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George Wallace Donald (Don) Crosby (1924–1985)

by Mark McGinness

This article was published:

Don Crosby, n.d., from Equity magazine, March 1986

Don Crosby, n.d., from Equity magazine, March 1986

George Wallace Donald (Don) Crosby (1924-1985), actor and actor’s union president, was born on 29 October 1924 in Sydney, fifth child of Adelaide-born parents Joseph Alexander (Marshall) Crosby, vaudeville artist, and his wife Teresa, née King. Don first appeared on stage, aged 1, in a burlesque operetta, His Royal Highness, in Perth with his father, and his father’s friend George Wallace, after whom he was named. Wallace introduced him to the audience as `Marshall Crosby’s latest production’. From the age of 12, he took part in children’s radio sketches for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He left school after the Intermediate certificate and combined minor acting roles with a job as an insurance agent. Enlisting on 16 February 1943 in the Royal Australian Air Force, he trained as an air gunner and from October 1944 to March 1945 flew with No.460 Squadron in operations over Europe. He was demobilised on 27 February 1946 in Sydney as a flying officer.

Late in 1945 Crosby had worked as an assistant stage manager in London’s West End. Awarded a Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme scholarship in 1946, he studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London. He then spent several months in English repertory in Morecambe, Lancashire, and High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, before returning to Sydney. On 8 October 1949 at Holy Cross Catholic Church, Woollahra, he married Elizabeth Teresa Glover, an actress. He played (1950) in Sydney and Melbourne in Dark of the Moon, produced by (Dame) Doris Fitton. His role as Christy in J. M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World at the Little Theatre, Melbourne, in 1951, was followed by a long tour for J. C. Williamson Ltd in Hugh Hastings’s Seagulls over Sorrento.

From 1949 Crosby also had a successful radio career as actor and director. After the advent of television in Australia in 1956 he appeared in several ABC plays, including `Murder Story’, `The End Begins’, `Shadow of Heroes’, `Bodgy’ and `One Bright Day’. He and his wife Betty both appeared in Hector Crawford’s police dramas of the 1960s and 1970s on commercial television. His craggy face—which bore some resemblance to that of John Mills—was an asset for television. He also produced the long-running ABC radio serial `Blue Hills’ and its successors in the 1 p.m. slot.

Continuing to work on stage, in the mid 1960s Crosby had toured in the J. C. Williamson production of Camelot. He claimed that the first time he played an Australian on stage was in 1971 in his role as Sergeant Simmonds in David Williamson’s The Removalists. A celebrated role, and a personal favourite, was a dignified Dad in George Whaley’s production (1979-80) in Sydney of On Our Selection, by Steele Rudd. Also appearing in several films, Crosby was nominated for the Australian Film Institute’s award of best supporting actor for his roles in Newsfront and The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978).

Crosby was president (1976-85) of the Actors’ (and Announcers’) Equity (Association) of Australia. He urged the use of Australian actors where possible and spoke out against cuts in ABC funding. In 1980 he was awarded an OAM and in 1985 he received the AFI Raymond Longford award. Survived by his wife and their three sons and one daughter, he died of myocardial infarction on 3 December 1985 at his home at Potts Point.

His children were involved in the entertainment industry, as actors, film director and federal secretary of Actors’ Equity.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Lane, The Golden Age of Australian Radio Drama. Volume 2 (2000)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 17 July 1949, p 9, 4 Dec 1985, p 23
  • Sun (Sydney), 2 Feb 1967, p 47, 27 Apr 1967, p 75
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 3 May 1973, p 49, 21 Dec 1979, p 31
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 6 May 1976, p 34
  • Actors Equity Australia, Equity, Mar 1986, p 3
  • A9300, Crosby George (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

Mark McGinness, 'Crosby, George Wallace Donald (Don) (1924–1985)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 24 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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