Detective Lloyd and the Short Life and Sad Death of Universal’s First Australian Leading Man

Detective Lloyd and the Short Life and Sad Death of Universal’s First Australian Leading Man

Universal Studios saw the benefit of serials almost from their formation. With a total of 137 serials, they were the most prolific of all the Hollywood studios in this regard, from the first, Lucille Love, Girl of Mystery (1914, dir Francis Ford), to their final effort, The Mysterious Mr M (1946, dirs. Lewis D. Collins and Vernon Keays), the serial had been a valued tool in the Universal arsenal. The studio used all the typical serial topics, westerns, action, mystery, horror, suspense, science fiction, jungle, fantasy and the classic ‘girl in peril’ format. Nothing was off limits to Universal when it came to producing serials. They would use props, musical scores, and even un-used footage from their feature films, over and over. Actors became forever known for their serial roles; Buster Crabbe became typecast after appearing in both Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. But, for every Bela Lugosi, Dead End Kids, Buster Crabbe, Anne Nagal and Lloyd Bridges there were dozens of others who are now forgotten to time and only exist on faded black and white footage.

The eightieth Universal serial, Detective Lloyd, was unique in that it was the first American funded serial to be filmed in England and, in doing so, it used a combination of English and American actors. Leading the way was an Australian actor called Jack Lloyd, dubbed ‘The Man with The Perfect Profile’. Jack Lloyd had been found on the English stage and was quickly hailed as being the next big thing to hit the cinema. Huge expectations were placed upon Jack Lloyd, but, sadly, the material he was given let him down. Jack Lloyd vanished from the screens and within two years after the release of Detective Lloyd, he would die in tragic circumstances.

But, who was Jack Lloyd?
Claude Saunders, 1924 (Adelaide Mail)

For one, he was not Jack Lloyd. His real name was Claude Saunders and, until now, his life was a mystery and he is largely forgotten, a footnote in books and a name in cast lists for a serial that cannot be seen anymore.

Saunders was born in a tent at a mining camp, just outside Lake Way, in the mid-west of Western Australia, in 1900. He was raised by his family in the Australian outback, learning to ride and shoot before his fifth birthday. His early years were nothing short of a Boy’s Own adventure for Saunders. At the age of eight, his family moved to Boulder, also in Western Australia, where Saunders attended school and showed an aptitude for the stage,  appearing in the annual Boulder Children’s Balls[1], taking a spot in both 1908 and 1909. He had kangaroos for pets and, while in Boulder, was the only white child in his part of the country. The family moved to Broome, also in Western Australia, and Saunders was taught how to dive for pearls and began to hunt kangaroos, shooting them as pests.

In 1912 he was sent to live with an uncle in Perth, where he was to continue his schooling. Fortunately for Saunders, both his uncle and cousin were active on the stage and they both encouraged the young Saunders to try his luck. He quickly found that he possessed a commanding voice and presence and continued to act throughout his time in Perth, combining his school lessons with stage lessons.

The Saunders family moved to Adelaide in 1917. As Claude was finishing his schooling, he began to with the view of pursuing a career as a school teacher. The stage was never far from his mind though, and he enrolled in the Adelaide Repertory Company 1918. The Adelaide Repertory Company was founded in 1908 and still exists as a working company today, making it the oldest continuous surviving amateur theatre company in the Southern Hemisphere. The concept of the company was to present a new play every six weeks and Saunders came under the tutelage of Rep founder Bryceson Treharne, and then Talbot Smith, who took up the reigns of the company in 1919. Smith had an excellent pedigree, having obtained a Master of Arts and Bachelor of Law at Cambridge University.

Saunders began his stage career with a supporting role in a one act comedy by Alex Sommerville, A Woman Unknown. The opening night of the play was attended by the Governor of South Australia, Lieutenant Colonel Sir Henry Galway and Lady Galway and their guest Dame Nellie Melba, which would have been heady for the young Saunders when he was presented to them along with the rest of the cast. Fortunately for all concerned the play was well rehearsed and well received. More plays followed, with Saunders moving up through the ranks, finally gaining his first lead role in 1922 in Rudolf Besier’s Don.

