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Lennie Mayne

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Lennie Mayne
BornLeonard Edward Mayne
8 November 1927
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
💀Died20 May 1977(1977-05-20) (aged 49)
English Channel, UK20 May 1977(1977-05-20) (aged 49)
🏳️ Nationality
💼 Occupation

Lennie Mayne (born Leonard Edward Mainprize; 8 November 1927 – 20 May 1977) was an Australian television director, who started out as a dancer before becoming a choreographer and then spent much of his career working in British television.

Early life[edit]

Born at North Shore Hospital in Greenwich, Sydney, Australia on 8 November 1927, Mayne was the youngest of a close-knit hardworking family. His parents had emigrated from London and Yorkshire.

Mayne grew up in a waterfront workers' cottage in the High Street, Millers Point on the waterfront right by Sydney Harbour. Sydney Harbour Bridge was built while he was a young child. This area used to be called The Hungry Mile (now Barangaroo) because workers would walk from wharf to wharf looking for a job during the depression. It was one of the earliest areas of European settlement in Sydney and is now a heritage area. Since 2014 Sydney council has been selling off these heritage workers' cottages as they are considered prime real estate. Mayne's father Herbert Mainprize was a waterfront worker and had been a deep-sea diver and torpedo gunner (and welterweight boxing champion) for the British navy. He met Mayne's mother Catherine Jones at a Church Temperance Society meeting in Sydney in 1911, after which he bought his way out of the navy. Catherine's family had a boarding house and a milk run in Millers Point and she was in domestic service. Mayne's other siblings were Margaret, who also went into domestic service, Cathy who was a telephonist, Stanley who was a waterfront worker like their father, and Gladys, who worked in the RAF canteen during World War II.

The family was forced to move inland to Katoomba, New South Wales, in the Blue Mountains in 1937 because Catherine's asthma was so severe. They set up a boardinghouse in Lurline Road.


When Mayne was 19, he began training to become an electrician. During his three-year apprenticeship in Sydney he started taking acting classes including dance classes, and performing in productions at Sydney Town Hall. Catherine Mainprize was very proud of her youngest child, and travelled from Katoomba to see him perform at Sydney Town Hall, but his dad Herbert considered ballet unmanly and didn't talk about Mayne's achievements.

Over the next two years he became fascinated by the theatre and the idea of becoming a dancer, and by the end of 1949 he had worked for the National Theatre Ballet in one of their productions. In early 1950 he signed up with JC Williamson, the foremost theatrical agency in Australia, and changed his surname to Mayne. In mid-1951 he signed a contract with the National Theatre Movement to perform at Tivoli Theatres and that year, age 23, he toured with the Borovansky Ballet—who would later become the Australian National Ballet—in New Zealand in the corps de ballet and in Australian cities, performing at the Theatre Royal in Sydney in December. Swan Lake, Petroushka, Giselle, among other ballets.

In 1952 he continued as a ballet dancer in the corps de ballet with the Boravansky Ballet to Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne, Western Australia and New Zealand, with the last 'break-up' party in Dunedin, New Zealand, in December.

Early in 1953 he took the three-month journey by boat, on the Orion, all the way to the UK with a group of friends who were also dancers, and settled in West London.

Mayne immediately auditioned for the original London show Guys and Dolls, which opened in 1953 featuring two of the same Broadway stars, and became one of their principal dancers. That year there was a royal command performance and he wrote to his mother Catherine Mainprize: 'I've just had one of the most thrilling nights I've ever experienced in the theatre so I thought I'd sit down and tell you all about it. The royal family were in the show tonight and really your hardened old son was thrilled to the back teeth...The whole trip to England has been worth it if just for tonight.'

Mayne was a prolific letter writer and wrote regularly to the Mainprize family back home addressing his letters to 'the whole famdamily'.

Mayne met dancer Frances Pidgeon, who everyone called Pidge, in mid-1954, on the set of Cole Porter's musical Can Can, which was also at the Coliseum. Australian dancer Harry Haythorne said of Mayne: 'Also at the auditions were two "Aussie blokes"... who stood out as being very upfront, good-humoured... certainly not shy... with no pretentions. They were, of course, Lennie Mayne and his best friend, Australian Jack Hall, both of whom would marry dancers from the show.' Lennie and Pidge married in 1956.

Mayne performed as a dancer in the 1955 movie Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (the follow-up to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes), with Jane Russell, and became choreographer for the notorious Astor night club in Piccadilly. In the late 1950s, he appeared as a dancer on the teen music programme Cool for Cats.[1]

In 1961 he returned to Sydney for the first time since 1952 with his wife Pidge and had a very joyful reunion with his family. In Sydney he worked as a floor manager for the TV channel ATN Channel 7 on the music show Review 61, while Pidge worked as a dancer in a Sydney night club. They rented a waterfront apartment in Hunters Hill on Lane Cove River, near the harbour. By this time his father Herbert's dementia was well established so he couldn't appreciate his son's success and died six months after he returned.

Lennie and Pidge returned to the UK after nearly a year and Lennie became choreographer on a television special called The Bing Crosby Show in December 1961,[2] among other freelance jobs, including as a dancer in the British film Play It Cool, starring Billy Fury. In 1962 Mayne got on the BBC producers' trainee course but didn't complete it and he returned to freelancing as a choreographer and production assistant. He worked his way up the career ladder and was finally offered a job on staff at the BBC in 1966. By 1968 he was directing The Borderers.

He is most closely associated with the science fiction series Doctor Who, having directed four serials for the programme: The Curse of Peladon (1972), The Three Doctors (1972), The Monster of Peladon (1974) and The Hand of Fear (1976).[3] He also directed episodes for numerous BBC series/serials on the 1960s and 1970s, including The First Lady, The Troubleshooters, Doomwatch, Warship, The Brothers, Softly, Softly: Taskforce and The Onedin Line.


Mayne drowned following a sailing accident in the English Channel in May 1977 when the sailing boat he was on was hit by a trawler at night.[4] His body was never found. There was a packed memorial service at All Soul's in Langham Place in Regent's Street in London to commemorate Mayne, his achievements and his contribution to the BBC.

Personal life[edit]

Mayne has two daughters and four grandchildren.


  1. Wood, Tat (2009). About Time: The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who, Volume 3 (Expanded 2nd ed.). Mad Norwegian Press. p. 228. ISBN 978-0-9759446-7-7. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  2. "The Paley Center for Media". The Paley Center for Media. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  3. Owen, David (May 1989). "The Hand of Fear: Production". In-Vision (16): 4–6. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  4. Miles, Lawrence; Wood, Tat (2004). About Time: The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who, Volume 4. Mad Norwegian Press. p. 113. ISBN 0-9759446-3-0. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png

External links[edit]

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