Brian Abbot (1911–1936), real name George Rikard Bell, was an Australian actor best known for playing the male lead in Orphan of the Wilderness (1936) and the circumstances of his death.
Abbot ran away from school at aged 15 and worked as a jackeroo. He had a great love of sailing and originally wanted to be a sailor for a career, but worked on two vessels which later sunk, TSS Kanowna and SS Christina Frazer. In the words of a later newspaper profile, "As Mr. Abbot didn't believe in for the third time to prove that fate was against him he promptly decided that there were other adventurous jobs to be had which didn't carry the risk of drowning." He subsequently turned to acting, taking the stage name of Brian Abbot.
Abbot played a small role in Thoroughbred (1936) which led to him being cast by Ken G. Hall to play the lead in Orphan of the Wilderness (1936), although Hall later felt the actor's inexperience was evident in the final film.
In October 1936, after completing work on Mystery Island (1937) on Lord Howe Island, Abbot and Leslie Hay-Simpson, a fellow actor, set out for Sydney in a 16-foot open longboat called The Mystery Star. They were never seen again, despite a search of over a week involving a number of vessels, including the naval destroyer HMAS Waterhen.
Abbot's wife, Grace Rikard Bell, later sued the Producers and Citizens' Co-operative Assurance Co., Ltd. over her husband's death, claiming the company promised to insure his life for £1,000. The company (who were represented in court by Clive Evatt) alleged Abbot sailed back from Lord Howe Island in a small boat "quite unsuitable" for the journey without informing the company. The case was subsequently settled.
Lord Howe Island Crossing
A significant number of boats have gone missing in the stretch of water between Sydney and Lord Howe Island over the years. A few weeks after Abbot's disappearance, a boat containing five men sailing from Sydney to the island also vanished.
- 'STRAY DOG that is now Australian RIN TIN TIN.' The Australian Women's Weekly 25 Jul 1936: 36 accessed 15 Dec 2011
- Christina Frazer wreck report
- 'Stage and Screen Personalities', The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 14 July 1936, p9
- Ken G. Hall, Directed by Ken G. Hall, Lansdowne Press, 1977 p109
- 'Brian Abbot's Mystery Plans', The Australian Women's Weekly Saturday 24 October 1936 p2
- 'Sea Tragedy Recalled', The West Australian (Perth), Saturday 18 September 1937
- List of shipwrecks near Norfolk and Lord Howe Island
- 'NO TRACE FOUND OF AWAHOU', The Mail (Adelaide) Saturday 20 September 1952, p14.