On this day December 26: Pat McDonald aka Dorrie Evans

Pat McDonald december 26

On December 26, 1940, actor Miss Patricia McDonald sped back to Sydney to perform at a matinee performance after spending Christmas Day with her parents on their yacht. That was typical of Pat McDonald, the hardworking actor who later starred in Number 96 and Sons and Daughters. In the 1970s, she shared a very public – though never discussed – relationship with fellow actor Bunney Brooke.

The daughter of a wealthy Sydney family, Pat McDonald started treading the boards at just 7-years-old. She sang and danced, modelled, played the piano and acted. In her mid-teens, she left for England and landed movie roles. However, with the approach of World War II, Pat sailed back to Australia, accompanied by Miss Phyllis Brunt, the first dancer to appear on BBC Television. Phyllis stayed in Australia and later presented dance segments on the ABC.

Pat soon landed a role in the movie Seven Little Australians. She also acted in stage and radio plays and worked as a photographic and catwalk model. She was the hardest-working person in show business before that phrase became a cliche.

In 1941, she married an army doctor but kept working under her maiden name. However, she dropped the ‘Miss’ and shortened her professional name to Pat.

Following the breakup of her marriage during the 1960s, she told a journalist it was just possible to eke out a living as an actor in Australia through a combination of radio, television and theatre work.

pat mcdonald
Dot Rankin lights Pat’s cigarette in 1941’s ‘Housemaster’.

Number 96

In 1972, Pat McDonald became a television star for her portrayal of Dorrie Evans in Number 96. Reputedly the show that took television’s virginity, Number 96 fearlessly ventured where others feared to tread. Joe Hasham portrayed the first ongoing gay character in a TV series anywhere. Likewise, Carlotta became the first transgender performer to play a transgender role. The magnificent Justine Saunders also appeared. This writer misremembered her as an Indigenous activist. However, Aussie TV and film historian Andrew Mercardo, a great fan of Number 96, accurately recalls she played a hairdresser and was the first female Indigenous character in an Aussie drama. Andrew wrote the definitive guide Super Aussie Soaps: Behind the Scenes of Australia’s Best Loved TV Shows.

Pat McDonald played chatterbox and meddler Dorrie Evans.

“I always feel sorry for all the Dorrie Evanses – and there are many of them in everyday life. They are mostly unthinking, insensitive people who gossip incessantly.

“I try not to make Dorrie a malicious person. I suppose there are times when she has tender moments. However, this kind of person is afraid to let others see those real moments of tenderness.”

Australian television audiences loved Dorrie. Her unintended sarcasm and inadvertent abuse of the English language endeared her to viewers. Dorrie earned Pat the second-ever Gold Logie awarded to a female television personality.

pat mcdonald december 26
Bunney and Pat

Bunney Brooke

When the Number 96 writers wanted to introduce a more overtly comedic character as a foil for Dorrie, Pat suggested Bunney Brooke. The pair already lived together. Bunney was basically out. During the 1950s, she and a girlfriend ran a Melbourne coffee shop that discreetly catered to a gay and lesbian clientele.

Pat and Bunney made no secret of living together. They also talked about their joint overseas holidays in interviews. But they never explicitly addressed their relationship. However, in a 1978 televised curtain call for Number 96 cast members, the pair entered hand in hand. Bunney wore – for the time – a defiantly masculine suit.

A few years after Number 96 ended, Pat McDonald returned to television screens as Aunt Fiona in Sons and Daughters. She based Aunt Fiona on Auntie Mame, who she declared the favourite of all her stage roles.

Actor, Pat McDonald

In 1990, newspapers reported the death of ‘Actress Pat McDonald’ from pancreatic cancer. If there was one thing Pat McDonald could not stand, it was the word actress. She regularly took journalists to task for calling her by the term.

“Acting is a profession.

“You don’t hire a lawyeress or go to a doctoress.

“Why would you call someone an actress?”

As Dorrie Evans often said, “It’s enough to drive a body beresk.”

Such was Dorrie’s impact on Australian culture, ‘Dorrie Evans’ entered the lingo as ‘the’ term for a stickybeak. And this writer, admittedly a frequently stupid person, assumed for decades that ‘beresk’ was a real word.

Oh well. As Dorrie also said, “Life isn’t always a bowl of cherubs.”

Pat McDonald and Bunney Brooke: Number 96

Read more: December 25 <— On this day —> December 27

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1 Comment

  1. jeffrey Lee
    27 December 2021

    Pat also made a short movie with Karen Chant, Karen playing a Jewish jeweller from Double bay, I think it was called Michel & mother take tea, Pat played the mother of her transsexual son Michel, it was very funny ,Robin Lee also had lines in the movie, I haven’t seen or been able to get a copy, if anyone can please tell me, jefferylee69@rocketmail.com

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