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LIFE4 ?LE TERS
AUSTRALTAN CONEMA. A Lifet me Association.
TuERE are few people in Austra lia today who can claim as long an association with the film industry as can Mr. S. W. Perry, who retired this week from the position of resident manager in Western Australia for Hoyts Theatres. Not only has Mr. Perry himself spent a lifetime connected in some way or other with the picture entertainment industry, but he is also a member of a family of film industry pioneers, his father and his two brothers having been prominently associ ated with it from its early days. Mr. Perry's father was the owner of the first motion picture project ing unit in Australia-in the days of flickering, uncertain pictures when the film was about 2 inches wide and the projecting apparatus had to be turned laboriously by hand. But Mr. Perry's memories of the picture industry go farther back than that-back to the days when with his father he toured Australia and New Zealand with a slide lantern. The entertainment consisted of lantern slides with a running commentary. An orches tra provided part of the entertain ment at these shows, and the young Stan Perry had his earliest Job as the boy who banged the triangle at appropriate spots dur ing the performance. Later he was to play most instruments in the orchestra and in between times he learnt all the other jobs associated with the productions. One of the contraptions associ ated with the lantern slide equip ment was known as a Chromo trope, which comprised revolving disks with a cooling tank in front of the projector to stop the heat from breaking it. This same tank gave the screen its first "living" action when a couple of goldfish were placed In it and their swim rming projected on the screen. The .idea finished in a gory climax, the illusion being a fish fight in which the "fade-out" was given real colour by the addition of a few drops of cochineal to the bowl at the critical moment. Salvation Army. Mr. Perry gives the Salvation Army full honours for pioneering the motion picture industry in Australia. The Army estab lished the first exchange for hiring pictures in Australia and it also established the first studio and produced the first feature pic ture. Later the Army had the first electric light tottring show, which the rry family con trolled. Mr, Perry's father was a mem ber of the Salvation Army and it was for this organisation that he undertik his earliest adventures in films. Their original studio, the first in the southern hemi sphere, was established in Inker man-road, Caulfield, soon after the turn of the century. It was at this studio, working under the Salvation Army, that flnis such as Life of the Early Christians" and "Scottish Covenanters" were pro duced. All the members of the Perry family were closely connected with the venture. Mr. Perry's father was producer, one of his brothers was principal -operator and he himself was .assistant operator and "ham" actor. At different times he had a varlety of roles in these films, varying from being the hindquarters of. a tiger-his brother Reg was the front half to becoming one of the reluctant early Christians forced to jump into quicklime pits. There was also the classic oc easion when one of the unfortun ate Scottish Covenanters (not Mr. Perry), taking part in a scene where he had to femp into a stream with a weight tied around his neck, performed so well that he did not come to the surface again and a great panic followed until somebody dived into the stream and cut the' rope. First TaUcing Pictures. The celluloid entertainment business was growing anace at this time, and in 1907 the Perry family joined forces with Johnson and Gibson. who were conducting
popular shows in and around Me bourne on several nights of each week. They brought to Australia the first of the original talking pictures many years before the modem "talkies" arrived here. In one of these experimental ven tures, called the "Cinephone," the films carried a. clock in the corner of the picture which had' to be synchronised with a gramo phone on the stage. Unfortun ately synchronisation was achieved rarely and then by good luck more than by good management. The films were all short subjects, the! artists being singers such as Billy Williams, Harry Lauder and Flora Forde. Provided some sort of synchronisation was achieved, these films had plenty of enter tainment quality although, as Mr. Perry said, it was unfortunate! when the film happened to show' Harry Lauder while the gramo phone reproduced the voice of Flora Forde. In the early days of motion pic tures the operator had a most un enviable job. He had to be respon sible for the assembling and dismantling of the operating machine at every stop. The advent of electricity saved a considerable amount of work, but the show still had to be fitted up and the operator had to adapt himself to: the uses of electricity long before' there were any. regulations govern ing the projection of motion pic hures in halls. The Perrys were early in the field of electrical motion picture projection. They toured Australia and New Zealand with a special unit which included a power generator to work the machine, and in more than one in stance they introduced electric: light for the first time in small towns which they visited. "Kelly Gang" and All That. About 1908 Johnson and Gibson, in association with the Perry family, embarked on a major pro duction programme. Some of. the films which were produced by Billy Lincoln (long-since dead) included "The Kelly Gang" (second edi tion), "Never Too Late to Mend," starring Stanley Walpole, "Luck of Roaring Camp," with George Mar low, Esther Buckley and John Cos grove, "Called Back," starring Arthur Stein, "The Breaking of the Drought," "The Bells" (Nellie Bramley's introduction to the en tertainment field). "The Mystery
Mr. S. W. rRRY..
of a Hansom Cab" and "Double Event," starring Martyn Hagen. "The Squatter's Daughter" was also produced at this time and Bert Bailey, who has appeared in recent films, shared the starring honours of that film with Eugenie and Ed mund Duggan. One of the most important changes that took place in the in dustry was when J. and N. Tait entered the field by producing -'Living London," the motion pic ture -that made history in this country. Perhaps, said Mr. Perry, this film was responsible for tak ing the Tait brothers from the con cert field to motion pictures and led to their association with the Johnson and Gibson enterprise in the formation of Amalgamated Pictures and later Union Theatres Ltd. Amalgamated Pictures, with which Mr. Perry was associated at the time, made history in 1913-14 with the opening of the Majestic Theatre in Flinders-street, Mel bourne. Prior to that Wests and' Breccians had established perma nent motion picture theatres- at the Athenaeum, Melbourne, and later at Wirth's Olympia. However. the building of a modern motion picture theatre meant a change in oresentation and Bill Yearslev was brought from America specially to establish the undertaking and his job included the introduction of one of the most comprehensive! advertising campaigns ever. attempted with motion pictures. "Kinemacolour." Mr. Perry remembers other im portant sidelights in connection with those early days. It was Amalgamated Pictures who intro duced "Kinemacolour," the first coloured films to be screened in Australia. That was in 1910. Al year earlier Mr. Perry himself hadl been closely associated with an ir Dortant step forward in motion picture presentation. .In 1909 he was one of the team which filmed, the Caulfield Cup race and the film of the race was screened the same night in Melbourne. From those early times Mr. Perry has.progressed a long way in the film industry. At one stage he attempted to popularise British films -in Australis--in the days be fore "talkies"-but the venture was a failure. -He joined Hoyts Theatres about 25 years ago and has been with that organisation ever since.