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HE'S OUT TO PROVE THE
. . . from
[JARWIN. — Out in ?^ the nomadic wilds which surround the Victoria River, in
the tar north-west of the Northern Territory, producer Charles Chauvel is battlina
ugum»r exrreme isoianon to make a tuli colour movie which promises to be unique in Australian film production. When the unit moves to Sydney at the end of this year to complete studio shots, it will already have filmed many thousands of feet of the authentic out-back.
That does not qualify any film for the 'unique' label, but these factors do: — It will be the first feature-length film made in colour in the Commonwealth. 'Gevacolor,' a new Belgian process, is be ing used. Dhauvel is filming 9000 miles from the company's laboratories in Antwerp and London and does not see the result of his work until six weeks after shooting. NT aborigines without previous screen experience — but trained by Chauvel — are being used in leading parts, including the name-role of 'Jedda.' Well-known Territorians, like Wason Byers, drover, stockman, and cattle station owner; Bill Harney, author, anthropologist, i and beachcomber; Tas. Fitzer, of the NT police force; and ' Billy Parrar, descendant of the earliest settlers, will appear on the screen. Pioneer blood runs through the entire cast. The screen story is based largely on an actual incident from NT history — the exploits of Nemar luk, a native 'gone bad,' about whom Ion L. Idriess wrote one of his books. After escaping from jail, Nemarluk was cap
tured by the same Constable Fitzer. It is fitting that 'Jedda.' which portrays the hardships of the early pioneers, should be pro duced in an area so seeped in their traditions. Robert Tudawaii, a bearded, upright Wargaitj, who is an Aus tralian Rules footballer, has been chosen to play the part of 'Mar- buk' in a cross-country flight with 'Jedda.' They flee for hun dreds of miles across some of the most frightening country in Aus tralia. Before his capture, and after his escape. Nemarluk roamed nomadically through thousands of square miles from the Victoria and Fitzmaurice Rivers to Port Keats, a fugitive not only from white man's justice but from the greater dangers of the inland — thirst, hunger, crocodiles, wild buffalo, evil spirits, and taboos. Also on location with Chauvel is a native named Nipper, now an old man, who was an associ ate of the infamous Nemarluk when police were inquiring into the murder of two white pros pectors, Stevens and Cooke. Wason Byers, who plays the part of homesteader Felix Romeo, is one of the most colourful per sonalities in the NT. He comes from the small North Queensland township of Byerstown, named after his father, who was one of the leaders in thje tragic goldrush jj'-ft^he Palmer River fields, wason came into the NT a quarter of a century ago with a mob of cattle — and has stayed. Drovers' help at 12 years Will harney, son of an English miner, began his career as a drover's horse taller at 12. He also followed a mob of cattle into the NT and later took up his own land at Seven Emus station, on the Gulf of Carpentaria. He had limited schooling but has written six books, and is acknowledged as the final authority on natives' in the north. He acts as Chauvel's re search officer, adviser on native affairs, and, as 'Stumpy,' will play a part as offsider to Felix Romeo. A 12-year-old half-caste lad, William Farrar, has more NT tradition in his blood than any member of the cast except the natives. His great-grandfather was head mustcrer to Costello, who blaxed the trail from Queens land to the Kimberleys for the Duracks, the McDonalds, the Buchanans, and the Kilfoyles. William Farrar's maternal great-grandfather was Charles Scrutton, a member of the Jar dine Expedition. The names of both Farrar and Scrutton appear on the maps of the NT and Queensland. Farrar's Hut, in Arnhem Land, is the only remaining landmark of an ill-fated attempt to estab lish cattle there last century. Most of the stock were speared by the blacks, and old-man Far rar and his men were constantly under hostile attack. In Chauvel's story Billy Far rar has one ambition — to become a head-stockman like his great grandfather, his grandfather, and his own father. As the play pro gresses the role of William Far rar, the young man. is taken by Mercury Theatre actor Paul Clarke. Native girls undergo tests Betty suttor, who acted with the Lux Radio Theatre in Hollywood, has arrived at Coolibah to play Sarah
McMann, wife of the owner of Mongala buffalo station. She has acted with Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland, and William Powell. More recently, she played the Virgin Mary in the Australian radio serial, 'The Man Born to be King.' She is the mother of five chil dren. George Simpson-Lyttle plays 'Doug. McMann,' the owner of Mongala. 'Jedda,' an aboriginal girl, will be named by Chauvel later this month. He will make his selection from four aboriginal girls who have been training and screen-testing in a talent school at Coolibah for the last six weeks. Coolibah station, on the Vic toria River, where the unit is now on location, is owned by Wason Byers and a partner. It is the third largest station in Australia, in country explored by A. C. Gregory during his search for Ludwig Leichhardt in the middle of last century. The location camp is beside an ancient ceremonial ground still under a strong native taboo. It is marked by the boomerangs of doctor blackfellows. Taboos are a problem The taboo has given Chauvel a ticklish problem, and it was necessary for him to get a dispensation from the elders before he could con vince tribesmen from the War gaitj, near Darwin, Maras from the Limmen River, Karawas from the Robinson River, and Aruntas from Central Australia, that they were not likely to come under an evil influence. Bill Harney, the mediator, has to be constantly vigilant in inter preting tribal customs and taboos for Chauvel. In Antwerp, the Gevaert com pany is watching with closest interest the making of 'Jedda.' The French first used Gevacolor in 'La Dame Aux Camelias,' and followed it with 'Violettes Imperiales,' 'Lucrece Borgia,' and 'Le Carrosse d'Or.' But wriereas Jean Renoir pro duced 'fee Carrosse d'Or' only 200 miles from the Belgian labora tory, Chauvel has had to cope not only with a line of communi cation 9000 miles long, but with the isolation and extreme clima tic conditions of a tropical out back location. Last year, Gevacolor film was exposed by Chauvel in sun temperatures of 1 20 and \ 40 degrees and processed in Lon don without loss of one foot. This was possible by use of a complicated system of refrigera tion. It included a relay of ice boxes along the Roper River,
'We have cap tured the en chantment of the inland in colour.'
some in caves, under rock ledges, and set in native canoes covered with paperbark. Ice was flown out from Katherine twice a week. The sensitive film passed along this line of coolboxes to a re frigerator in the camera truck — and then quickly to cameras in the blazing sun. After exposure it went back through the cooling system, to natives constantly damping hes sian air curtains at the entrances to caves, and to bough sheds in which it was allowed to remain all night before being returned to a refrigerator. This was done to avoid sudden
changes of temperature — a most damaging element. Chauvel is convinced that he has a film which will be like no other ever made in Australia or elsewhere. He says: 'The story pleases me; we've captured the enchant ment of the inland in colour; we've got the big voices of big men, the descendants of pioneers who are traditional; we have the strange language of the blacks . . . the singing spears . . . butu above all, the Territory and the Centre giving the lie to the Dead Heart, calling to youth, appealing to adventure.'