Don gained excellent reviews, with Saunders, as lead, being singled out for praise. “…he has fully justified the choice of the casting committee. He has a good stage presence; his movements are easy and natural, and he entered thoroughly into the spirit of the somewhat irresponsible and impulsive poet. He was especially good in the narration of the circumstances concerning his dealings with Mrs. Thompsett, and he must be complimented on a consistently good portrayal.[2]

Encouraged by others to further himself, he took advantage of his strong, clear speaking voice by entering recital and elocution competitions in Ballarat, Victoria[3]. In 1918, began an association with the famous South Street Competitions with his recitals of Shakespeare sonnets and famous speeches, which continued until 1922. He also gave recitals around Adelaide at Student’s Concerts and benefit nights. By his 22nd birthday, in 1922, he formally abandoned his teaching studies to become a professional actor.

After five years on the stage, giving a new play every six weeks, Saunders was perfecting his craft. Acting came naturally to him, and, adding to his arsenal, he was over six-foot-tall, possessed strikingly good looks and a rich, powerful voice. But the Adelaide Repertory Company could only take him so far, career wise and, after abandoning his studies, he felt he was ready for the next step, which would be to begin touring the country. The opportunity for this step came in the form of Allan Wilkie

English born Wilkie had settled in Australia in 1920 where he formed the Allan Wilkie Shakespearean Company. While learning to be an actor, Wilkie had studied art the feet of Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Ben Greet and Frank Benson and he brought the lessons that he’d learnt, in staging drama for the stage, to Australia where he first visited in 1913. The Company toured Australia from 1920 to 1928, and consisted of thirty actors, male and female, who Wilkie worked hard. No play was performed on consecutive nights[4], every actor had to be prepared to play any part in any Shakespeare play with almost zero notice, often performing multiple roles in a single night.

Wilkie’s own style was dramatic and impassioned and he expected the same intensity from his Company. Unlike other major touring companies, Wilkie believed in bringing the works of Shakespeare to everyone, thus his Company would not only tour the main cities of Australia, they would also perform in regional cities and performed an annual Christmas season in Hobart. Those who cut their teeth in Wilkie’s company included noted stage actors and producers Lorna Forbes, Ellis Irving, Frank Clewlow, Marie Ney and more. One more name would be added to the list.

In early 1923 Allan Wilkie was in Adelaide with his non-stop Shakespearian Company. While in cities, Wilkie was often approached by producers and actors who wanted the chance to work with him, for the prestige that it brought. It was well known that, to tour with Wilkie, would mean that a person was of quality, an actor’s actor, so to speak. Wilkie always scouted local stage productions and checked in with fellow professionals if they knew of anyone who he should be looking at. In Adelaide, in early 1923, one name was put forward to him – Claude Saunders.

After seeing a production of the Adelaide Rep, Wilkie summonsed Saunders and auditioned him. Saunders voice and looks were perfect for Wilkie so an offer was made for Saunders to join his Shakespearian Company, which Saunders immediately accepted. After a crash course in the Wilkie school of acting, Saunders made his debut at the Prince of Wales Theatre at the end of March[5], where he began the gruelling task of playing multiple parts night after night.

As per his routine, Wilkie started Saunders in supporting roles before giving him leads, and, in doing so, Saunders was able to play virtually every single male part that Shakespeare ever wrote. Even though, by 1925, he was a lead actor, Wilkie wasn’t above handing him a supporting role if he believed that Saunders could play it better than another person. For Wilkie the performance mattered the most, not the egos of the actors. Over the four years he spent in Wilkie’s company, Saunders acquitted himself well, his confidence and skills growing with each performance and he prided himself in playing a part in Wilkie’s then world record of the most consecutive performances of Shakespeare plays, with 1000 performances. The Wilkie company took Saunders back to Kalgoorlie and Boulder, along with travelling overseas for his first time when Wilkie toured New Zealand.

