WS Percy was a favourite Australian comic opera star. This film clip shows the crowd outside Sydney’s Crystal Palace cinema for a special matinee screening of his first film, Percy’s First Holiday.
With his 1914 short Percy’s First Holiday, the stage comedian William Stratford Percy became one of the earliest Australians in American films. The film was made when Willard Johnson, of the Greater JD Williams Amusement Company, took Percy to visit the New York Thanhouser studios. Within 20 minutes of meeting the head of scenario staff, they were shooting a just-written comedy, intended solely for Australian exhibition. However, says the Evening News, 'so funny were the antics of ‘our’ comedian that it has been included in the feature releases, and shown all over the world'.
The film opened in Australia at JD William’s Crystal Palace on 31 March 1914. This newsreel shows crowds leaving the special screening for Sydney theatrical folks. Among them were Americans Fred Niblo and Josephine Cohan, then starring in JC Williamson stage plays which would be filmed in 1915. Cohan’s sling is the result of an accident which forced her to withdraw from the show Never Say Die. Her understudy, Australian Beatrice Holloway, is also in the car.
What did Niblo think of Percy’s film? 'When first I saw Percy on the stage,' he said, 'I thought he was the funniest I had ever seen. I still think so, too, because he has a certain distinctive personality and he showed it in the picture to-day.'
Australia was not yet at war. However, this newsreel was shown together with an item about a military fete at Moonee Ponds to raise funds for Europeans affected by fighting that had broken out in 1913.