Bunney Brooke

Dorothy Cronin (9 January 1920 – 2 April 2000), professionally known as Bunney Brooke, was an Australian actress, creator, producer, director, designer, playwright[1] and casting agent, best known for her being one of the early faces of Australian television. Known for her television, movie, theatre acting and comedy roles including the long-running role of Flo Patterson in the soap opera and movie release version of Number 96 in the 1970s (a role for which she won a Silver Logie Award), and in her later years to a new generation of viewers in her role as Helen "Nell" Rickards in children's series Round the Twist (1989 and 1992) and her role as Violet "Vi" Patchett in E Street (1990).

Bunney Brooke
Number96 25.jpg
Bunney Brooke {left} with co-star Pat McDonald
Born
Dorothy Cronin

(1920-01-09)9 January 1920
Bendigo, Victoria, Australia
Died2 April 2000(2000-04-02) (aged 80)
Manly, Sydney, Australia
NationalityAustralian
Other namesBunnie Bunny Brooke, Bunnie Brooke, Bunnie Brookes, Bunnie, Bunny Brooke[1]
Occupation
Years active
  • 1940s–1998 (acting)
  • 1980s–1990s (casting agent)
  • 1956–1989 (theatre acting)
Spouse(s)Leonard Brooke (1946–1950; divorced)
Partner(s)Pat McDonald
Children2
AwardsNumber 96: Silver Logie Award, Penguin Award: Rock Pool, ABC

Personal lifeEdit

Brooke was born as Dorothy Cronin in Bendigo, Victoria, adopted at an early age and had an unhappy early life. She was raised by foster parents, and then later joined the Australian army at the age of 18. As a young adult, she saw marriage as a means of escape, marrying Leonard Brooke in 1946. The union produced two children but ended after four years, with Brooke reporting that they were "wrong for marriage".

Brooke switched to the carefree life of a drifter with little money and few possessions. After becoming disillusioned with this existence, Brooke sought conventional employment as a clown, acting teacher, café owner and train conductor. Subsequent experiences of a broken marriage, two children and struggles with depression, illness and lack of money which gave her the depth for years later to win the Best Actress Logie for a 1974 episode of Number 96 as Flo Patterson, jilted at the altar.[2][3] In the early 1950s, Brooke managed the Prompt Corner coffee lounge in Melbourne with her girlfriend. At that time, several city coffee lounges implicitly catered specifically to LGBT patrons at a time when few other commercial venues existed for them. Prompt Corner also held poetry readings and, aside from the gay and lesbian patrons, it attracted the theatrical and bohemian crowd.[2]

Brooke landed the front cover of the edition of 28 April 1975 of Brisbane's TV Week Magazine, giving an interview of her "battle to the top" explaining being in a better position in life, career success and being a star in the earlier years of Australian TV.[4] In April 1976 Brooke endured a heart seizure which brought her to the "brink of death" collapsing at her Rozelle home with crushing chest pains then spending 10 days in intensive care of Balmain Hospital, Sydney. It was the fourth time in 5 years suffering a similar seizure. In Brooke's case the seizure was brought on by a busy change in lifestyle over a period of months causing extreme tension which affected the heart, doctors warned she must never endure such tension again and herself determined it to not happen again.[5] In 1976 Brooke moved into her house in the near city suburb of Balmain yet one year later rented the house and moved out due to a terror campaign which bizarrely included threats, anonymous letters, visits from police, ambulancemen and an undertaker. Brooke owned two dogs including her neighbor who each received photostat pamphlets about keeping residence dogs under control which is believed to have been the first indication of the events.[6]

Brooke lived with Pat McDonald, who suggested her for the role of Flo Patterson. They shared the same birth year and an apartment in Wahroonga in northern Sydney. Although the true nature of their relationship was never originally detailed, many photos of them on holiday in various overseas locations were featured in magazines.[7] Pat McDonald would later die in 1990 of pancreas cancer.