Saunders time with Wilkie came to an end when the Mechanics' Institute in  Geelong burnt down after a performance of The Merchant of Venice on 21 June 1926.. The fire not only destroyed the hall, but the Wilkie Company lost sets, costumes and more. Fundraisers were immediately organised, and, although not injured, Saunders lost his personal possessions which were backstage. The fire had been deliberately lit. After the Geelong fire, Wilkie disbanded his company while he returned to England to purchase new sets and costumes.
Claude Saunders, Eva Novack and Gordon Collingridge in 'The Romance of Rinnibede' (1927)

Signing to the J.C. Williamson firm, Saunders quickly picked a role in the comedy Is Zat So[6], acting alongside Richard Tauber and Hale Norcross. At the same time he announced his plans to move to America in an attempt to further his career. These plans were put on hold when he was offered the third lead, alongside American actress Eva Novak, in the silent film The Romance of Runnibede (Dir. Scott R. Dunlap, William Reed, Wallace Worsley 1927). Written and partly funded by author Steele Rudd, the film saw Saunders cast in the part of doomed mounted policeman Sub-Inspector Dale, who would compete for the affection of Novak, Dorothy Winchester with Gordon Collingridge’s Tom Linton. Filming began with Novak’s husband William Reed directing. American Scott Dunlap had been hired to direct the film, but he was late in arriving to Australia. Also on board with the film, as a consultant, was another visiting American Wallace Worsley, who had directed the Lon Chaney classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The film was dogged with issues. There were fights on locations, although none of these involved Saunders who, by all accounts, acquitted himself well. Once he arrived, and replacing Reed, Dunlap began to reshoot all of his scenes, adding to the stress. Ultimately all three directors would be credited on the film, although it would appear that Worsley’s name was credited more to use his name than any serious work that he might have done on the film. The performances were weighed down by the material that was being performed. Novack was restrained, but Saunders’s Linton was naïve, and Collingridge’s Dale was bland and colourless.

The film was premiered in Brisbane on 9 January 1928 to much hype and publicity. Reviews were kind, but the public did not take to the film and it failed at the box office, returning an estimated £2000 against a £12,000 cost. By May 1928, the production company formed by Fred Fredricks went into receivership with heavy debts and Steele Rudd was left on the brink of bankruptcy. Novack and Dunlap returned to America in July 1927, with Novack being owed £3,000 in salary alone. In a canny move, Novack claimed the American distribution rights to Runnibede as compensation for the lost wages, she would release the movie in America in 1929.

Also heading to America was Saunders. Dunlap was impressed with Saunders performance, looks and the way he conducted himself on a difficult film shoot. Not for the last time in his life, big things were predicted in film for Saunders. Both Dunlap and Novack encouraged Saunders to leave Australia and head for California, where it was expected that he would rapidly become a major film star.

Saunders landed in America in July 1927 and, armed with letters of introduction from Dunlop, he set up house at the Los Angeles Athletic Club where Dunlap had a room and had given Saunders the key and permission to stay there, rent free, for as long as he needed to. At the same time that Saunders was there the LAAC was a hive of activity for the likes of Charlie Chaplin (who lived there off and on for a number of years), Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Harold Lloyd and almost all of the Hollywood royalty. In short, Saunders perfectly placed.

Claude Saunders in America, 1928 (Los Angeles Evening Express)

The film world didn’t come beating his door down though. He turned to the stage and quickly found himself cast in a lead role in the play Legitimate Lovers which ran at the Hollywood Play House in late January 1928. Legitimate Lovers ran for four performances only, but Saunders was suddenly in demand. Playwright John F. ‘Jack’ McGowan was one who saw Saunders on stage and quickly finished a play he was working on with Saunders in mind. Excess Baggage. Excess Baggage was a play about the backstage life of vaudeville players. Saunders was cast as a Hollywood actor who was only on stage because his film career was fading and received excellent reviews.

He performed in the play for four weeks before being cast in a short film directed by Brian Foy. Called The Swell Head, the film was a short talkie starring Eddie Foy Jr and Bessie Love. The film ran for 18 minutes and Saunders finished his part in under a week. Thematically, the film was remarkably similar to the play Excess Baggage, along with other, similar, backstage productions, and screenwriter Hugh Hubert found himself being sued for plagiarism by Warner Brothers.

