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THE AUSTRALIAN FILM INDUSTRY GROWS UP
"Forty Thousand Horsemen" Shows This And It Is Dinkum Aussie in Letter And Spirit
Screen Notes by THE CHI EL
DURING its sickly and undernourished
infancy it has been difficult for the most benevolent critic to hurl bouquets at the Australian film industry without violating his conscience. There have been many factors that have militated against its development. Probably the worst hurdle the industry has had to sur- mount has been lack of pence. More than all other industries, film making must be built on a foundation of cash, and cash,
and still more cash.
Courage and determination are not enough when an attempt is to be made to muscle in on Hollywood's racket. Those Australian pioneers who, during the last decade, have attempted to establish picture-making in the Commonwealth de- serve respect and admiration for their enterprise. If there were the equivalent of the V.C. for industry, it should be theirs for their pluck in going into the ring with the American Goliath, whose gloves were loaded with millions of dollars in gold, which added a steam-hammer punch to his ring science and experience.
Now at last along comes an Australian film of which the most exacting critic can say with a clear conscience that it can stand comparison with the American A grade product. I would very much like to take Mr. Charles Chauvel by both ears and bump his head hard against the nearest wall for the disgusting modesty with which the screening of "Forty Thousand Horsemen" in Melbourne has been heralded. If Mr. Chauvel has not been responsible for the aforesaid modesty regarding his picture, I hereby apologise, and transfer the wish to the guilty party. A frightened mouse could have emitted louder squeaks of triumph for such an achievement. An American pro- ducer would have told the world about it with brass bands with knobs on them.
As it happened, the Australian censor proved to be the best .publicity agent for the film. He objected to Red Gallagher's way of a man with a maid. Come to think of it, an Australian Light Horse trooper could hardly be expected to employ the
At the Majestic is "U-boat 29," with Conrad Veidt and Valerie Hobson in the leading roles
same technique as one of Ouida's violet eyed guardsmen in a mid-Victorian bou- doir. I ask you! Fortunately a more robust and discerning official mind in Canberra saved the situation by restoring the blush- ing censorial cuts.
Practically every film made in Australia before "Forty Thousand Horsemen" has attempted to put the Australian on the screen. They have used the bush, the farm, the sheep station, the Melbourne Cup, and the early Australian,days as back- grounds. They have also used the Aus- tralian people. Whatever other merits or demerits the films possessed, their chief defect was that their appeal was local and parochial. They were devoid of that appeal to the world overseas that is essential for the development and expansion of the in- dustry. Some of them were almost unin- telligible outside Australia through the use
of the Australian idiom.
Boy meets girl in "Maryland," which is coming to the Regent The girl is Hattie
McDaniel-the one with the hat
Then comes along Mr. Chauvel, who
makes a film reflecting Australia in - atmosphere and sentiment. He sets it, of all places in the world, in Palestine. But his film is such that the most exacting Australian will be glad it-will be seen in America and England, and proud of it, too. He has burst the parochial complex to tat- ters. His "Forty Thousand Horsemen" could hold an audience in any place in the world between Spitsbergen and Cape Horn-excluding perhaps Berlin or Rome at the present moment. It would be rather too optimistic to expect either Adolf or Musso to bubble with enthusiasm over it.
J. HERE is one aspect of "Forty Thousand
Horsemen" in which the film excels any- thing that has come out of Hollywood or England for its sheer, breath-taking realism. Of all the hundreds of pictures I have seen which depict warfare, there has been nothing to approach the terrific se- quences of the charge of the Light Horse towards the close of the film. This state- ment is hard fact, and not born of Aus- tralian sentiment. The nearest approach . to it was the American-made "Balaclava." Although this film had the advantage of
Robert Benchley, poor fellow1 corns his salary in "Hired Wife," a State attraction His assailants are Rosalind Russell and
colour, and probably cost five 01 six times mote to make, it was miles behind 'Forty Thousand Hoisemen" in the ditectlon that gives the Austi alian pictuie its punch
The cameia woik in eveiy inch of the sequence is supeib That, with the sound effects has the îaie quality in a film of taking the audience out of the theatie and into the scteen It gives the spectator the feeling of being in the thiele of it per-
_/\ NOTHER satisfactoiy featuie of the
film is the use that has been made of music to blend with the action It will be inteiest mg to heal what oveiseas audiences especially in the United States where the film will be scieened, make of Waltzing Matilda," which the Light Hoi se make a mai ching song They sing it well and the infectious notes should make it popular everywheie But "Matilda' is so purely Austi allan that neithei England nor the _ United States have anything in the way of
an equivalent to the lady She will need some explaining It will be no use to say Matilda is a swag, because 'swag will need as much explaining as "Matilda A short explanatoiy note foi the oveiseas punts in the introduction, would be useful to clear up what will otheiwise be something of a
The pioduceis picked a wmnei in Betty Bl yan t, who takes the only woman's role in the film as Juliet Rouget the daughter oi a patiiotic Frenchman who is hanged by the Geimans as a spy. The thread of her romance with Red Gallagher, the trooper, runs through the celluloid. Never- theless, despite the romance Forty Thousand Horsemen" is the most purely masculine film I have seen, with very few exceptions-and therein, I think lies its strength. Those who saw the powerful French production 'The Great Illusion' will remember that its punch was purely masculine. Charming and vivacious as she is, Juliet is a concession to sentiment and romance-incidental rather than essential. But Betty Biyant amply justifies her in- clusion in the cast. The important fea- ture of the film is that despite its foreign setting and the foreign element in the cast, it remains truly Australian in spirit.