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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Jenny Howard, c. 1930s

an unknown artist

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 22.0 cm x 12.9 cm, image: 20.9 cm x 11.8 cm)

Jenny Howard née Daisy Blowes (1902-1996), stage performer, made her name in her native England as ‘the poor man’s Gracie Fields’, recording covers of Fields’s songs for a cut-price label and impersonating the star onstage. She came to Australia with her husband, actor and producer Percy King, in 1929. They performed together on the Tivoli circuit before returning to England where she made the film Dodging the Dole (1936). In 1940 they came back to Australia, entertaining soldiers and doing the Tivoli rounds again; this time, they remained. Here, Howard was billed as ‘the famous English comedy star’. During World War II she raised an enormous amount of money for Britain, and performed in historically little-known concert party tours to Papua New Guinea. In the last years of the war she was engaged as a comedienne at the Cremorne Theatre, Brisbane. In later life, her specialisation was as a pantomime ‘principal boy’. In the 1950s she several times entertained Allied troops in Korea. Meanwhile, in Australia, she toured in The Jenny Howard Show for the Sorlie Revue company, for instance appearing in Canberra in 1953 with acrobatic clowns The Flying Warrens and saxophonist and xylophonist June Daunt, and in Broken Hill in 1955 with circus performers The Myrons and The Muracs, singers The Bridges Sisters and dancers The Sadler Twins. She died in Tweed Heads at the age of 94.

Asked how she got her start in theatre, the Australian actor Jacki Weaver replied that it was when her grandfather took her to see a production of Aladdin: ‘It starred the fabulous Jenny Howard as the principal boy with her hands on her hips in tights, jerkin and high-heeled boots ready to take on all the villains. It was a magical experience.’

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2017

Accession number: 2017.125

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Jenny Howard (age 28 in 1930)

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.