Once filming finished, Saunders went back to his part in Excess Baggage. On the surface his life was one of happiness. He was rising early and would go horseback riding before his breakfast every day, enjoying the warm sun of Los Angeles. His press noted that he popular both on the Australian and English stages, even though he had never performed in England to that point. Behind the scenes, the issues around The Swell Head, while not his fault, had curtailed his film career. The Romance of Runnibede was also released in December 1928, but Saunders wasn’t in America to see it. He had moved once more, this time to England where he had an offer to perform on the stage. He had given America a good shot, he had performed in a play that had gained good reviews and he had auditioned for films but had gained only one credited part. He could see the writing on the wall.

Once in England Saunders discovered that a number of people he had worked with and knew in Australia were working there. He called upon his contacts and was offered a position with a Birmingham based repertory group, headed by Leon Salburg, called, of course, the Leon Salburg’s Repertory Company of West End Players.

In many ways Salburg’s company was similar to Wilkies. From March to November Saunders performed in no less than twenty plays. Salburg pushed his actors, but, after being pushed to his limits and beyond, Saunders would have been not only used to the demands, but he would have revelled in it. He gained more excellent reviews, being classed as versatile for his ability to perform different roles night after night with no sign of exhaustion or effort. But Saunders still wanted more, he wanted to be in film.

On the 10 January 1929, Saunders set sail for South Africa where he appeared on stage with Olga Lindo. The company, assembled by Lindo and produced by I.V.T.A Ltd, performed three plays in succession. Saunders remained in South Africa with Lindo until late 1930, whereupon he returned to England, along with his mother, who had met him in South Africa.

Once back in London Saunders quickly found work on the stage. He was playing the lead in The Silver Box when he was spotted by another American film director, Henry McRae, who was in England preparing to make the first serial filmed in England. McRae approached Saunders backstage and arranged a screen test, which showed that he could perform for the camera. McRae was fascinated by Saunders and the result was a five-year contract with Universal Studios and the promise of the lead role in the yet unnamed serial. Saunders had finally made it.

The first thing Universal did was to change his name from Claude Saunders to Jack Lloyd. They also knocked four years off his age, bringing him down from the age of 30 to 26. To further boost his profile, The Romance of Runnibede was promptly reissued and screened in the provinces. McRae was quoted as saying that Saunders was, “The Man With The Perfect Profile”. Much was made of the fact that Saunders, while single, was leading a pure life, living with his mother in Chelsea.
The Man With The Perfect Profile. Claude Saunders, 1931

Detective Lloyd began filming under the working title of Heroes of the Law. Also starring in the serial was Kenneth McLaglen, brother of the more famous Victor, Wallace Geoffrey, Muriel Angelus and Janice Adair. Also featured were real detectives, courtesy of Scotland Yard itself. The legendary police agency had, for the first time, given Universal permission to film there. As well as appearing as extras in the serial, detectives from Scotland Yard also gave their input into the script, at times making changes at the last minute. As far as publicity was concerned, this was the best of its kind and big things were expected from the serial. Newspaper journalists were invited to see the filming take place and articles were inserted into as many papers as possible. Filming began at Dorking in September 1931 and wrapped in late October. Once filming ended, Saunders went back to the stage and waited for his next role, still under contract with Universal.

The Universal publicity machine kicked into action. Saunders had been spotted in The Silver Box, which was, according to Universal, the same play that he’d made his debut with in Australia at the age of sixteen. He’d been asked to go to Hollywood by Wallace Worsley to appear in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He was about to make a massive splash in films in Hollywood when his work permit expired. Amongst the half truths and outright fabrications lay some realities. Most of the information had been provided by Saunders himself and then embellished by the studio publicists.

In Australia, a lot of the lies put out by Universal were ignored. Many people remembered Claude Saunders, so it was relatively easy for reporters to sift through the bulldust and insert truths.

The serial was released on 18 April 1932 in England, under the title Lloyd of the C.I.D. It had already been quietly released in America in mid-February. The reviews were scathing. The review given by The Bioscope was consistent with other tabloids of the time. The Bioscope found the film to be old fashioned, even in 1932, containing ‘absurd mistakes’ and suffering from poor direction and dialogue and riddled with mistakes and the suspense being ‘so palpably transparent as to raise a laugh.”. The only saving grace in the serial was Saunders himself. ‘Jack Lloyd as the hero gives by far the best performance,” but even this wasn’t a saving grace with the same review calling the serial being aimed at an unsophisticated audience[8]. The American reviews were just as bad.

