Pilita Corrales

Around January 1959, Pilita Corrales, a young Filipino singer from Cebu, met the American actor and magician, John Calvert, while performing in Manila. Calvert invited Corrales to board his yacht, the Sea Fox, and together they set sail for Singapore, where Calvert had arranged a season of magic shows at the Shaw Brothers’ Sky theatre. Calvert’s act, ‘direct from Hollywood’, promised ‘Exotic Spectacle! Music! Magic! Mirth! and Girls! Girls! Girls!’, while Corrales took second billing as ‘Spanish Song Bird’ above Nikki Lynn (’Golden Glamorous Girl’), Holli Daye (’Big, Blonde & Beautiful’) and Bob Markworth (’World’s Greatest Archer’).

After their Singapore season, Corrales toured with Calvert’s troupe through the Shaw Brothers circuit in Malaya, and then set sail in the Sea Fox for Australia, but days out of Darwin en route to Sydney, the Sea Fox ran into trouble and drifted without power for four days, until the Australian air force and navy came to the rescue. Corrales and Calvert completed the journey by air, arriving on time to open for Australian producer Harry Wren in From Outer Space at Sydney’s Empire Theatre on 7 August 1959.

Other records of Corrales’ Australian adventures with Calvert include a newsreel of the couple drinking ‘jungle juice’ with a gorilla at Sydney’s Taronga Park Zoo, a television appearance as a magician’s assistant and singer on the Bobby Limb Show in 1960, and an ill-fated venture in Tasmania making the never-released movie, Port of Escape.

By April 1961, Calvert was back in Singapore, having left Australia before a warrant was issued for his alleged theft of the film. But Corrales stayed on in Australia for several years, having recorded Pilita Tells the Story of Love with Astor Records, a successful album of love songs in English, French, Spanish and Tagalog, and having established an audience for her singing – across Melbourne’s airwaves, in particular – with regular appearances on television and radio.

Corrales’ cultural identity also transitioned in Australia. On an episode of the Graham Kennedy Channel Nine Show for New Year’s Eve 1961, Corrales performs solo. No longer appearing as Spanish, the show’s host, Graham Kennedy, introduces her as ‘wonderful Filipino Pilita’. Also appearing on that episode, broadcast from the television studios of Melbourne’s Channel Nine, is Toni Lamond performing in a comedy sketch.

  • Excerpt from the ABC documentary, Love is in the Air, 2003 – includes footage from The Bobby Limb Show, c. 1960, and the Graham Kennedy Channel Nine Show, c. 1961 – via YouTube.

References

  • ‘Man who makes elephant vanish’, Straits Times, 17 Jan 1959, p. 7
  • ‘Sea Fox and Skipper Calvert turn up’, Straits Times, 11 Feb 1959, p. 4
  • ‘A fantastic show by Calvert’, Straits Times, 18 Feb 1959, p. 5.
  • Advertisement for John Calvert at the Sky Theatre, Singapore, Straits Times, 28 Jan 1959, p. 5.
  • ‘Fears for yacht of film star’, Sydney Morning Herald, 7 Jul 1959, p.5
  • ‘Baffling search for yacht Sea Fox’, Sydney Morning Herald, 8 Jul 1959, p.1
  • ‘Yacht found safe in Arafura Sea’, Sydney Morning Herald, 9 Jul 1959, p.1
  • ‘Yacht owner accepts tow offer’, Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Jul 1959, p.1
  • ‘Fed. Ministers confer on yacht reports’, Sydney Morning Herald, 16 Jul 1959, p.1
  • ‘Sea Fox man blames damaged sextant’, Sydney Morning Herald, 17 Jul 1959, p. 1
  • ‘Sea Fox rescue: N.T. resentment of criticism’, Sydney Morning Herald, 18 Jul 1959, p.7
  • ‘Calvert plans salvage of Sea Fox’, Sydney Morning Herald, 20 Jul 1959, p.1.
  • ‘Actor John Calvert arriving in Sydney on a TAA aeroplane after being shipwrecked near Darwin’, two photographs by Ken Redshaw, 17 July 1959, State Library of New South Wales, Australian Photographic Agency 06856 and 06855
  • From Outer Space, Empire Theatre, Sydney, 7 Aug 1959, State Library of New South Wales, theatre program collection.
  • ‘Animal oddities: the silly season at the Zoo’, Fox Movietone newsreel, 27 August 1959, National Film and Sound Archive, Title No. 131436
  • The Bobby Limb Show, episode 18, c. 1960, National Film and Sound Archive, Title No. 11982
  • Eric Reade, History and Heartburn: The Saga of Australian Film, 1896-1978 (Sydney: Harper & Row, 1979), p. 150.
  • ‘$800,000 row: Calvert repilies’, Straits Times, 4 May 1961, p. 2.
  • Pilita Corrales with Arthur Young and his Orchestra, Pilita Tells the Story of Love, Astor Records, Australia, 1959, National Film and Sound Archive, Title No. 626666.
  • Graham Kennedy Channel Nine Show, c. 1961, National Film and Sound Archive, Title No. 466415.
  • Corrales, Pilita: Interviewed by Nick Weare, 20 Nov 2007, audio recording, National Film and Sound Archive, Title No: 745730.
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15 Responses to Pilita Corrales

