Collection UQFL9 - Nat Phillips Papers

Identity area

Reference code



Nat Phillips Papers


  • 1899-1956 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

9 boxes, 2 albums, 1 parcel.

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Nat Phillips was born in New South Wales in 1883. His father was a prominent concert singer and his mother an actress/singer whose family had long been associated with the theatre. Her father, Ralph Tolano, is said to have put on the first production of East Lynne in Australia, while her brother, Joe, was a well-known and highly popular actor/stage manager in Australia over the last three decades of the nineteenth century. Nat Phillips made his debut stage appearance at the age of eight as an acrobat in an amateur show in Sydney, and four of his brothers (Ray, Harry, Jack, and Dave) similarly went on to carve out careers in theatre and film. At the age of 10, Nat Phillips teamed up with fellow acrobatic dancer, Tommy Armstrong, and toured Australia for the next ten years, before undertaking a tour of America at the age of 20. Nat Phillips stayed abroad for 12 years, working in America, England and Europe. In 1912, he and his wife Daisy Merritt returned to Australia and in 1914 Nat Phillips was asked to manage the Princess Theatre in Sydney and later the Gaiety and Bijou theatres in Melbourne, frequently managing, writing and composing in addition to his nightly performances. His most famous character, Stiffy the Rabbit-o, was introduced to audiences in late 1914, and by 1916, he was staging a number of one-act musical comedies (or ‘revusicals’) around the character. On July 16, 1916, he opened ‘What Oh, Tonight’ at Sydney’s Princess Theatre with a new partner, Roy Rene, playing a character called ‘Mo’. Response to the six shows they staged exceeded all expectations and for the next nine years, Nat Phillips and Roy Rene worked in partnership as ‘Stiffy and Mo’. In 1925, Rene’s tendency to prefer improvisation to rehearsals and his constant pushing of the boundaries of blue humour led to the temporary end of the partnership. Both comedians worked with other partners until in 1927, they bowed to public pressure and reformed ‘Stiffy and Mo’, choosing Brisbane for their debut reunion. The reunion was an overwhelming commercial success but it only lasted for 18 months. Phillips then put together his own ‘Whirligig Revue Company’, which included his wife and his brother Jack, but the onslaught of the talkies and the resulting demise of vaudeville struck a blow to his career. Nat Phillips died in Sydney on 21 June 1932, barely three and a half years after he and Rene ended their iconic partnership and just short of the age of 50. His former partner, Roy Rene, became an Australian theatre icon, with a career that stretched into the 1950s.

Name of creator


Biographical history

John Neil Clark McCallum was the first manager of the Cremorne Theatre in Brisbane, which he purchased from the original owner, Edward Branscombe in 1916. He operated the theatre until it burned down in 1954, leasing it to various studios and performers, including Will Mahony, Evie Hays and Bob Geraghty who ran the Cremorne from 1943 to 1951. He was the father of noted Australian actor John Neil McCallum Jr (1919-2010)

Name of creator


Biographical history

Variety performer and theatre manager Will Mahoney was born in Helena, Montana, USA. Extremely successful in vaudeville in the United States and on the radio in England, Mahoney and his partner Bob Geraghty were brought to Australia in 1938 by Frank Neil on a Tivoli touring contract. After touring Australia for several years, in 1943 Mahoney became joint manager of the Cremorne Theatre in Brisbane with Geraghty. He continued in the role until the Cremorne closed in 1948. He returned to the US in 1948 to continue his theatrical career, but came back to Australia in 1959 and lived in Melbourne with his third wife, Evie Hayes, until his death in 1967.

Name of creator

Biographical history

Playwright and theatre actor. Younger brother of acrobat, actor and vaudeville performer Nat Phillips (1883-1932), famous for his Mo and Stiffy performances with Roy Rene.

Archival history

Collection previously titled as: Papers, 1899-1956
Collection alternatively titled as: Nat Phillips Collection.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Contains play scripts, musical revues, stand-up comedy material, song lyrics, published musical scores, silent film scripts, radio play scripts, theatre programmes, running orders, stage directions and set design drawings, theatre management papers, musicians' union papers, and photographs.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Unrestricted access.

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

The guide to this collection was compiled by Clay Djubal, School of English, Media Studies and Art History and Music, University of Queensland, October 2002-August 2005.

Uploaded finding aid

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

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Related descriptions

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)



Millennium Local System Number


OCLC Number

222660089 ; 1058715653

Libraries Australia ID

21260377 ; 63004926

Access points

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Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used



Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Migrated from LMS: April 2019, P.A.
Revised, BS, 30-Sep-2021




Accession area