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2 corrections, most recently by JudyClayden - Show corrections




— I DIPS ME LID —    

LEFT: Arthur Tauchert

(left) and Lottie Lyell in the film classic "The Sentimental Bloke," made in 1919, skilfully directed by Raymond Longford and photographed by Arthur Higgins. Lottie Lyell was to become the first Australian film star. This movie was based on C. J. Dennis' narrative verse. Australia had a big and busy film industry in the years before American films and distributors cap- tured the market, but it is mostly forgotten.

away as France, England, and America have helped to add to the archives, often working on a reciprocal arrangement. The 1896 Melbourne Cup film was prised from the Paris Film Archives after years of negotia- tions by National Library staff.

There are fascinating tales behind some of the many valuable films recovered.

"Coorab in the Island of Ghosts," a 1926   documentary, was dug out of rubbish in a garage by a Melbourne donor. It had been lying there for 40 years.

When excavators were working on exten-   sions to a building situated where the Figtree Studios once stood in Sydney, they discovered an old brick-and-steel safe which contained piles of nitrate film. They had loaded it on to a truck and were on the way to the Hunters Hill garbage dump with it when an alert Ryde Council employee stopped them and recovered what turned out to be "The Flying Doctor," a 1936 production of National Studios.

"Moth of Moombi" and "Greenhide"   (1926 and 1927 respectively), the first two films made by Charles Chauvel, were found joined together as a composite film by a Queensland collector. Elsa Chauvel assisted the library in splitting up the film into its two components.

"Tasmania — Gem Of The South Seas," an early 1930s color documentary made by the late Frank Hurley, was acquired from a New Zealand collector who read of the work of the Film Archives and wrote to

them. It is the only Hurley color film in the collection.

A trunk of film sent by a donor in   Victoria contained many old newsreels, including a sound interview with Dan Kelly (brother of the infamous Ned), made in the 1930s.

About 15 years ago a Canberra doctor  

went to visit a friend and saw a group of children kicking a rusty film can around the yard. He took it to the National Library, where it was found to contain a film record of the naming of Canberra in


Unfortunately, not all searches for early films have such happy endings. Sometimes the archivists have tracked down films only to find they were destroyed a matter of days


One of the largest and most important collections consisted of 300 reels of the films of Beaumont Smith. Smith's produc- tions included the popular "Hayseeds" films of the silent days, and what is thought to have been a complete collection of his works was tracked down by the National Library. However, when the searchers arrived they

were told that the entire collection had been

burnt within the previous weeks, on the advice of an insurance company because of the films' inflammable nature.

Mr. Charles Gilbert, the Chief Films Officer, hopes that one day a "Snowy" Baker Western will come to light to fill the gap in the library's collection. Reginald "Snowy" Baker made his Australian Westerns in the 1920s, and it is to his credit that experienced bushmen praised


His own stuntman

Baker starred in his own films. He was a Bachelor of Arts, and was outstanding in about 20 sports — he represented Australia at the Olympic Games. So he also did all his own stunts, and Mr. Gilbert can recall seeing him at work, jumping a horse out of a train as it crossed a bridge and plunging into the water below, or leaping from a hotel balcony and landing squarely on his horse

in the time-honored Western tradition.

He eventually moved to Hollywood, where

BELOW: Ray Edmond- son, the National Library archives' refer- ence librarian, views a find on his projector.

he became an athletics coach for many of the movie stars.

There are no "Snowy" Baker Westerns in the film archives, although there is one later Baker film, "The Enemy Within," which is not really representative of his work. If you know where there is a Baker Western ("The Man From Snowy River," "The Shadow Of Lightning Ridge," "Jackaroo Of Koolabong"), please contact the library staff.

In Mr. Gilbert's words, they will "do anything" to salvage it.

Ray Edmondson believes that a great number of early films still lie in attics and

garages and wherever else people store their   "rubbish." Each foot of film is priceless in the eyes of the archives staff.

If you have an old film which you think might be of interest, the library's researchers

will be pleased to examine it. In the event   of its being a potential addition to the collection, the library will recompense you for your trouble by cleaning and rejuvenat- ing the original print and, subject to copy- right conditions, will present you with a 16mm copy.

The collection of Australia's filmed past could benefit greatly from your watchfulness, interest, and co-operation.