Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Tauchert, Arthur Michael (1877–1933)

by John Ritchie

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Arthur Michael Tauchert (1877-1933), vaudevillian and film actor, was born on 21 August 1877 at Waterloo, Sydney, seventh child of German-born Frederick William Tauchert, cabby, and his Irish wife Nora, née McNamara. Educated at Crown Street Public School and the Sacred Heart School, Darlinghurst, he found intermittent employment in nondescript jobs before serving an apprenticeship to Woods & Spinks, carriagebuilders. Arthur's flair for entertaining led him from South Sydney 'smokos' to one-night engagements as a parody singer with Bert Howard's and Harry Rickards's vaudeville circuits. He then joined Harry Clay's troupe as a funny man in minstrel items. Billed as a 'live wire' comedian, he appeared in Sydney and Melbourne with James Brennan's National Vaudeville Entertainers. On 14 September 1909 at St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney, Tauchert married Elizabeth (Lizzie) Le Bean, a signwriter's daughter: she was aged 22, Arthur declared himself to be 28. He toured Australasia with the Brennan-Fuller circuit, bringing his humorous patter to a wider public; by 1913 he was with J. C. Bain's Vaudeville Entertainers; he later took his brother-in-law Jack Kearns as a partner.

In 1918 Raymond Longford won the backing of Southern Cross Feature Film Co. Ltd for a screen adaptation of C. J. Dennis's The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke (1915). Deciding to turn 'Bill' into a larrikin from Woolloomooloo, Longford and Lottie Lyell met Tauchert and found their 'Bloke'. The film was released next year. It was a masterpiece. Distributed in Australia and Britain by E. J. and Dan Carroll, it proved an instant, popular and critical success. Tauchert's star reached its zenith. He was engaged to make personal appearances and to recite verses before screenings of the film. In 1920-28 he went on to play major roles in Longford's and Lyell's Ginger Mick (with his son Jack as young 'Bill') and The Dinkum Bloke, in Beaumont Smith's The Digger Earl and Joe, and in Arthur Higgins's Odds On; he took lesser parts in films directed by Wilfred Lucas, Charles Chauvel and Norman Dawn. Tauchert also did fund-raisers for charitable and religious bodies, and coached children for school concerts.

With the advent of 'talkies', he starred as 'Roughie' in Fellers (1930) and as 'Hap' in Showgirl's Luck (1931). The collapse of local film production due to the Depression and to the block-booking system adopted by American-dominated theatre chains obliged Tauchert to turn to radio: he gave recitations from The Sentimental Bloke and crooned comic lyrics. Illness halted his new career. He was admitted to the Sacred Heart Hospice, Darlinghurst, and died of cancer on 27 November 1933. Survived by his wife, two sons and daughter, he was buried with Anglican rites in the Catholic section of Waverley cemetery.

Tauchert's reputation rested on his 'Bloke'. While age and podginess did little to enhance his resemblance to the larrikin, he won the affection of film-goers and of Dennis who was 'more than pleased' with the portrayal of 'Bill'. The key to Arthur's success lay in the plainness of his performance, and in its blend of sentiment and satire. Rough-hewn but romantic, able to cope with life's ups and downs, he was very much the character he acted.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Pike and R. Cooper, Australian Film, 1900-1977 (Melb, 1980)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 22 June, 21 Sept 1907, 15, 17 Mar 1913, 28 Nov 1933
  • Argus (Melbourne), 9 Nov 1907, 25 July, 1 Aug 1908
  • Rugby League News, 8 May 1920
  • Herald (Melbourne), 27 Nov 1933
  • Australian Worker, 6 Dec 1933
  • C. J. Dennis to A. Tauchert, 13 Sept 1919 (copy on ADB file)
  • private information.

Citation details

John Ritchie, 'Tauchert, Arthur Michael (1877–1933)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/tauchert-arthur-michael-8751/text15331, published in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 24 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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