Universal responded to the bad reviews in the only way they knew how to – they quietly dropped Saunders from his contract. This was his third shot at film, and now it was being considered as his third failure – the third strike.

It was a different story in Australia, where Saunders was being hailed as one of the success stories of the day. The usual promotions of free sweets and tickets were offered at cinemas, but a few unique promotions managed to sneak out. In Queensland, a Rockhampton bakery hit upon the idea of baking movie passes into their bread and then selling them to the public. The person who bought the lucky loaves wouldn’t know until they began to slice the bread, or, better yet, try and eat the pass. Unfortunately, this brilliant idea, possibly the only time a movie ticket has been passed off as baked goods, was knocked on the head by the local health authorities[9].

In South Australia Mickey Mouse’s third birthday was celebrated with free birthday cake for children, coinciding with the first episode of Lloyd, which ran as the opening for Jackie Coogan’s When A Feller Needs a Friend. Professor Perkins and his Acrobatic Wonders appeared on stage and a roller cycling competition was also held[10].

The competitions in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory were just as unique as the Queensland effort. “Register as Junior Detective Lloyds at the Theatre on Saturday Morning between 10 a m and 12 noon,” ran the blurb. “"Arrest" your friends and bring them to the Matinee. Each week the Boy and the Girl who make the most "arrests" will be admitted free. At the end of twelve weeks, the Boy and the Girl Who have made the greatest number of "arrests" during the period will receive valuable prizes Each week, all "arrests" will have the names taken and will then be registered as Junior Detective Lloyds themselves. All Junior Detectives will receive Badges of Office Become Sleuths.[11]

Western Australia offered the first part of the serial free of charge but ensured that the cinema was then cleared of anyone who wanted to stay to watch the rest of the evening’s fare. They could stay, but would have to pay a special, reduced, price for admission.[12]

All that action, along with screenings of movies such as Congorilla, ensured packed houses. Detective Lloyd was a success in Australia, and reviewers singled out Saunders, proudly promoting him as the next big thing to the movies and looked forward to his triumphant return to Australia.

Cashing in on his fledgling, and by now fading, film status, Saunders signed on in November 1932 to appear as the King in the play The Dubarry, earning £100 per week and played with that company until April  1933. However this was the touring company of The Dubarry and not the more celebrated production that was also playing in the West Ed and His Majesties Theatre, which featured Anny Ahlers in the lead role. Saunders was playing alongside Binnie Hale, Raymond Huntly, and Billy Leonard, all of whom he had performed with in the past. The company that Saunders had joined played Birmingham, but, as a bonus, there was a promise that the play was would tour Australia in the latter part of 1933, which would see Saunders appearing on stage in his native land for the first time since 1927. Fate would intervene.

December 1932 would find Saunders in Birmingham. He was performing nightly with The Dubarry, with matinees every Wednesday and Thursday. It wasn’t glamourous, but the cast was tight and cheery, and the reviews were good. After finishing up their run on 20 December, he undertook a role, as Jack Lloyd, in a Christmas Pantomime performance of Treasure Island. He threw on the makeup as Long John Silver and hammed it up across the stage, most likely enjoying the boos and hisses that the children in the audience hurled at him.

It wasn’t all light and joy that Christmas. Even though his mother was still with him in England, Saunders was missing his family. His film career had ended after one bad serial and, to add insult to injury, Universal had edited the serial down into a feature film, titled The Green Spot Mystery. Typical of Universal, they didn’t pay him for reusing/reediting the material from Detective Lloyd, nor did they consult with him. The first Saunders knew of The Green Spot Mystery was when he saw ads for it. Even edited down, the serial still made little sense to the public and The Green Spot Mystery vanished from the screen weeks after it was released. There is no record of the film being released in Australia, but it did see a limited release in America. It is now, along with Detective Lloyd, a lost film.

After taking January off, the cast of The Dubarry made their way to Scotland. They performed there for a fortnight before moving to Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham, Yorkshire – a proper tour of the provinces - performing for two-week periods in every city. It was a gruelling tour, but a breeze for Saunders who had come from the Wilkie school of acting, where he’d been on the road constantly and expected to perform a new Shakespeare play every night. The reviews were excellent and the pay steady and when the company finally wrapped in May 1933, Saunders had already lined up his next job – he’d found another film role.

