A page out of a 1950s autograph book with Chips Rafferty's signature and two small photos of him

A 1950s autograph book

Meeting Australian film and radio stars
 Jessica Bolton

The NFSA has recently acquired a beautifully preserved autograph book compiled by Lesley Cansdell (nee Walsh). Lesley was born in Sydney in September 1941 and grew up in Marrickville, where she lived until she met her husband George in 1964. 

Lesley’s autograph book contains over 90 handwritten comments and signatures from people including Ruth Cracknell, Chips Rafferty, John Ewart, Rod Taylor, Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell, Muriel Steinbeck and many more. To overcome the illegibility of some of the signatures, and in the interests of identifying the stars in years to come, Lesley wrote the name of each person on the page. Accompanying many of these signatures are portraits of the stars that Lesley cut and pasted from magazines including Radio Pictorial and ABC Weekly. In doing so, she transformed this little autograph book into a timeless piece of memorabilia.


Autograph hunting

In addition to donating her autograph book to the NFSA collection, Lesley spoke with Oral History interviewer Graham Shirley. She talks about getting her first autographs from the cast of King of the Coral Sea (Lee Robinson, Australia, 1954) which she saw at the Victory Theatre in Sydney. She also mentions her love of radio serials and going with her parents to watch them performed live in the 1950s at places like the Caltex Theatre and the 2GB auditorium in Phillip Street:

Lesley Cansdell oral history (excerpts), 2017. NFSA title:1500028


Lesley's career in radio and film

Head and shoulders portrait photo of Lesley Cansdell against a lush garden
Lesley Cansdell

While Lesley didn’t end up pursuing her dream of becoming a radio serial actress, she did work for many years in the radio and film industries. Lesley started at 2UW working primarily in administration, but did get the opportunity to work on the show Telly Quiz with Eric Parent. Lesley was often called in at the last minute to voice advertisements or characters in a variety of programs. She fondly remembers being called in to the studio to say golden spitfire when the station needed a female voice and didn’t have the resources to employ someone for that role. After eight years at 2UW, Lesley worked at Universal Pictures for nearly two decades.

Not only does this autograph book serve as a time capsule, containing autographs from some of Australia’s most prolific film and radio personalities, but it beautifully captures the story of a young fan during the heyday of Australian radio productions in the 1950s.


Follow the link to browse the autograph book.