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Roy “Mo” Rene p2

A pre-1945 farce, Gamblers All, starring Roy Rene…

Roy Rene (1891-1954) was an Australian vaudeville comedian, playing music halls and theatres. He performed to sold out shows in Australia in the 1910s and 20s and after vaudeville died out, he hosted a popular radio show in the 1940s. He is most known for his comedy character Mo: a risque character, always out for a quick buck. But Roy Rene himself was reportedly a family man who lived in suburban Sydney. 

Mo’s Memoirs, published 1945, gives a fascinating insight into vaudeville in Australia, from the early 1900s to WW2 when vaudeville eventually died out due to competition from movies and radio. In this autobiography he mentioned that an evening of vaudeville performances would finish with a skit or farce. The book includes a description of a pre-1945 farce called Gamblers All in which Roy Rene starred. What might have been funny then isn’t necessarily funny now. But at least this outline gives an idea of the sorts of sketches that would finish a vaudeville show each night. 

A co-author of Mo’s Memoirs writes: The scene opens in a highly social gambling den. Mike Connors is the croupier, Mo places ten bob [10 shillings] on the black. Black loses. He then places, by tearing a ten shilling note in two, five shillings on the white. White loses. There is nothing for it. Mo must retreat to the pawnbroker’s store and hock his clothes in order to retrieve his losses.

“This way, sir,” says the attendant, and Mo makes his mournful exit. Meanwhile the scene continues. One young lady has lost everything, and goes melodramatically off stage crying, “What will my husband say. I will kill myself.” There is a revolver shot as Mo enters again. Mo stares out into the wings, “She missed herself,” he says disappointedly. He returns to the gambling table, but not before he has approached the audience and told them confidentially saying “You know, that beast rooked me [ripped me off]. Fifteen bob for the coat. Why, there was fifteen bob’s worth of grog [alcohol] on the lapels alone.”

Gamblers All continued next page