Women in radio: Ethel Lang

By Carla Teixeira

Ethel Lang was born in Sydney in 1902. Lang performed on stage at the age of seven, when she took over the part of Napoleon’s son in The Royal Divorce. By the start of the First World War, Lang was busy performing in school plays and concerts.

In 1923 she married James Brunton Gibb, who served in the war and had become a member of a celebrated musical group called the Anzac Coves. On his return from the war he became an actor and a teacher of speech. He and Ethel appeared together in concert, recital and dramatic work.

Ethel Lang played leading ladies for ABC radio all through the 1930s, including: Portia in The Merchant of Venice, Lady Macbeth in Macbeth and the leading role of Jane Marryot in Noël Coward’s Cavalcade. She also worked extensively with 2SM and 2GB.

Ethel Lang is heard here in The Hidden Truth, a radio series adapted from American scripts starring the inventor of the lie detector using his own invention to solve crimes, produced by Hilda Scurr circa 1960, NFSA title no. 675730

In 1943, Lang began broadcasting her own program: Aunt Jenny’s Real Life Stories. Aunt Jenny (Lang) and her nephew, Jimmy, played by John Hudson, would have a cup of tea and listen to the stories of Aunt Jenny’s life, dramatised by actors.

An early episode of Aunt Jenny’s Real Life Stories, a series heard from 1943 until 1961, NFSA title no. 402636

This commercial program, made for Velvet Soap, ran for 18 years and was the program which made Ethel Lang a household name. Lang’s other long-running engagements were as Mrs Lawson in The Lawsons and as Meg MacArthur, one of the main roles in Blue Hills.

References

Lane, Richard and National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, 1994, The Golden Age of Australian Radio Drama 1923-1960: A History Through Biography, Melbourne University Press, Carlton South, Vic