  1. Greg Wilson says:

    John Calvert is 100 years old this year, 2011, and he is alive and well. Today, Oct. 4th, 2011, he is in Los Angeles at the famous Magic Castle, a private nightclub and fraternal organization for Magicians. He will be performing a special show to honor the founders of the Magic Castle on Thursday. He is strong, healthy, and clear of mind. He remembers his adventures well, and the troubles he had at sea with the Sea Fox, including his rescue by the RAAF. He is visibly saddened when asked about the fate of his favorite chimpanzee, Jimmy, that lived and traveled with Calvert all over the world. When faced with the ill proposition of condemning Jimmy, because of the lack of proper health certificates, Calvert found a home for him at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney. Not only could the chimp swim, and play the piano, but he was completely domesticated in that he could use the toilet, wipe and remember to flush. Jimmy the chimp also loved to take a shower, by himself. Pilita must have had incredible adventures traveling with Calvert. He is an amazing man.

    Active, and constantly driven to look for the next booking, Calvert continues to tour the world, having just fulfilled a Command Performance commemorating 100 years at the Palladium Theater in London. Calvert’s future bookings include a trip to Spain in 2012, and more. There is no stopping the determination and dynamic personality of the true living legend, John Calvert!

  2. Ramon Mendoza says:

    How I wish all the spanish album of Pilita in Australia be released in CD,

  3. Ramon Mendoza says:

    Sorry, what I mean is that all her albums in Australia be released again in CD. Pilita is an icon and a living legend in the recording industry. She deserves a Lifetime Achievement award in Australia.

  4. I agree, Ramon! Pilita is a real treasure. I’m very interested in her story in Australia. It would be great if her Australian recordings were re-released!

  5. Ramilito says:

    Pilita recorded 3 albums in Australia, i already have 2 of them “Tells the story of love” and “this is pilita” which I converted to mp3. Im looking for “ill take romace”. Hope i can find it here. Im willing to share mine.

  6. Nick says:

    Hello Ramilito. I have a copy of “I’ll Take Romance” which my brother bought in Australia. I too have “Tells the Story of Love” BUT do not have “This is Pilita”. Have you found a copy of “I’ll Take Romance”? Where are you located? Nick

  7. Ray o says:

    Hi! Sorry for the delayed reply. Im from Philippines but currently deployed in the middle east. I have the “this is pilita” locally pressed with a different cover of very young Pilita. Its better than australian press in my opinion. I have most of her recordings which im going to convert into digital when i get back home. You can reach me at ramil_crisostomo@yahoo.com

  8. Ramil says:

    And yes finally i got a very good copy of “ill take romance” in stereo

  9. Carlo Orosa says:

    Hi I am interested to know more about the history of Pilita and John. How could I get in touch with Jonathan Bollen. I am doing research on the life of Pilita for a possible musical and I actually did recent interviews with her last year. We are very good friends. May I get in touch with you? My email is orosacarlo@gmail.com

    Thanks so much!

  10. Andra says:

    I knew Pilita when she first came to Australia with John Calvert. She was just the most adorable, sweetest young lady ever.
    I have very fond memories of sitting around with them while Pilita ate tunny fish, her favourite snack.
    She was a great star on In Melbourne Tonight and her voice is as good now as then.

  11. Jonathan Bollen says:

    Dear Andra, Pilita is a real star. I was fortunate to meet her and hear her sing in Manila in 2010. That was a great experience. best wishes, Jonathan

  12. Jonathan Bollen says:

    Dear Carlo – thanks for getting in touch. I’ll send you an email. best wishes, Jonathan

  13. Lulu says:

    HI,

    I just want to let people who knows Pilita that Oyster Productions is bringing Pilita back to Melbourne on the 15th of August 2015 at the Village Green Hotel which is situated on the corner of Springvale and Ferntree Gully Road, Mulgrave, Victoria at 7:00 p.m If you are interested please call Lulu on 0419356631 or 97724339. I am sure she would love to see you at her performance.

  14. ramon mendoza says:

    May I know if the street named after Pilita still existing in Australia? Where it is exactly located? I have friends will tour Ausralia this coming October. Anyone can show a photograph of that streer?:)

  15. Jonathan Bollen says:

    Hi Ramon – Pilita Street is in Forest Hill, a suburb in Melbourne. Here is the link to Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/WnxqFjXPwuM2

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