Cover image for Olive Dorothea Graeme Wilton. O.B.E
Olive Dorothea Graeme Wilton. O.B.E
Agency Number:
Start Date:
01 Jan 1883
End Date:
08 Jun 1971
Born In Bath England in April 1883, daughter of a Solicitor and an Amateur Actress. Olive studied acting in London. In March 1906 she married Actor Benjamin Cornell.
They came to Australia that year with Grace Palotta and the Willoughby and Ward London Company, and made return visits under different managements. In 1909 she was engaged in London by William Anderson, an enthusiastic producer of Australian plays, who saw her perform a dangerous ride on stage because the stand-in jockey was too drunk. 'Tall, commandingly beautiful, and polished in manner and speech', she had spirit and verve, and was dedicated in every detail of her work. In 1910 Wilton starred in The Squatter's Daughter, a full-length Australian film which enjoyed box office success.
A divorcee by the outbreak of World War I, she decided to remain in Australia: she toured interstate with J. C. Williamson Ltd and other companies, travelling for long periods by train and ship. During these years Olive Wilton played opposite such actors as Julius Knight, Frank Harvey and Emelie Polini; two of her greatest successes were as the Empress Josephine in A Royal Divorce and as Mrs Dubedat in G. B. Shaw's The Doctor's Dilemma
In 1920 Wilton settled in Tasmania. Using her own money, she produced and presented four plays each year at Hobart's Theatre Royal, beginning with Pinero's His House in Order. She also began drama classes and formed the Olive Wilton Company which staged a series of performances at the Hobart Town Hall. Able to attract patronage and to interest prominent citizens in her work, she was instrumental in the formation of the Hobart Repertory Theatre Society on 21 July 1926. Its first performance, Mice and Men, was produced by Wilton at the Theatre Royal next year. She remained the society's major producer until 1933 when commitments to education, radio and the arts forced her to relinquish her position, but she returned occasionally as a guest producer.
Olive died on 8 June 1971 in Hobart and was cremated; her only child Junee Cornell (b.1911), a radio and stage actress, survived her.

Information Sources:
Australian Dictionary of Biography Online edition
Functions Performed:
Arts and culture