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Dad And Dave, And
Then The War
I I I
When he returned to Syd- ney after his year with Sor lie he found it impossible to get back into radio, but his experience with his be- loved sideshow people stood him in good stead and he picked up a job as a side- show spruiker at the Royal
There are many Sydney siders who have never heard Peter Finch intoning Shake- speare on a West End stage, but they have had the rarer experience of hearing Aus- tralia's future greatest actor yelling above the Show- ground's babble: "Come on! Come on! Seven hoops a bob! Come and have a deener's worth! Come on!"
Gradually he worked his way back into radio, finally signing a contract with 2GB's B.S.A. Players, which turned out 15-minute com- mercial serials like a fac- tory: serials with names like "The Purple Spider," "Sulie- man Strikes Again," "Master
of the Gobi Desert," "Leaves From Another Woman's Diary." Sometimes 36 15 minute episodes were made each week; often it was necessary to work until 2 a.m. to get a shipment away
Once poor Sulieman found himself in a double barred cell, surrounded by squads of police, and the poor script-writer was to be seen wandering around the Sydney bars hopelessly moaning, "I can't get him out! I can't get him out!" But revelation came, as in radio it always did, and Sulieman was able to escape by sending an S.O.S. to his gang by means of a small portable radio transmitter which he had concealed in his hair!
It was about this time, too, that Finch made his first film, the small part of a country hick in "Dad and Dave Come to Town."
"It had wonderful, naive slapstick lines," Finch says, chuckling. "I had gone to see Dad (Bert Bailey) to ask him for his daughter's hand and he had the idea I was trying to buy a sheepdog, and I can still remember old Bert looking at me through his whiskers and saying: 'Well, you'll 'ave to chuck 'er in the dip every now an' then, son; she gits a bit dirty after a while.' "
It looked finally as if Finch was off at last to a steady and lucrative career. He had a contract with the A.B.C. and more work than he could fit in: he was already being noticed both as a juvenile lead and as a promising character actor. But the course of his destiny took another unexpected swerve. War broke out and the bottom fell out of act- ing.
And the rising young actor Peter Finch found himself as Gunner NX26035 (specialist group 2), sailing in the Queen Mary for the Middle East with the 2/1 Light A.A. Regiment. Aboard the liner he organ- ised the ship's concerts. ("In the Red Sea, with three shows a night, the toughest work I've ever done in show business"), but he is still dis
"Come on! Have a deener's worth!" he was
shouting to the Showground crowds.
paraging about his military
"I had a singularly undis- tinguished career as a gun- ner," he admits. "The unit didn't get into very much in the Middle East, and then we were shipped back to Darwin where, to offset the boredom, I began to organ- ise a little battery stage