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On The Kelly Gang By Josephiab. @Oevill THIS is a boom year for film making in Australia --the year of "Smithy," "The Overlanders," and "A Son is Born." Although you may not re member them, Australia has had plenty of boom years--and boom personalities-in films before.
We were the first coun try in the world to pro duce a feature film. That was "The Kelly Gang" in 1905. Since then we have made at least 90 silent features and 69 talkies. We have discovered and ex ported international stars since 1914, gone through two big foreign talent invasions-in the golden '20's and in 1936-and made films on many exotic locations, from the Barrier Reef to Lord Howe Islahd. Silent stars like Percy, Mar mont and Renee Adoree, and talkie stars like Errol Flynn made their first movies in Aus tralia.
In 1905 Australia made the world's first feature film "The Kelly Gang" (see above), with" the well-known Tait family as actors. Long before this country ex ported Mary Maguire, Cecil Kella way, Ann Richards, Chips Rafferty, and Ron Randell, it sent Louise Lovely and Snowy Baker to Hol lywood. Today, British movie-makers, represented by Harry Watt, and Korda's deputy, Moore Raymond, are at work in Australia. -Colum bia producer N. P. Pery is prepar ing for his Hollywood company's second film herq. In addition, American, British, and Australian interests are linked with Charles Chauvel's coming picture, "Sons of Matthew." All of which shows that Austra lia is by no means a novice in film-making. THAT 1905 film,"The Kelly Gang," was the beginning of it all. "The Kelly Gang" was made by Messrs. Johnson and W. A. Gib son, of Melbourne, and the very young firm of J. & N. Tait. W. A. Gibson, originally a chemist, with his partner, had spent £40 to buy a movie camera owned by a touring Englishman, and had gone into the movie busi ness. An old-time showman named Sam Crews suggested that the Taits make "The Kelly Gang" as a movie (the bushranging saga was then a smash stage show). Johnson and Gibson provided the equipment, and took a share in thile venture. The picture was taken mostly at Eaglemont and at Chartersville es tates. Heidelberg (Victoria)-and generally on Sundays. The com pany went out by train or "drag" (large wagonette), taking their picnic lunch with them. Mr. Gibson operated the camera, and John Tait, Frank Tait, and Mrs. Charles Tait (she played Kate Kelly) were in the film. N ED Kelly, the star, re ceived £1 a day, and wore the genuine Kelly armor, borrowed from Sir Rupert Clarke. The extras were recruited from tough citizenry, who turned the bar-room brawls into the real thing, and had to be separated by force. Apart from beating America to multiple-reel films by some six years, "The Kelly Gang" had enormous influence In Australia. It began a whole cycle of bush ranging pictures. Australia's teeming stage had local and imported stars who did not mind making movies. J. C. Williamson's ex-wife, Mag gie Moore, and her second hus band, Harry Roberts, made "Struck Oil," from the stage melodrama that Maggie and J.C.W. had brought with them to Australia years before. N 1912, Australia's sweetheart. Nellie Stewart, starred in the Spencer-Longfdrd film from her famous stage success, "Sweet Nell of Old Drury." Nellie brought her stage co star, Augustus Neville, her cast. and her costumes, out to the tem porary film studio at WTonderland City. Bondi. Nellie received £1,000. plus a share of the profits for the film. Famed character actress Sarah Allgood, who came out as a plump and pretty young thing to play "Peg O' My Heart" for J.C.W. withi her husband, Jerry
Henson, consented to make a film for Joe Lippman. Some 30 years ago Sarah, for a salary of .£100 a week for six weeks, spent her free time on an open-air movie stage on the heights above Middle Harbor, in Sydney. Here, puckering her brow against the Australian sun, she starred in "Just Peggy," a drama of two generations, in volvhing a runaway child and a mystery adoption. J.C.W. even turned its Theatre Royal Stage in Sydney over to producer Franklin Bar rett, so that he could film "The Monk and the Woman" in the daytime with Percy Marmont and Maud Fane. Percy was later to become an English film idol. with movies like •If Winter Comes." Visiting comedians were not too proud to make films, either. In this way Claude Flemming discovered a famous Hollywood star before Hollywood did. In 1919 he made a Sydney film called "£500 Re ward." His heroine was a young dancer, appearing at the Tivoli with an overseas act called "The Magneys." She was Renee Adoree (now dead), who later became famous for such American pictures as "The Big Parade," with the late John Gilbert.
LN thie years of World War I. and after, Australia made war movies, ranging from the en tertainment to the propaganda class. Australia's first film of the Japanese menace was made as early as 1913. Its maker: Ray mond Longford. Its title: "Aus tralia Calls." Longford, envisaging a Japanese invasion, built a model of Sydney inside the studio, and showed Jap planes bombing the city. In his exterior scenes he used Austra lia's first aviator, Billy Hart, who made scenes at Richmond for him. As with overseas film studios, Australia's greatest film of World War .I. was made years after its close. This was Charles Chauvel's 1942 production, "40.000 Hlorse men," notable for presenting Chips Rafferty in his first leading role--and alSo for cracking the American market.
Snowy Baker defeated World War I. spies, and won Lilly Malloy (above) in "The Enemy Within," made here early in 1916.
Bert Bailey as "Dad" and Fred MacDonald as "Dave" in Cine sound's phenomenal talkie, which is still earning big money.