A new company, Windsor Films, had been formed by an entrepreneur named Louis Zimmerman. After signing noted stage actors Naunton Wayne and Arthur Riscoe, they announced plans for six films and began to hire actors from the stage, including Saunders. He was slated to be in one of the six announced films, Helen of Troy, due to be shot on location in Vienna. With The Dubarry wrapped, and waiting for the film work to begin, Saunders decided to his downtime write a novel. He moved to Pagham Beach in West Sussex on the recommendation of his cousin, Godfrey Bensteady, where he rented a bungalow. He quickly contacted a friend named Freda, who had her own bungalow in nearby Felpham and made arrangements to catch up. Yet another friend, Bernard Nitschke, also came down to keep him company. He settled into his bungalow and began to write and wait for the call to begin filming.

The novel was never finished, and the call from Windsor Films, when it finally came, was just more bad news. Due to political reasons, filming in Vienna would not be happening. The film project that he’d been signed for was suspended.

The people who saw and spoke to Saunders in the three weeks that he lived at Pagham beach told the same story. He seemed tired and worn out, but, as he’d been touring the country not that long before, that was to be expected. What most people didn’t know was Saunders’ nerves were shot, he was depressed, and the writing wasn’t coming as easily as he expected.  Not that anyone outside of his inner circle would have known his turmoil. Every day he would wake up, go for a long walk with Nitschke and Freda and then a swim or a horse ride. For anyone seeing him, he was the same old Claude Saunders, a manly man, but, inside the depression was upon him. When the call from Windsor Films came, it was crushing. The film deals had fallen through, which would have added to his woes. On Tuesday, 5 July, he told Freda that he wished to be alone to write, so she gave him the key to her bungalow at Felpham, telling her he’d breakfast at Bongor and then back the following afternoon.

Saunders never arrived on Wednesday. Worried that something had befallen him, Freda and Nitschke headed to the Felpham bungalow where they found all the doors locked. Freda opened the doors and the smell of gas hit them. The bathroom door was locked, so Freda broke the window and looked inside. Letting out a scream at what she saw, Nitschke came running.

Saunders was in the bathtub, dead. He told her to call for a doctor while he bashed the door down. Saunders was in the bath, fully clothed, with his head resting on pillows. The gas tap was fully on. There was no chance. Claude Saunders had died in the early hours of July 6, 1933. The cause was asphyxia due to coal gas, the verdict, “Suicide while of unsound mind”.

On the bathroom shelf, Saunders left two notes. One was addressed to his mother, “Dear Mother, forgive me.” The second note was addressed to Freda. “Dear Freda, I cannot see in the dark. Remember me, Claude”[13]. The official verdict, as issued by the corner, was that Saunders had committed suicide by coal gas whilst of unsound mind. He was 33 years old. 

Why did Claude Saunders take his own life? The true reasons are now lost to time. While it was reported that he was run down and generally depressed during his time at Pagham beach, people also reported that he maintained a routine of walking, swimming and horseback riding in the mornings, writing in the afternoons and dinners in the evenings. He had just come off the road of a tour, the Dubarry wasn’t an easy play to perform and much had happened during its run. He’d been signed to make more films, but that had been postponed to the point of falling through, helped in no small part by political issues in Austria – Nazis were infiltrating the parliament, which had been suspended in March 1933, and the idea of filming a motion picture there was as remote as could be. Despite this, outwardly at least, there was no sign of what was to come.

His note to Freda offers two scenarios. One: Saunders was going blind. His claim that he “could no longer see in the dark,” can be read in its literal form. If Saunders were going blind, this would mean that his acting career would be finished. If he could not read, he could not memorise scripts and there was little call for a leading man, in cinema, who wore glasses to see. Being blind would mean he would not be able to react to visual cues and hit his marks. The other aspect to this theory is being blind to a physical man such as Saunders would have been hell. In short, both professionally and personally, going blind would be a death sentence. Saunders would rather die than be an invalid.

