Harold Oscar ODELL / OBADOFSKY (aka Harry) [1896-1975] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Harold Oscar ODELL / OBADOFSKY (aka Harry) [1896-1975]

Harold Oscar
Odell / Obadofsky
Alias / nickname: 
Birthplace (town, state): 
Birthplace (country): 

Details of birth and death from his page at https://jhshk.org/community/the-jewish-cemetery/burial-list/odell-harry-o/ which also has several photos of Mr Odell.



US Consular Marriage Records

10 January 1921 Chel Leah Victoria Synagogue HK Sophie Rachel Weill  citizen of France married Harry Oscar Odell(sic)  citizen of the United States

Carl Smith Card Son born at 525 Peak to Mr and Mrs Harry Odell 16 May 1924

HKVD Naval Reserve. He went into show business after the war.

POW Cards Japanese

Harry Oscar Odell(sic) born 18 March 1896 Sub-Lieutenant HK Volunteer Naval Reserve born Cairo Egypt

Jewish Cemetery Headstone Find a Grave

In loving memory of Sophie Rachel Odell beloved wife of Harry Oscar Odell and mother of Jack, Albert and David.

Sophie Rachel Odell born 11 December 1900 in Hong Kong and died 14 April 1979 in Hong Kong

Harry Oscar Odell also buried in Jewish Cemetery Find A Grave memorial. his grave is alongside his wife's. Born 18 March 1896 and died 19 December 1975

Memorial Find a Grave

Harry Odell was emblematic of the peripatetic souls that continually landed in Hong Kong and made their mark here. Born Harry Obadofsky [sic] in Cairo in 1896 to Russian Jewish parents [his mother was Egyptian of Russian parentage] and educated in Shanghai, he worked as a tap dancer in Nagasaki before emigrating to the United States and fighting for the U.S. military in France during World War I. Following the war, he moved to Hong Kong, changed his surname to Odell [he changed his name while in the US], and married into a wealthy family of jewellers [the Weill family]. Odell cut his teeth in the import-export business [Getz Brothers] and as a stockbroker, and was also a volunteer with the naval reserve in Hong Kong. He was wounded during the defense of Hong Kong in 1941 and became a Japanese POW. Following the war, Odell started a film distribution business and was a major force behind the construction of the City Hall theater complex, putting his stamp on the cultural life of his adopted home.

An affable gentleman, never without a large Cuban cigar, Odell started a film distribution business after the war. By persuading internationally acclaimed artists to perform in the colony he effectively became Hong Kong’s first impresario. Since suitable venues for the performing arts were scarce, he tirelessly lobbied the government for a permanent auditorium. As a result, the Hong Kong City Hall theatre complex was built. Odell’s MBE was awarded in recognition of his contribution to the cultural life of Hong Kong.

Thanks for that interesting story and about Harry Odell .  I remember frequently seeing Harry  during the late 1960s and early 1970s with his signature cigar and usually accompanied by wife Sophie, attending concerts at the City Hall theatre and also at live concerts by visiting artists at the Lee Theatre in Causeway Bay. I didn’t know at that time about his Russian origin in those days.

He and the wife were always very polite to the City Hall staff and those sitting near him.

The two paragraphs "Harry Odell was emblematic of the peripatetic souls ... his contribution to the cultural life of Hong Kong." quoted above also appear on the page at https://jhshk.org/community/the-jewish-cemetery/burial-list/odell-harry-o/, which gives the Dictionary of Hong Kong Biography as the original source.


c Odell Harry O. Assistant Manager Getz Bros.   Palace Hall



c Odell Harry O. Assistant Manager Getz Bros.     16 Conduit Road



c Odell Harry O. Manager Getz Bros., Ld.     13 St. Stephen's Lane



c Odell Harry O. Manager 17 Queen's Road     13 St. Stephen's Lane



c Odell Harry O. Manager Sennett Freres     13 St. Stephen's Lane



c Odell Harry Oscar Partner Odell & Behar   Repulse Bay Hotel 13 St. Stephen's Lane


1928-31: Not listed



c Odell Harry Broker Francisco Xavier Anacleto da Silva


R. B. L. 218






c Odell Harry Broker c/o L. Weill & Co.   R. B. L. 218  



c   Odell Harry Oscar Broker Swan, Culbertson & Fritz   R. B. L. 218


[The lists for 1937-1940 haven't been transcribed yet.]


1941: Not listed