Brooke endured a nervous breakdown within the mid-1990s, which was a few years before her death. It is not really known as to why, yet Brooke did have a history of depression in the earlier decades of her career.[8]

CareerEdit

Earlier career (1940s–1970s)Edit

Brooke later worked as a typist with Melbourne-based television production company Crawford Productions. The association with Crawford awoke Brooke's creative side, and she became interested in scripts, joining an amateur theatrical group. A year later she traveled to the UK and, within a week of arriving, had secured work in the repertory theatre as well as radio and television shows. Her first Magic Circle Club guest appearance, as a Southern belle with two suitors, led to a recurring role as Aunty Vale (an enchantress) in the children's television series. She later became a mime artist whilst in Europe as studied under Marcel Marceau in Paris. In the late-1940s it is believed one year later Brooke returned to Australia and gained her legal name "Bunney Brooke", which would later become her much well known name.[9]

Brooke's acting career continued into the 1970s. She was working as director of the Adelaide Theatre Company when she was asked to audition for a role in Number 96. The producers of the show were having trouble filling the role of Flo, a friend and comic foil of gossip Dorrie Evans (Pat McDonald), and Brooke fit the part. Initially seen as a frequent visitor to the flat of Dorrie and her husband Herb, the writers soon burnt down Flo's off-screen apartment in a neighboring suburb and moved Flo permanently into Dorrie and Herb's flat, where she became a key character in many of the serial's comedy stories.

Brooke continued with Number 96 until the series ended in 1977, also appearing in the film adaptation in 1974. After this she remained a frequent face on Australian television, with roles in television programs like the soap operas The Young Doctors and The Restless Years in the late 1970s. Brooke was specially written into the Young Doctors episode as a clown, she so impressed Grundy Organization executive Reg Watson with her knowledge of clownsmanship. Ten years prior she wrote a play about a clown in a bid to entice the very young into theatrical appreciation about a clown who had a skip acting parlance from a clothes basket. So successful was the play she did another naming her clown Trumbo and had him looking for his red nose. Finding such enthusiastic responses from audiences in small theater venues around Melbourne, Brooke then wrote a third clown play.[10] She also played various roles in films, miniseries, and TV movies. She acted in the feature film Dawn!, about Olympic Swimmer Dawn Fraser, playing the role of Fraser's mother.

Later career (1980s–1990s)Edit

By the early 1980s in senior years, Brooke was living in Melbourne and again working for Crawford Productions, this time as a casting agent. She also had acting roles in the Crawford shows Skyways and Carson's Law. In the 1980s she cast a relatively unknown Kylie Minogue for The Henderson Kids.[11] In November 1980 Brooke won the Penguin Award of "BEST SINGLE PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS" – Rock Pool, ABC[12]

Next Brooke was known to a new generation of viewers with ongoing role in the children's series Round the Twist (1989) as Nell Rickards, and in 1990, acted at the same time as the ongoing role of Auntie Violet "Vi" Patchett in the soap opera E Street. When she left that series in 1991, her character was written out by accepting the marriage proposal of old friend Johnny Little, played by former Number 96 actor Johnny Lockwood in a guest role. She later appeared in the second series of Round the Twist 2 (1992) and guest starred in some of the later episodes of A Country Practice. Brooke alongside previous co-star Joyce Jacobs from A Country Practice acted in short "Heaven on the 4th Floor" (1998) credited that as "Bunny Brooke", that is with the letter "e" missing from the first name as sometimes credited in other various previous works. This would be her final last known acting credit before being diagnosed ill with cancers until her death for the remainder of the decade & turn of the new millennium.

Brooke is known to have at least 69 known acting credits to her name in theater work, spanning four decades ranging from 1959 to 1989.[13] Yet Brooke's esteemed acting career in total spanned half a century (fifty years).

DeathEdit

Brooke, a heavy smoker and drinker, died in a Manly, New South Wales hospital on 2 April 2000 at the age of 80, after a two-year battle with bowel and liver cancer.[9][14]

On 20 January 2009, her 1974 Silver Logie Award (presented to Brooke in 1975 by the late Hollywood great John Wayne) was purchased by a Queensland anonymous bidder in a 24-hour auction on eBay for AU$2225.[15] Given that Brooke died in 2000, it is not entirely known how the award then came to be in the possession of the seller.

TributesEdit

Charlie Little, director, had Brooke reflect on her life to him not long before she died as her illness worsened. Little recalls, she said "I've done all the things I've wanted to do in my life. I've been a very lucky woman". He also said Brooke was "Quite Chaplin-esque (Charlie Chaplin)".[16]

Elisabeth Kirkby, Number 96 cast-member and former NSW Politician said "Brooke's performance was mesmerising. There was no dialogue. It was just the expression on her face. It was almost as it was actually happening".

Elaine Lee, Number 96 cast-member said Brooke "Was about laughter, laughter, laughter. We used to laugh a lot, she was a very funny lady". Mark Mitchell, comedian and Round The Twist star said it was "Impossible not to learn from Bunney. You could turn to her in a moment of exasperation knowing she would impart something very timely, if humbling".

