper, Australian Film, 1900-1977 (Melb, 1980)
  • J. Tulloch, Legends on the Screen (Syd, 1981)
  • G. Shirley and B. Adams, Australian Cinema (Syd, 1983)
  • Theatre Magazine, 1 Nov 1915
  • Lone Hand, 1 Apr 1918, p 198
  • Wireless Weekly, 23 Feb 1934, 18 Jan 1935, 14 Oct 1938, 14 Dec 1946
  • London Gazette, 2, 1946, p 1738
  • ABC Weekly, 14 Dec 1946
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 15 June 1901
  • Sporting Globe, 1 Nov 1922
  • Argus (Melbourne), 9 Oct 1922, 11 Jan 1926
  • Copyright Office, Attorney General's Dept, A1336/1, items 10468-9, 13801 (National Archives of Australia)
  • Divorce register, no 359, 1918 (Supreme Court, New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

Martha Rutledge, 'Ordell, Talone (Tal) (1880–1948)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/ordell-talone-tal-7915/text13769, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 23 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

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