Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Vaude, Charlie (1882–1942)

by David Dunstan

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

Charlie Vaude (1882?-1942), comedian and radio personality, was born probably on 9 June 1882 in London, son of Charles John Ridgway, printer, and his wife Mary, née McCarthy. Named Charles Joseph, he was reared and educated 'within the sound of Bow-bells'. In his youth he frequented music-halls and learned to imitate the patter and songs of such comedians as George Robey and Wilkie Bard. Because his family opposed a stage career, Charles became an errand-boy and later a carpenter's apprentice. Keen to be free of his indentures, he lied about his age and enlisted at Guildford, eventually joining the Royal West Surrey Regimental Band and playing at Edward VII's coronation.

About 1902 Ridgway migrated with his family to Australia. During two years as a casual labourer in Western Australia he pursued his interest in the stage, but found Perth a theatrical 'graveyard'. Seeking backing for his pierrot show, he went to Adelaide and obtained an engagement at Broken Hill where he met Bill Bartington. Ridgway adopted the name 'Charlie Vaude' and, with Bartington, formed the team of 'Vaude and Verne' in a double act which they took to Melbourne and to New Zealand for (Sir) Benjamin Fuller.

Before long 'Vaude and Verne' appeared at Harry Rickards's Opera House in Melbourne. On the Tivoli circuit their act consisted of quick-fire patter, topical gags and songs, with Vaude ad-libbing on prominent personalities. From 1911 they worked for Hugh D. McIntosh. While on tour in North Queensland after World War I under Birch, Carroll & Coyle Ltd, Vaude leased a Rockhampton theatre and formed his own company. When his lease expired he traversed Queensland as far west as Longreach. By then, his type of live theatre was in decline.

In 1930 Vaude was hired by 3DB as an experiment to 'pep-up' its radio advertising. He soon proved his worth during the station's night broadcasts of the 1930 Test cricket matches in England. With a new straight man, the portly Renn Millar, Charlie provided gags and songs to keep the audience amused while the experts deciphered the vital information from cables. The programme resumed in 1934 and in 1938. Other triumphs followed, among them the 'Smile Away Club' which in 1937 boasted 37,000 members, including Prime Minister Lyons and his wife. Charlie joked and sang on 3DB's C. & G. Minstrel Show, hosted community singing and tours of country towns, and acted as the ratbag professor of Bonehead College. He was a mainstay of 3DB's charity effort. His name was a household word and his humour was always clean.

Ridgway was married twice: on 25 September 1911 at St Jude's Anglican Church, Carlton, to 17-year-old Lilias May Roots (d.1931), an actress, and on 5 October 1935 at Northcote with Presbyterian forms to Leila Halliday Sach, a dancer. He died of cancer on 29 October 1942 at his Northcote home and was buried in Melbourne general cemetery. His wife and the son of his first marriage survived him. Gregarious, talkative and funny, Vaude was much loved; in returning that attachment, he showed an understanding of his public's need for mirth and camaraderie in the hard years of the Depression.

Select Bibliography

  • B. McLaughlin, From Wireless to Radio (Melb, nd)
  • C. A. Grant, 500 Victorians (Melb, 1934)
  • Table Talk, 21 Aug 1930
  • Sporting Globe, 10, 17, 24 June 1939
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 30 Oct 1942
  • private information.

Citation details

David Dunstan, 'Vaude, Charlie (1882–1942)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/vaude-charlie-8908/text15649, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 28 April 2017.

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

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2017

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Ridgway, Charles Joseph
Birth

9 June 1882
London, Middlesex, England

Death

29 October 1942
Northcote, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage
Occupation