Catherine Duncan

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Catherine Duncan
Born(1915-03-17)17 March 1915
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia
Died14 August 2006(2006-08-14) (aged 91)
Paris, France
Other namesKatie Duncan
OccupationActor, Director, Playwright,
Partner(s)Roy Braddon Mitchell (1933- ? (divorced), Kim Keane (1937-1945) (divorced) (2 children), Roger Copillet (1954-1971) (his death)

Catherine Duncan (17 March 1915 – 14 August 2006) was an Australian documentary filmmaker, actor, playwright, film researcher, script writer, film critic, archivist, and collagist. She is most well known for her work in radio broadcasts and short documentary films.

Early life[edit]

Catherine Duncan was born in 1915 in Launceston, Tasmania, to parents Gordon and Claire Duncan. Claire grew up immersed in the arts through her mother, who was an actress and producer herself.[1] Duncan began acting by participating in Allan Walkie's Shakespearian Company when it visited Launceston.[2] When Duncan turned 16, she enrolled at the University of Melbourne to pursue an arts degree.[3] While enrolled, she joined the Union Theatre Repertory Company and became their lead actress.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Duncan was married three times. Her first husband was Roy Mitchell, who later became a program director for Radio Australia.[4] The two were only married for four years before getting a divorce. Next, Duncan met Kim Keane, a journalist with whom she had two children, Micheal and Margarita.[5] In 1947, they divorced and Duncan decided to leave her children with her parents and move to Europe. On her way there, she met Roger Copillet, the first officer on the ship. They married in 1954 and she spent some years living with him in Paris.[4][6]


Duncan began her career on stage by joining Melbourne's Worker's Theatre Group after university. Her first success as a playwright was when she won the Sydney Theatre League's Playwriting competition in 1937 for The Sword Sung.[3]

Duncan also had a successful radio career where she performed and wrote shorts on air. [3] For her success in radio, she was recognized with an inaugural Macquarie Award in 1946.[3]

Title Duncan's Role Theatre/Media Date
How to Escape from Prison Scriptwriter ABC Radio Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC 1936-09-13
Money With Menaces Scriptwriter ABC Radio Brisbane, South Brisbane, QLD 1940-03-13
No Time For Comedy Actor Theatre Royal, Sydney, NSW 1941-02-08
Private Lives Actor Theatre Royal, Sydney, NSW 1941-03-15
Ladies in Retirement Actor Theatre Royal, Sydney, NSW 1941-03-29
Soak the Rich Playwright South Australia, SA 1941-04-03
Mr. Smart Guy Actor Minerva Theatre, Kings Cross, NSW 1941-05-10
Moon Upside Down Scriptwriter ABC Radio Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC 1942-09-30
We The Living Playwright Melbourne, VIC 1945-01-01
Sons of the Morning Playwright New Theatre, Sydney, NSW 1945-06-23
Sons of Morning Playwright Rockhampton Little Theatre Inc, Rockhampton, QLD 1947-05-01
Roundabout Adjudicator National Theatre, Launceston, TAS 1957-04-03
The Rose and Crown Adjudicator National Theatre, Launceston, TAS 1957-04-03
The Verdict Adjudicator National Theatre, Launceston, TAS 1957-04-03
Among Those Present Adjudicator National Theatre, Launceston, TAS 1957-04-04
The Hands of Hardouin Adjudicator National Theatre, Launceston, TAS 1957-04-04
Sganarelle Adjudicator National Theatre, Launceston, TAS 1957-04-05
Her Husband's Consent Adjudicator National Theatre, Launceston, TAS 1957-04-06
Dragons in the Caves Adjudicator National Theatre, Launceston, TAS 1957-04-06
And Now- The Journey Adjudicator National Theatre, Launceston, TAS 1957-04-06
Pictures on the Wall Adjudicator National Theatre, Launceston, TAS 1957-10-06
The Hermit Crab Scriptwriter ABC Radio, Melbourne, VIC 1957-10-06


By the end of 1945, Duncan grew tired of radio and began to make documentary films with the Australian National Film Board and made documentaries to promote Australia to prospective immigrants.[3] A few of her works were:

Film Year
This is the Life in Geelong 1949
The Meeting Place 1948
Christmas Under the Sun 1947
Men Wanted 1947
This is the Life 1947

Catherine Duncan also worked together with radical film maker Joris Ivens and Marion Michelle on a documentary called Indonesia Calling.[6] Duncan worked as a scriptwriter for the film, while Ivens was the Director and Michelle was the cinematographer.

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ "Catherine Duncan". AusStage. Retrieved 28 May 2019.
  2. ^ O'Brian, Angela (1989). The road not taken: political and performance ideologies at Melbourne New Theatre 1935-1960. Monash University, Melbourne. Thesis. [1]
  3. ^ a b c d e f Keane, Michael Duncan. Views from the Balcony: a biography of Catherine Duncan. Melbourne. ISBN 9781921394577. OCLC 756059678.
  4. ^ a b Henningham, Nikki. "Duncan, Catherine (1915 - 2006)". The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia. Australian Women's Archives Project. Retrieved 2 September 2019.
  5. ^ "Catherine Duncan Has Little Time On Her Hands". The Argus (Melbourne) (30, 792). Victoria, Australia. 8 May 1945. p. 9. Retrieved 13 November 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ a b Williams, Deane (December 2014). "Catherine Duncan: As Others See Us". Screening the Past. Retrieved November 13, 2018.