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Alexander, Hal (1902–1990)

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Hal Alexander (1902-1990) dancer and trade-union official

Born: 21 June 1902, at Newcastle, New South Wales. Married: (1) Madonna Irene Siostrom on 20 December 1924. They later divorced. Married: (2) June Margaret Humphrey on 29 October 1976. Died: 20 June 1990 at Botany, Sydney, New South Wales.

  • Grew up in Newcastle NSW, working at various jobs, including time as a printer with the Newcastle Morning Herald.
  • A member of the Australian Workers Union (AWU) and the Australian Railways Union (ARU).
  • A keen dancer, instruction developed his tap dancing skills, and led to work at a movie theatre in Adelaide with partner Jimmy Hart.
  • Relocating to Melbourne he worked at the Tivoli, and at suburban halls, including the Royal Hall, Footscray – but always on meagre wages. He moved into musical comedy and, once only, to pantomine.
  • Mounted touring show of rural New South Wales but during Depression it was common for actors not to be paid. Did shows gratis for UWM in Port Melbourne Town Hall, 1933-34.
  • Began to agitate for unionism among theatre performances when working for J.C. Williamson, but was sacked for militancy, which strengthened his resolve to improve conditions and pay in industry.
  • 1939, became General Secretary, Actor’s Equity, affiliating union with Trades and Labor Councils and with ACTU. First tasks included campaigns to secure improved wages for chorus girls and broadcast rights for performers.
  • Under his leadership union secured rehearsal pay, minimum rates, standard contracts, repeat and residual fees.
  • A committed socialist and militant.

Sources
Wendy Lowenstein, Weevils in the Flour: An oral record of the 1930s Depression in Australia (Melbourne, 1978); Tribune, 11 July 1990; Equity, Nov 1990, Labor News, Feb 1948.

This person appears as a part of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17. [View Article]

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Citation details

'Alexander, Hal (1902–1990)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/alexander-hal-12127/text33806, accessed 30 January 2023.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012