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Double-Act: The remarkable lives of Googie Withers and John McCallum

Erich Mayer

Brian McFarlane brings to life the careers of an extraordinarily gifted couple
Double-Act: The remarkable lives of Googie Withers and John McCallum

Image from the cover of Double-Act

If there are some people who are blessed not only with good luck, talent and intelligence but also excellent health, good looks, immense energy and abundant personal charm and empathy, then Googie Withers and John McCallum are high on that list.

In Double Act, Brian McFarlane charts Googie and John’s careers through the eyes of a lover of theatre, cinema and television, including glimpses into their personal lives throughout.

Googie and John were lucky to have met each other when they did, but it took more than luck to keep them together for over 60 years while each allowed the other to pursue their professional careers to the full. These careers are well documented by McFarlane, prompting the reader to wonder how two people could have achieved so much and both been so exceptional while raising a family of three people.

The book includes more than 30 black-and-white photographs which complement the text and make you wish for more. After all, there are limits to describing the performing arts in words even though McFarlane does this par excellence.

Googie shines through the book as a fun-loving person who likes to dance and party; while she never learns to be a snob, she does learn to be disciplined in her work, though she is perhaps less disciplined when it comes to home decoration.

John emerges as a man of many parts; he exhibits that rare combination of being a very good manager and businessman as well as a great actor. He seems to have the ability to know what the public wants before it knows itself, and so launches many original productions, not least Skippy.

If you love the performing arts, this is the book for you. If you are old enough to have seen Googie and John perform together on the stage, this is the book for you. And even if you are ​neither of those, you might still wish to read this book to learn from the success and humility of an extraordinary couple.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Double-Act: The remarkable lives and careers of Googie Withers and John McCallum 

By Brian McFarlane 

Publication: May 2015
Monash University Publishing

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Erich Mayer is a retired company director and former organic walnut farmer. He now edits the blog