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"THE FLYING DOCTOR" |
"The Flying Doctor" Is much the best film which has been made so far on Australian soil. Previously, that distinction belonged to Mr. Charles Chauvel's "Heritage," the prize- winner In the Commonwealth Government's competition two years ago, In the visual de- velopment of drama, In lovely landscape work, and In the technique of " cutting and con- tinuity, "The Flying Doctor" approaches the standard of high-class Imported films. Where It falls short is in a matter which has had to be referred to regretfully again and again in these columns, namely, the story is weal: in the extreme. Instead of selecting and de- veloping some definite dramatic subject, It sprawls nnd rambles nil over the place: and the real conflict docs not develop until five minutes before the cud. Even then, It is over sentimental and unconvincing. Robert Wal- dron wrote the book called "The Plying Doc- tor," but when a credit title announces only that the film has been "suggested by" Mr. Waldron's work, the probability emerges that Captain J. o. C. orton, the screen adapter, has treated his material with a fairly free
The picture begins vividly enough. Indeed, these early passages raise expectation high by reason of their sympathy, their ease, and their gentle, natural humour. Charles Farrell has never done any finer acting on the Ameri- can screen than he accomplishes hero. Ho represents a carefree vagabond-an amiable, staunch, simple-minded creature, who takes whatever job is confronting him at the moment. Arriving at a sheep station in the Blue Mountains, he falls in love with the owner's daughter. The progress of the court- ship, gentle and hesitating on both sides, is delightfully portrayed by Mr. Farrell and Mary Maguire. The sheep station is a credible place, in spite of ils singularly rugged loca- tion; and such Incidents as a dance in a barn carefully avoid the slapstick "Dad and Mum" tradition. Joe Valli plays a praise- worthy part, as the vagabond's strange little companion. He provides the most, tolerable humour which has yet disclosed itself In on Australian production.
The rover marries the girl. It is quite ap- parent that she is taking a risk In trying to tame so Innately nomadic a creature; and one looks forward to a slow but sure develop- ment of struggle between opposing personali- ties and opposing ways of life. Instead, the young man deserts his brido In a sped acular way an hour or two after the wedding cere- mony. Such R thing might happen in real life, of course; but it does violence to the atmosphere of gracious romance which has already been established. The locale shifts to Sydney; and all those earlier associations vanish suddenly. A new set of characters emerges, headed by James Raglan, as a doctor (afterwards the Flying Doctor); Margaret Vyner as an unhappily married woman; and Eric Colman as this woman's pompous, ridicu- lous husband. Mr. Raglan, who has had a good deal of screen experience, speaks with ease and polish, though ho seldom makes his character really live. Miss Vyner looks charming, but utters her lines in an ortlflcial, colourless way. Mr. Colman's part is small and ungrateful. Audiences at the Lyceum Theatre are seeing also Don Bradman, appear- ing os himself in a cricketing episode, and Tom Lurich, who gives a good deal of con- viction to a brief appearance as o bullying brigand of the outback.
The activities of these various personalities are constantly slowed up by interludes of scenic "local colour," Derrick Williams, the camera- man, has imparted a singular and memorable beauty to some of these, but one could wish that Miles Mander, who directed, had been less determined to put in such quantities of what amounts to tourist propaganda. Not until dramatic narrative becomes paramount can Australian productions really take their place in the world's markets. The public will soon grow tired of seeing Bondi Beach, the Harbour .Bridge, and other suah stock material of an irrelevant sort, being dragged into each and every film. But some of the Central Aus- tralian details in "The Flying Doctor," such as the process of pedalling which operates the S.O.S. wireless transmitter, aie decidedly new and attractive. The film has been made by National Productions, Ltd., in association with Gaumont-Britlsh, and is being distributed in Australia by Fox.