Alexander, Hal (1902-1990)

B. Newcastle M.? D. 20 June 1990

Grew up in Newcastle NSW, working at various jobs, including as printer for Newcastle Morning Herald; also a member of AWU and ARU.

Keen on dancing and after instruction became skilled tap dancer, first working at movie theatre in Adelaide with partner Jimmy Hart. Relocating to Melbourne worked at Tivoli, and at suburban halls including the Royal Hall in Footscray- but always on meagre wages- and moved into musical comedy and once in 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 sacked for being a militant – which strengthened resolve to improve conditions and pay in industry.

Became General Secretary, Actor’s Equity 1939, affiliating union with Trades and Labour 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. Committed socialist and militant.

Lowenstein 1978; Tribune, 11 July 1990; Equity, Nov 1990, Labor News, Feb 1948.

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