Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Name : Australia’s Sweetheart

Author : Michael Adams

Published : 2018 by Hatchette Australia

I was gifted a copy of Australia’s Sweetheart on the basis that Mary Maguire “socialised with everyone from Charles Kingsford Smith, Errol Flynn and Donald Bradman”. Indeed, I went straight to the Index which listed thirteen references to Errol Flynn. Thirteen. Hold that thought.

Never heard of Mary Maguire? Neither had I!

Still, let’s not dismiss this 2018 effort by journalist, screen writer and author, Michael Adams. It’s a fascinating read.

Mary Maguire was a teenager when she starred in two Australian movies made in the mid 1930’s. Her first major role was in Heritage, produced by Charles Chauvel, just after he had discovered a young Errol Flynn and directed him in In The Wake Of The Bounty.

Mary became a household name at a time when 3 million Australians went to the movies each week and when there were over 1,200 movie houses across the country. Hard to picture really, pardon the pun. It seemed logical then for Mary to try her luck in Hollywood in the latter part of the 30’s. Especially considering her social connections……

Her father, Michael, was a popular AFL footballer, boxer and publican and her mother rather a beauty. When Mary was a teenager the family relocated from Melbourne to Brisbane to run the Bellevue Hotel, an inner city establishment renowned for its clientele and which in recent years had been listed as one of the Q150 Icons of Queensland for its role as a “Defining Moments”. (Locals may remember it was later demolished in the dead of night by the Deen Brothers to make way for another ugly Government Office Block – another defining moment in Queensland history.)

The Bellevue Hotel, Brisbane. Shame. Shame.Shame.

Russian ballerina’s stayed at the Bellevue, as did the English Cricket Team involved in the infamous Bodyline incident, Australian sporting hero Donald Bradman, and aviator Charles Kingsford Smith. Royalty supped in the Dining Room of the Bellevue Hotel, and one of Mary’s beaus was the young aviator that was killed in an air crash in the Lamington National Park ( located by the O’Reilly’s)

Mary lived on three continents : Australia, America, and the United Kingdom and she lived parallel with seminal incidents of the twentieth century: the Spanish Flu; the Great Depression; Australia’s early radio, talkies and aviation; Hollywood’s Golden Era; the British aristocracy’s embrace of European fascism; London’s Blitz; and post-war American culture and politics. It’s this information which is the backbone of the book and makes it such an interesting read.

My favourite piece of trivia revolves around Mary’s Australian friend, Margaret Vyner, a super model before the term was even invented and fellow actress. Such was Vyner’s beauty that Col Porter added her name to the list of wonderful things about the world in a version of his song You’re The Top from his hit musical, Anything Goes:

You’re the top, You’re an ocean liner, You’re the top, You’re Margaret Vyner.

Mary mixed with many Hollywood movie stars, including Ronald Reagan, Marion Davies, Gloria Swanson, Maureen O’Sullivan and Judy Garland. Her first husband was a Nazi sympathiser and her second husband, an engineer, invented Mr Bartender.

Thirteen Index references to Errol Flynn. Mary Maguire “left behind no known diaries or letters”. There is nothing to indicate that Flynn and Maguire did anything more than share an employer and workspace. Flynn has most certainly been used as a yard stick and the author has obviously done much research utilising media reports. I’m just not so sure this conveys the actress’s actual life as opposed to the life publicity would have us believe she lived.

Regardless, an engaging read and insight into earlier times.

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