Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Doris Rosetta Elizabeth (Dot) Mendoza (1899–1986)

by Jane E. Hunt

This article was published:

Doris Rosetta Elizabeth (Dot) Mendoza (1899-1986), pianist, was born on 11 September 1899 in Perth, only child of Queensland-born Frederick Herbert Mendoza, commission agent, and his Victorian-born wife Phoebe, née Herman.  Playing the piano at 4, Dot accompanied her father, a tenor, in concerts from the age of 7, began lessons with the Melbourne music teacher Edward Goll at 12, and won a Melbourne University Conservatorium scholarship at 17.  She completed two years of the bachelor of music degree.  Musically versatile, she was skilled at sight-reading, playing melodies by ear, and transposing on sight.

In 1919 Dot successfully auditioned as a rehearsal pianist for J. C. Williamson.  She toured Australia and New Zealand with Anna Pavlova in 1926, and with Colonel Wassily de Basil’s ballet companies between 1936 and 1940.  In 1944 Melbourne radio-station 3XY employed her as staff pianist; she scripted and compered 'Dot Mendoza at Home' and, with Frank Thring, a children’s show.

Dot had married Frederick John Morton, a musician, on 26 November 1921 at St George’s Presbyterian Church, East St Kilda, Melbourne.  When they separated six years later, she had one young child and was pregnant.  At barely five feet (153 cm) tall, of slim build, with red curly hair, a husky voice and a tendency to use vivid lipstick, she attracted male attention.  She divorced Morton in 1942 and married Francis Daniel Forde, also a musician, on 27 September 1943 at Wesley Methodist Church, Melbourne; the relationship did not last.  Her lively sense of humour, fondness for pet names and passion for dogs were qualities that were apparent in her undated collection of short stories The Tail is Familiar!

After World War II Mendoza nurtured the Minerva Theatre in Sydney and made three recordings with Columbia Records.  While engaged in a project to rejuvenate Tasmanian theatre in late 1950, she received treatment from a local surgeon for her debilitating and painful osteoarthritis.  She had a permanent limp, despite having had as a child twenty operations on a flat hip socket.  The doctor’s efforts were unsuccessful and she struggled physically and financially.  Her children persuaded her to visit them in London, where she received further treatment and did some work for the British Broadcasting Corporation.

On her return to Sydney in the mid-1950s Mendoza joined the Phillip Street Theatre:  she composed music, wrote lyrics, performed and directed.  Alice in Wonderland (1956), set to music by Dot, secured the theatre’s future.  Drawn into the world of satirical comedy, she was the musical director of the revue Is Australia Really Necessary?  She also contributed to The Mavis Bramston Show as scriptwriter, composer and performer.  More seriously, she wrote the score for The Vatican, a sound recording that included material from Vatican radio as well as dramatisation by Australian actors.

Mendoza coached actors in performance and voice production; among those she taught were Barry Humphries, June Salter, Gordon Chater, John Meillon and Jill Perryman.  In 1985 she was awarded the OAM.  Survived by her daughter June and son Peter, Dot died on 19 or 20 May 1986 in her home at Mount Waverley, Victoria, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • People (Sydney), 27 September 1950, p 20
  • Sunday Telegraph (Sydney), 13 December 1964, p 33
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 11 December 1977, p 180
  • Age (Melbourne), 14 September 1979, p 12
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 22 May 1986, p 9
  • This Is Your Life, D. Mendoza (ts, 1978, National Film and Sound Archive)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Jane E. Hunt, 'Mendoza, Doris Rosetta Elizabeth (Dot) (1899–1986)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 18 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Morton, Doris Rosetta Elizabeth
  • Forde, Doris Rosetta Elizabeth

11 September, 1899
Perth, Western Australia, Australia


20 May, 1986 (aged 86)
Mount Waverley, Victoria, Australia