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Molly Raynor

Molly Raynor 1903–1976 was born in Christchurch, the daughter of Frederick Richards Rayner (“The Sketcher”) and fellow entertainer Rhoda Duckworth.

Molly was onstage from childhood and in 1920 sailed for Sydney to study at the Sydney Conservatorium’s Music School, teaching elocution to pay for her studies. In 1921 she joined the “Cheer-Oh-Girls”, an amateur concert party of seven to ten women, who became celebrities for raising money for charity: Molly was their comedienne. She was acting professionally and working regularly in broadcasting.

Molly and new husband John embarked for New Zealand with the American and English Comedy Company in late 1929 on the Manuka. On 16 December she struck rocks at night in fog off Long Point in the Catlins on her way north to Port Chalmers. All passengers were saved after an ordeal in lifeboats, a heavy swell and disembarkation in rocks and kelp; a special train eventually took them on to Dunedin from Owaka.

Back in Australia she was cast in On our selection, one of the first talkies to be made in Australia. Then in 1933, Hayseeds; in 1924 Strike me lucky and Grandad Rudd.

Their success suggested Molly and John should try film acting in England. She landed a part in Jennifer Hale and played increasingly important roles in West End theatre productions. But the war put a stop to all of that. She joined ENSA to entertain the troops, her ship was torpedoed in the Mediterranean on its way to Cairo and she spent 18 months performing to troops in the Middle East.

After the war she continued on the London stage and had parts in films and TV shows.

Molly Raynor
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