b. 20 April 1890, Birmingham, England, d. 4 March 1945, London, England. One of three brothers who all followed their showman father into showbusiness, Black first worked in his father’s cinema in Sunderland. Following his father’s death in 1910, he and his younger brothers, Alfred and Edward, eventually owned a dozen cinemas, which they sold in 1919 only to build a new chain. This, too, was sold, to General Theatre Corporation (GTC) in 1928. GTC had come into being earlier that year and included an interest in the Variety Theatres Controlling Company Ltd. Black became a director of the new company, which controlled theatres, cinemas and dancehalls. The company was very soon taken over by Gaumont-British Picture Corporation with Black remaining a director. He had overall responsibility for the group’s live theatres, including the London Palladium where he staged a series of variety shows. When GTC merged with Moss Empires in 1932, Black had more than 50 theatres under his control.
Black presented the Crazy Gang at the London Palladium throughout the 30s. London theatres were closed on government orders following the declaration of war in September 1939, but most soon reopened and on 11 October 1939, Black presented the revue, The Little Dog Laughed, at the Palladium. The show ran for 461 performances and two of the songs became much-loved reflections of the British public’s attitude in the early years of the war. These were Noel Gay and Ralph Butler’s ‘Run, Rabbit, Run’ (performed by Flanagan And Allen), and Jimmy Kennedy and Michael Carr’s ‘We’re Gonna Hang Out The Washing On The Siegfried Line’ (sung by Leslie Sarony and Leslie Holmes as the Two Leslies).
Among numerous shows staged in London under the aegis of the Black family during the pre-war and wartime years were Piccadilly Hayride (starring Sid Fields), Strike A New Note, Garrison Theatre, The Lisbon Story, and Happy And Glorious (starring Tommy Trinder). Following Black’s death (he was succeeded by his protégé, Val Parnell), the company was restructured, with GTC now dealing with cinemas and Moss Empires theatres. Black, who was married to actress Hannah Mary Gibson, had two sons and a daughter. Both sons, George (b. 1911, d. 1970) and Alfred (b. 1913, d. 2002), became theatrical producers who worked in collaboration with and also independent of their father. They were also in the forefront of the development of independent television in the UK.