The second theory is depression. Not being able to see in the dark could have been a metaphor for Saunders, as he was fighting depression. In 1931, he’d been signed to a five-year contract with Universal and placed in a leading role in the first serial filmed in the UK. Once the serial was released, it gained bad reviews and Universal, as was their way of blaming actors for poor reviews, dropped him from his contract. Thus we went from a future as a leading man in film to playing the third lead in a provincial play, the Dubarry. The emergence of a film career had been shattered and he now looked at a stage career as a supporting actor, at best. Perhaps, in the future, something might change, but, for the foreseeable future, his prospects were dim. His novel writing wasn’t coming together, and he might have felt that everything was just getting too hard.

Of course, both of these scenarios are speculation. What went through Saunder’s mind on that night in 1933 will never be known. It could have been a combination of everything. What is known is that Saunders could have come back, he had the connections, he had the sheer talent and looks to make it. Whatever demons he carried won out, and more is the pity.

Claude Saunders turn as Detective Lloyd outlasted his life. Now considered a lost film, along with the edited movie version, The Green Spot Mystery, Lloyd of the C.I.D. ran on UK television twice in the 1970s. It was shown on ITV Granada, which serviced the North West of England from January to March 1972, and then again on HTV, which serviced Wales and the South West of England[14], between January and March 1977. After those two screenings, the serial vanished. That Saunders' most notable work is now gone to the ages adds to the tragedy of his life.

Luckily, Saunders other two films, The Romance of Runnibede and The Swell Head, still exist. The former is held by the National Film & Sound Archive of Australia and the latter in the UCLA Film and Television Archive. 111 years after he made his stage debut, at the ripe age of nine, Claude Saunders can still be seen, and, in the case of The Swell Head, heard. And his place in Australian film history is assured – Claude Saunders, aka Jack Lloyd, was the first Australian leading man in a Universal talkie. While it’s sad to wonder what might have been, had he lived, there is a lot to celebrate when it comes to a man who was able to adapt to material thrown at him at the last minute and who had both a commanding voice, but also a magnetic presence on the screen.

Scenes from Detective Lloyd, aka Lloyd of the C.I.D. (1932)

Notable Stage Work
Boulder, Western Australia
Boulder Children’s Ball[15]
1909     Mohammedan
Adelaide Repertory Theatre
Adelaide, South Australia
1918     A Woman Unknown
1918     Dream Faces
1918     The Great Adventure
1919     Monologues
1919     Fanny’s First Play
1920    St. George and the Dragon
1920     The Bells
1921     An Evening With Dickens
1922     Don
1922     Rosalind
Allan Wilkie Shakespearian Company
NOTE: The year noted is when the play was first performed with Saunders. The plays were then on rotation. Saunders was expected to play any role, beginning with supporting/juvenile roles, and then progressing to lead roles. As such Saunders played virtually every single male role available in the Shakespeare canon.
1923     Twelfth Night
1923     A Midsummers Night’s Dream
1923     Merchant of Venice
1923     King Henry The Fifth
1923     Julius Caesar
1923     King John
1923     The Tempest
1923     Merry Wives of Windsor
1923     Hamlett
1923     Romeo and Juliet
1923     As You Like It
1923     King Lear
1923     A Winter’s Tale
1924     Othello
1924     The Comedy of Errors
1924     The Taming of the Shrew
1924     Richard III
1924     Much Ado About Nothing,
1925     Macbeth
1925     Cymbelline
1925     The Two Gentlemen Of Verona
1925     The School For Scandal
1925     She Stoops To Conquer
1925     The Rivals of Sheridan
1925     A Florentine Tragedy
1925     The Bells
1926     Measure For Measure
1926     Broken Laws
1926     Allan Wilkie Shakespearian Company New Zealand Tour (February – March)
1926     Is Zat So
J.C. Williamson Ltd (Australia)
1926     Is Zat So? (Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney only)
1927     Is Zat So? (Sydney)
1927     Is Zat So
J.C. Williamson Ltd (Australia)
1927     Six Cylinder Love (Sydney only)
Los Angeles
1928     Legitimate Lovers
1928     Excess Baggage
Leon Salburg’s Repertory Company (March to December)
Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
1929     Dick Whittington
1929     Diplomacy
1929     The Witness for the Defence
1929     9:45
1929     Lord Richard In The Pantry
1929     A Butterfly on the Wheel
1929     Tilly of Bloomsbury
1929     The Wrong Number
1929     If Four Walls Told
1929     The Bad Man
1929     Mr. Pim Passes By
1929     Interference
1929     The High Road
1929     Rookery Nook
1929     Our Flat
1929     The Lion and the Mouse
1929     The Pelican
1929     The Lie
1929     A Cuckoo In The Nest
1929     The Best People
SOUTH AFRICA (February – June)
I.V.T.A. Ltd – Olga Lindo Tour
1930     Rain
1930     The Patsy
1930     Her Past
1930     The Stranger Within
1930     Constant Nymph
1930     Made In Heaven
1931     Lillies of the Field
1931     I Want
1931     The Silver Box
1931     Coincidences
1931     Treasure Island[17]
1932     The Dubarry
1933     The Dubarry
1933     The Dubarry
Claude Saunders as Sub-Inspector Dale in The Romance of Runnibede (1928)

