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Caroline Ellen (Carrie) Moore (1882–1956)

by Martha Rutledge

This article was published:

Caroline Ellen Moore (1882-1956), by Rotary Photo Co, 1905-15

Caroline Ellen Moore (1882-1956), by Rotary Photo Co, 1905-15

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H10257

Caroline Ellen (Carrie) Moore (1882-1956), actress, was born on 31 July 1882 at Geelong, Victoria, third of nine children of Robert William Moore, Newfoundland-born labourer, and his Victorian wife Mary, née Wyatt. Educated locally, she regularly attended Sunday school and occasionally appeared in amateur theatricals. At 13 Carrie was taken by an uncle to sing for J. C. Williamson; she made her first professional appearance in December 1895 in Williamson's pantomime, Djin-Djin.

After returning briefly to school Carrie played in several pantomimes. While understudying the role of Suzette in The French Maid, she stood in for Ada Willoughby in Sydney in October 1897 and for Ada Reeve in Melbourne in March next year, when she 'sang and danced with vivacity and high spirits'. In November 1899 in Sydney she sang Maid Marian in Koven's opera Robin Hood—and was 'a prima donna at seventeen'. She found Iolanthe 'one of the loveliest of Gilbert and Sullivan operas and [Phyllis] one of the loveliest parts'. She remained four years with Williamson's Royal Comic Opera Company, playing many leading roles: her favourite was Maid Marian.

In 1901 Carrie Moore became engaged to Ernest Tyson, great-nephew of James Tyson, and wore his presents of diamond star and swallow on stage in Florodora. When he failed to attend the wedding she sued him for breach of promise and £5000 damages, thereby creating a sensation. The case was settled out of court.

In July 1903 Carrie Moore sailed for England to a definite engagement with the comedian George Edwardes and immediately went on tour in San Toy. She soon made her London début as Ellen in The Girl from Kay's at the Apollo Theatre. Next year she joined Robert Courtneidge to play the principal boy in Aladdin at Liverpool. Carrie became 'a much-paragraphed and much-photographed actress of the best London theatres' and played the principal boy in Christmas pantomimes at Liverpool or Birmingham, between appearances in London in The Dairy-Maids (1906) and as Honour in Tom Jones (1907); she thoroughly enjoyed touring with Tom Jones as she motored through England.

In May 1908 Carrie Moore was lured back to Australia by Williamson to create the role of Sonia in The Merry Widow and once again captivated audiences and critics. Called by some 'the Vital Spark', she was small in stature, with large sparkling, deep brown eyes. 'Sartor' described 'her keen eager face, framed in its dark hair, with those eyes catching the light, responding to every emotion her part bespeaks, her light, sinuous form bending and swaying to the music'. On 30 September at the Whitefield Congregational Church, Sydney, Carrie Moore married Percy Plantagenet Bigwood, an English racehorse-owner and businessman, and announced that she would leave the stage. An Englishwoman then issued Bigwood with a writ for breach of promise. Late in the year they returned to England.

William Proctor, to whom Carrie had been engaged, attributed his bankruptcy to betting and the jewels that he had bestowed on her. She continued to play in pantomimes and starred as Zingarie in The Persian Princess (1909) and in 1910 toured in the title role in Our Miss Gibbs; she also earned £200 a week in vaudeville. She visited Australia in 1912-13 and appeared in variety, and in 1917, looking 'plump and matronly', toured Australia in A Little Bit of Fluff and Mr. Manhattan. Bigwood was killed in action in World War I; on 14 May 1918 at Coogee, Sydney, she married the divorced Horace Vernon Bartlett, better known as John Wyatt, a bookmaker. This time she did leave the stage and lived lavishly in Macquarie Street until she secured a judicial separation in 1933 and an annuity of £500.

Carrie Moore continued to live in Sydney, refreshed by long visits to her sisters in Britain and the United States of America. In 1933 in Australia she appeared in Music in the Air, in 1938 in a command performance in London. Unable to get an American work permit in 1939-44, she perforce refused several film offers from Hollywood. In 1945 she was the midwife in Charles Chauvel's film, The Sons of Matthew. Reduced to living in a room at Kings Cross, in 1953 she successfully applied for increased maintenance from her husband's estate. She died childless in Sydney on 5 September 1956 and was cremated with Congregational forms. Reputedly owning diamonds worth £23,000 in her twenties, she had sold her jewellery: her estate was valued for probate at £504. Four of her sisters, Lily, Eva, Olive and Ivy, made successful stage careers.

Select Bibliography

  • British Australasian, 2, 16 Jan 1902, 5 Nov 1908
  • Red Funnel, 18 May, 1 Aug 1908
  • People (Sydney), 10 Oct 1951
  • Argus (Melbourne), 18 May 1897
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 2 Oct 1897, 27 Dec 1939, 10 May 1946, 6 Oct 1950, 21, 28 Nov 1953, 6 Sept 1956
  • Australasian (Melbourne), 12 Mar 1898, 9 June, 15 Sept 1900, 12 Jan 1901, 3 Oct 1908, 3 July 1909
  • Bulletin, 2 Dec 1899, 26 July, 20 Sept 1917
  • Punch (Melbourne), 4 July, 22 Aug, 8 Oct 1901
  • Town and Country Journal, 20 May 1908
  • Sun-News Pictorial (Melbourne), 16 Dec 1932, 2 Mar 1933
  • Herald (Melbourne), 5 Sept 1956, 6 Nov 1957.

Citation details

Martha Rutledge, 'Moore, Caroline Ellen (Carrie) (1882–1956)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 17 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Caroline Ellen Moore (1882-1956), by Rotary Photo Co, 1905-15

Caroline Ellen Moore (1882-1956), by Rotary Photo Co, 1905-15

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H10257

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Bigwood, Caroline Ellen
  • Bartlett, Caroline Ellen

31 July, 1882
Geelong, Victoria, Australia


5 September, 1956 (aged 74)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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