"40,000 Horsemen" took three years to prepare, eight months to film. and cost £30,000. It was also the centre of Aus tralia's biggest censorship battle. In December, 1940, the Common wealth Film Censor, Mr. O'Reilly, ordered the cutting of certain scenes before the film was ex ported overseas. He objected to a Light Horse charge (the charge at Beersheba), to the love scenie between Grant Taylor and Betty in a desert hut, to Eastern dancers in a Cairo cafe. After a struggle, which took the film to the Minister for Customs, "40.000 Horsemen" went overseas without a cut AUSTRALIA even had its spy adventure of World War I. -an adventure that introduced Snowy Baker to the local screen. Shnowy. then managing the New South Wales Stadium, made "The Enemy Within" in six weeks in 1916. He played Jack Airlie, "an Australian Special Agent," with 15
Australia made the world's first feature movie, and over the years its fil ms have had some famous stars-including Errol Flynn. Now the industry is having its biggest boom.
year-old Lily Malloy as his lead ing lady. During the picture Snowy did an 80-foot dive into Sydney Har bor, climbed 300 ft. up a cliff, took on six toughs in a terrific battle, swung from a building on a rope, and swam into Coogee Bay to rescue Lily from a rock. In Snowy Baker's company was a young handyman, who had come down from his station home in Queensland to break into the film game. His name was Charles Chauvel. Chauvel joined Snowy when Baker went to America, and ap peared in his first Hollywood pic ture, "His Last Race." Snowy's famous horse, Boome rang, went to America with him, too, and is buried on the grounds of the Riviera Country Club, where Snowy, at 62, is equestrian director today. Snowy did not come back to Austrahla. Charles Chauvel did. E was making his own films, "Greenhide," and "The Moth of Moonbi," in Queensland when Sydney, and New South Wales, were thrilling to their first big imported woman star. This was Eva Novak, who came out here in 1926 to star for Stuart Doyle's Australasian Films in "For the Term of His Natural Life" and "The Adorable Outcast." Records show that Eva Novak was not the first Hollywood star to come to Australia. This country's own Louise Charbasse (heroine of 1913 films made at Manly by Gaston Mer vale) wvent to Hollywood, be came Louise Lovely, and came back for films; she made "Jewelled Nights" in Tasmania before the Novak era. Eva Novak's visit was on a spec tacular scale. She had an Ameri can director, Norman Dawn, an American cameraman, and a bud get of £100,000 for two films.
_1WO years later talkies came to Australia-and brought the phenomenon of "On Our Selec tion." Made in 1932 at Cinesound by Director Ken Hall for £6,000, this picture has grossed £65,000. to date, and is still running. For some unexplainable reason, "On Our Selection" was a smash success from the outset. Yet it was made under almost incredible conditions. Cinesound Studio was then a 40 ft. by 40 ft. box erected inside a roller skating- rink. Ken Hall and Bert Bailey could not film their interiors on Saturday after noons or at night because of the roar of the skaters outside. On location at Castlereigh, about eight miles from Penrith (N.S.W.) the company had an aged camera, which repeatedly broke broivn, and unprecedented problems of sound. One story (uncorroborated) says that men were stationed with shot guns under the paddock gums, where the locusts sang in full blast. When a scene was to be shot the men would fire, and the shocked locusts would shut up just long enough for the scene to be taken. The most successful Rudd film in England has been "Dad and Dave Come To Town," which had Shirley Ann Richards in it and gave young Peter Finch a
Australians who have made good overseas--Shirley An • Richards and Ron Randell (at top), Cecil Kellatuay (centre), Mary Maguire and Chips Rafferty (bottom).
small role. It is still running in the Midlands and in the North. In fact, wherever comic star George Formby is popular there is a public for "Dad and Dave." The only other "gumtree" film made in the talkie era was Beau mont Smith's new "Hayseeds." Cecil Kellaway made his film debut in this "Hayseeds" with Katie Towers, and the late Sir Charles Kingsford Smith played himself-taking the Hayseed family up in the "old bus" for a ride. HARLES Chauvel and the late F. Thring (of Melbourne's Efftee productions) stand with Ken Hall, of Cinesound, as the big names of Australian talkies. Chauvel was the talkie pioneer of the exotic location and the docu mented film. With his wife, former Elsa Syl vaney, of the South African stage, he spent two months on Pitcairn Island and went to Tahiti in 1933, filmine his semi-documentary suc cess, "In the Wake of the Bounty." This film, shorn of its dramatised sequences showing the Bounty mu tineers, was bought by M.G.M. of Hollywood, and released as an ad vance short to publicise the Clark Gable-Charles Laughton adven ture, "Mutiny on the Bounty." Chauvel found Errol Flynn for his film. Looking for a young, handsome man to play Midshipman Christian, Chauvel opened a Bris bane paper, saw a startling account of a yacht-wreck, in which the young owner had saved himself and the girl aboard. The young owner (his photo graph accompanied the story)
was Errol Flynn, on his way back from New Guinea to Aus tralia. Chauvel contacted Flynn in Syd ney, offered him the job of playing Christian in scenes filmed out at Cinesound studio. Declared Flynn: "I'll try anything once." Remembers Chauvel: "He was very stiff, but looked fine in the film. I paid him £10 a week, and 18 months later, after he had gone to England and then to Warners in Hollywood, he was making 'Captain Blood' at £1,000 a week. THE peak of Australian talkies was 1936, a year in which £135,000 of new capital was in vested in Australian films. This was the year when Pagewood Studio was new, and Sydney was filled with foreign talent. Excitement began when Helen Twelvetrecs arrived from Holly wood in December, 1935, to star for Cinesounrl in "Thoroughbred" with Frank Leighton. A week later Dennis Hoey reached Sydney from London to star in Chauvel'S "Uncivilised"-the first feature made at Pagewood. I remember visiting Pagewood that summer, and meeting exotic types round every corner. I saw Margaret Vyner, back from London with gardenias in her hair, and Charles Farrell, of Hollywood, at her elbow. They starred in "The Flying Doctor" for National Productions, direc ted by English Miles Mander. Mary Maguire, the ingenue of "The Flying Doctor," was having milkshakes in the studio restau rant.