1927     The Romance of Runnibede (Australia)
Production Company: Phillips Films Productions
Produced by Frederick Phillips
Written by John M. Giles, Gayne Dexter (Titles), from the novel by Steele Rudd
Dirs. Scott R. Dunlap, William Reed, Wallace Worsley
Cast: Eva Novak (Dorothy Winchester), Gordon Collingridge (Tom Linton), Claude Saunders (Sub-Inspector Dale), Roland Conway (Arthur Winchester), Dunstan Webb (Goondai), Marion Marcus Clarke (Miss Frazer), Virginia Ainsworth (Mrs Conley)

1928     The Swell Head (USA)
Production Company: Warner Vitaphone
Screenplay: Hugh Hubert
            Dir. Bryan Foy
Cast: Eddie Foy Jr., Bessie Love, Eugene Pallette, Claude Sanders, James T. Mack

1932     Detective Lloyd (UK/USA)
UK title: Lloyd of the C.I.D.
Production Company: Mutual Film Company
Distribution: Universal Pictures General Films– UK/USA
Story: Henry McRae
Supervisor: Clarence MacKain
            Dir. Henry MacRae
Cast: Jack Lloyd (Chief Inspector Lloyd), Wallace Geoffrey (Giles Wade, 'The Panther'), Muriel Angelus (Sybil Craig), Lewis Dayton (Randall Hale), Janice Adair (Diana Brooks), Tracey Holmes (Chester Dunn), Emily Fitzroy (the manor ghost)

1932     The Green Spot Mystery[18] (UK/USA)
Production Company: Mutual Film Company
Distribution: Universal Pictures General Films– UK/USA
Story: Henry McRae
Supervisor: Clarence MacKain
Dir. Henry MacRae
Cast: Jack Lloyd (Chief Inspector Lloyd), Wallace Geoffrey (Giles Wade, 'The Panther'), Muriel Angelus (Sybil Craig), Lewis Dayton (Randall Hale), Janice Adair (Diana Brooks), Tracey Holmes (Chester Dunn), Emily Fitzroy (the manor ghost)

Detective Lloyd, Australian film premiere poster

[1] Boulder Children’s Ball, Western Argus, 20 July 1908 & 17 July 1909
[2] Mail (SA) 9 September 1922
[3] Saunders won competitions in Ballarat and Geelong in 1921 and 1922
[4] For example, in one week in August 1923, the Company performed Twelfth Night, Winter’s Tale, Midsummer’s Night Dream and The Tempest, on alternate nights over a seven-day period.
[5] Critic (SA) 28 March 1923
[6] The Age (Vic), 9 September 1926
[8] The Bioscope (UK), 17 February 1932
[9] Railway Bakery Ad, Evening News (QLD), 4 January 1933
[10] The News (SA), 18 August 1932
[11] The Canberra Times, 21 October 1932
[12] Great Southern Leader (WA), 9 December 1932
[13] Actor-Author Found Gassed’, Evening Telegraph (UK), 28 July1933
[14] ITV covered the following areas: Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside, Derbyshire, Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Isle of Man.
[15] Classified as the Social Event of the Boulder Season
[17] Christmas pantomime, billed as Jack Lloyd
[18] Condensed version of Detective Lloyd

Claude Saunders and Eva Novack, 1928, pose for a publicity shot while promoting the Romance of Runnibede


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