Skip to main content

Denver, Hal, 1909 - 1994



Hal Denver was the stage name of Ralph Norman, second son of Tom Norman ‘The Silver King’, and father of Michael (Mickey) Van Norman the famous boxing referee.

Hal was born in 1909 to one of the most successful showmen of the 19th century and followed the family tradition into the travelling entertainment business to become a renowned star on both sides of the Atlantic, appearing in films and rodeos in America during the 1930s and 1940s.

Hal was a very successful and versatile entertainer. He performed in a Wild West speciality act as both a knife-thrower and cowboy and his early career involved working on the fairgrounds with his family. His skills quickly catapulted him into the world of variety, acting and circus. He appeared in many films and rodeos in America and Europe next to big cowboy names such as Tex Ritter and William Boyd. He was also a guest on The Johnny Carson Show and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show together with Elvis Presley and Gene Autry. He worked in variety with Dick Henderson, 'Hutch', Morecambe and Wise, Edith Piaf, Tony Martin, Dorothy Dandridge and Denise Darcel amongst others and worked in some of the most important circus rings of the time such as Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey in the United States and the Blackpool Tower and Billy Smart's Circus in England.

Between stage tours in variety, Denver also formed his own travelling circus, using names such as 'The Silver King Circus', 'The South African', 'The Royal South African Circus', 'The New Era Circus' and 'The Great American Circus'. In their heyday, the Denvers appeared in leading theatres such as the Sahara Hotel in Vegas and the Palace Theatre on Broadway.

After his third wife, Olga Frei, left the circus, Hal returned to cabaret and theatre work, and later concentrated on film and television work, appearing in Emmerdale and Coronation Street.

Hal spent his entire life in show business until his death on the eve of filming a new television programme in 1994.

Found in 5 Collections and/or Records:

Belle Vue Grand Victory Circus Programme, 1945 - 1946

Reference code: 178K43.455
Scope and Contents

Manchester. Three fold programme with colour illustration of two laughing clowns on top section, red and black in the centre and other circus acts on bottom section including animal trainer and equestrian act on a yellow background on the front cover, inside programme, black and white photographs of performers inclusing Hal Denver with text and red and black illustrations of circus acts on a yellow background on the right and bottom sections.

Dates: 1945 - 1946

Belle Vue Programmes, c1900 - 1999

Reference code: 178K43.443-487
Scope and Contents

Belle Vue Circus programmes.

Dates: c1900 - 1999

Circus Friends Association Collection

Reference code: NFA0122
Scope and Contents

This collection consists of a large library of books and journals, as well as archival material including posters, programmes, photographs, films, handbills, research material, scrapbooks, original artwork and many other items of ephemera relating to British, Irish and European circuses

Dates: 1795 - 2020

Norman Family Collection

Reference code: NFA0087
Scope and Contents

This collection contains photographs, business papers, newspaper cuttings typed pages and notes (probably for an autobiography) with some correspondence about a proposed book. There are also some costumes and props.

Dates: c1930 - 1969

Programmes, c1800 - 2019

Reference code: 178K43
Scope and Contents

A collection of mainly British and international circus programmes and some variety and music hall programmes containing circus acts.

Dates: c1800 - 2019