Frankie J. Holden, Round The Twist star said Brooke "Could play with the kids, be a serious actress opposite the adults and that night drink the crew under the table".

Joanna Milosz ( also known as Joanna Milosz-Piekarska), Brooke's long time agent said "Nearly everyone in the industry of the older generation knew Brooke, worked with Brooke, was taught by Brooke or directed by Brooke" and "she had an incredible impact on the industry".[9]

FilmographyEdit

FilmEdit

Film
Year Film Role Notes
1981 Alison's Birthday Aunt Jennifer Findlay Movie
1979 Dawn! Mum Movie

TelevisionEdit

Television
Year Title Role Notes
1956 Theatre Royal 2nd Woman (as Bunny Brooke) 1 Episode
1962 The One Day of the Year (as Bunny Brooke) TV Movie
1962–1963 Consider Your Verdict (as Bunny Brooke) / Alice Munro 2 Episodes
1965 The Magic Circle Club (as Bunny Brooke)
1971–1973 Homicide Mum Enright / Mrs. Hovey / Sandra Martin 3 Episodes
1971–1973 Division 4 Lorna Matthews / Lily Reid / Elsie Hudson / Kate 'Porky' Robinson / Edna Mitchell / Joan Marriott 6 Episodes
1973 The Gentlemen of Titipu Voice TV Movie
1974–1977 Number 96 Flo Patterson 26 Episodes
1975 The 17th Annual TV Week Logie Awards Herself (Won Award) TV Movie
1977 The Restless Years Amy Blake 1 Episode
1978 The Good Thing Going Stella TV Movie
1979 Skyways Aunt Shirley 1 Episode
1979 The Rock Pool (as Bunny Brooke) TV Movie
1979 Ride on Stranger Grannie Jones 1 Episode
1980 Dead Man's Float Parish TV Movie
1980 The 22nd Annual TV Week Logie Awards Herself (Won Award) TV Movie
1981 Cornflakes For Tea Mrs. Lewis TV Series
1978–1981 Tickled Pink (as Bunny Brooke) / Auntie / Angela 3 Episodes
1984 Boy in the Bush Gran Ellis TV Mini-Series
1989 E Street Vi Patchett Multiple Episodes
1989, 1992 Round The Twist Nell Rickards 26 Episodes
1985–1993 A Country Practice Nancy Plummer / Mrs. Plummer / Alice McKenna 8 Episodes
1998 Heaven on the 4th Floor (as Bunny Brooke) TV Short

AwardsEdit

Year Award Nominated Work Result
1974 Silver Logie Award Best Australian Actress- Number 96 Won
1980 Penguin Award Best Single Performance by an Actress- Rock Pool, ABC Won

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b "Brooke, Bunney (-2000)".
  2. ^ a b Dorrie and Flo are the best of mates!, TV Week. 28 April 1973, page 29
  3. ^ Dolan, Sarah. The Last Hooroo. Who Weekly Magazine: 17 April 2000, pages 34 & 35 Photo Clippings Magazine Image
  4. ^ "Bunney Brooke Brisbane". TV Week Magazine. 28 April 1975.
  5. ^ TV Week 10 July 1976. Page 20. Photo Clippings Magazine
  6. ^ TV Week 12 March 1977. Page 5. Photo Clippings Magazine
  7. ^ Mercado, Andrew. Super Aussie Soaps, Pluto Press Australia, 2004. ISBN 1-86403-191-3 p 46
  8. ^ News.com.au By Sydney Confidential The Daily Telegraph http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/celebrity-life/mystery-buyer-gets-a-logie/story-e6frfmqr-1111118616973
  9. ^ a b c Dolan, Sarah. The Last Hooroo. Who Weekly Magazine: 17 April 2000, pages 34 & 35 Photo Clippings Magazine Image Archived 14 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ TV Week 25 March 1978 Photo Clippings Magazine Image
  11. ^ What's a Logie Worth?..., televisionau.com: 22 June 2009 http://televisionau.com/2009/01/whats-a-logie-worth.html
  12. ^ Penguin Award
  13. ^ http://www.ausstage.edu.au/pages/contributor/4848 Identifier No. 4848
  14. ^ Star of Number 96 dies. The Age: 13 April 2000, p.4.
  15. ^ [1] Archived 22 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ From 'Number 96' to 'Round the Twist' Bunney Brooke left her mark on television

External linksEdit