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Fitton, Doris Alice (1897 - 1985)

Dame, DBE

3 November 1897
Manila, the Philippines
2 April 1985
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Actor and Theatrical director
Alternative Names
  • Mason, Doris Alice (married name)


Doris Fitton was an actor who, with a number of others, established the Independent Theatre in Sydney in 1930 and kept it going until its closure in 1977. The theatre provided a training ground for young Australian actors and playwrights. She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire on 31 December 1981 for Services to the theatre (as Mrs Mason).


Doris Fitton was the daughter of Walter Fitton, an English accountant, broker and cigar manufacturer, and his wife, Janet Cameron, an Australian. She came to Australia in 1902 with her mother and older sister, Janet. She was educated at Loreto Convent, Ballarat and took acting classes with Gregan McMahon. Fitton had her first acting role in Melbourne with J C Williamson in 1915.

Doris Fitton married solicitor Norbert Mason in Sydney in 1922 and had two sons.

Frustrated at the lack of opportunity for acting, she and nineteen other actors established the Independent Theatre in Sydney 1930. It remained in existence for forty-seven years, closing in May 1977. The theatre provided young Australian actors and playwrights with opportunities to develop and display their talents. They staged more than four hundred productions, the most controversial being Sumner Locke Elliott's Rusty Bugles.

Although her students and peers loved and respected her, she was known for her dictatorial personality. Her autobiography entitled Not without heat and dust, was published in 1981.

Shee gained public recognition for her commitment to theatre in Australia with her appointment to the OBE in 1955, the CBE in 1975 and the DBE in 1982.

Doris Fitton died in Sydney on 2 April 1985.

Sources used to compile this entry: 'Fitton, Dame Doris Alice', in The Australian Encyclopaedia, 6th edn, Australian Geographic Pty Ltd, Terrey Hills, NSW, 1996, p. 1357; McPherson, Ailsa, 'Fitton, Dame Doris Alice Lucy Walkden (1897 - 1985)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, 2006,; Oppenheimer, Melanie, 'Doris Fitton', in Heather Radi (ed.), 200 Australian women, Redress Press, Broadway, NSW, 1988, pp. 210-11; Radi, Heather (ed.), 200 Australian Women: A Redress Anthology, Women's Redress Press, Sydney, 1988, 258 pp. Also available at

Archival resources

National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection

  • Papers of the Canberra Repertory Society 1945-1975, 1945 - 1975, MS 8615; National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection. Details

Rosemary Francis

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