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Hollywood Sees A Mever-NeverLand
'Kangaroo' may turn out to be another 'Innocents Abroad' or 'A Yankee Down Under,' but it was at least an all-out effort by an American film unit to put Australia larger than life and twice as natural on the tech nicolor screen.
Twentieth Century Pox Film Corporation in their own house publicity refer to the production unit under Robert Snody is 'an expedition,' and to them it was a voyage of ex ploration to a never-never land which, for all they knew, was deprived of fried :hicken Maryland, chocolate malted, and other benefits of the civilisation of the Cali fornian littoral. It was a shock to some of them to light upon modern Australian cities where they had expected ''only bush or desert. And the trip may have done some long-term rood by educating American film magnates, for Mr. Robert Bassler, the Com mander-in-Chief at the Hollywood end of Twentieth Century-Fox 9,000-mile line of communications, during a flight to Port Augusta to see his troops in the field was suddenly struck by the thought that perhaps they were missing the real Aus tralian story. Perhaps it was, after all. not drought and desolation they should be dealing with, but the strange fascination of modern industrial towns like Whyalla and Port Piric —industry paddling its feet in the waters of the South ern Ocean. Beast Of Prey Meanwhile they were com mitted to a drama of pioneers facing hardship: perils by stampede, perils by drought, perils by tempest, and perils by kangaroos. They had the kangaroo listed as a beast of prey and very dangerous to man. That first script originally called for kangaroos by the
;nousana, Dut wnen marnn jlace and King William street proved unfruitful of cangaroos and the film pro Jucers were invited to visit Australian zoos to see kan saroos in captivity they had :o rewrite their script. A lot of rewriting became necessary. With the stars :Iustcrcd in a constellation it 'ZanuckviHc,' the Port lugusia housing settlement for power-station workers. Director Lewis Milestone and scriptwriter Harry Kleiner ind Australian editor Colin Hall saw in several dawns pounding- out a plot more fttting to local conditions. The date for shooting hc :ame a moveable feast. Later the date of the premiere rc :cdcd into the future. Phoned to US The thousands of words of ;he plot were read over the Pacific by radio-phone to Twentieth Century-Fox exe :utives in Hollywood. All hese teething troubles chal enged the machinery of American film production ind resources of. 'know how' ind technical equipment were thrown in as the camp fringing Port Augusta de ployed Its lorry loads of work parties and task forces to ivards the 19th Century lomestead constructed on Mrs. E. V. Farrell's Woolun lunga property underneath the escarpment of the Flin iers Range, and other loca tions in the neighborhood. The stars combated the heat with the aid of air conditioners installed in such Housing Trust bunga lows as 'Shamrock Lodge' occupied by Maureen O'Hara, and fans in the flapping marquees used for 'chow.' The flies they dealt with by the more primitive swat or chemical warfare of DDT. Of their hardships the company reported on return that 'shooting' consumed 11 weeks in shade temperatures of 95 and more (it was 108 degrees on arrival at Port Augusta), and that thick dust pf ten forced alt but the cast before the cameras to wear joggles over their eyes and handkerchiefs over nose and mouth. 'Filming was 10 hours a day, six days a week, even when temperatures rose about 100,' they said. Cattle Bane*
rney harvested from South Australia old farm md domestic implements ind in the heat 900 cattle vere driven overland 250 liiles from Billakalina sta tion to Port Augusta. Skele x-ns of cattle were duly col ected and distributed west vard of Port Augusta on the irifting sand of Spencer 3ulf. This somewhat maca Dre landscape was intended :o represent a typical South Australian scene during the 1900-1903 drought. Local people were rallied is 'extras,' but not without Jifficulty. for with wool at a Doom peak the rate of £2 a day was regarded as 'chicken feed.' And there were seve ral cases of residents in Port Augusta and the neighbor hood not ambitious for the parts assigned to them by ;he casting director. Scenes On Steamer However, scenes on the 3ulf steamer Moonta and in Port Augusta alleys were iuly snot and the production unit hid behind a veil of publicity at the elaborate homestead now filled with Victorian bric-a-brac. Associate Producer Rob ert Snody used all his bland American charm to keep filming secret. Perhaps he was a little shy about the pic ture of South Australia that Director Lewis Milestone was busily painting with his car cases and bones and the stone-littered paddocks be neath the ridge of the Flin ders. His location scouts had in sisted on touring the State by themselves and had re sisted the inducements ol the Publicity and Tourist Bureau to visit the beauty spots. Their one fear was lest the site they selected might re main green during the pro gramme of shooting. They wanted drought and heat and South Australia obliged them with an old time hot summer.