Officer 666

Officer 666
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This two-minute clip is taken from the Australian-made 1916 silent comedy Officer 666, based on a Broadway play. The director, Fred Niblo, also stars as millionaire Travers Gladwin. To foil an art theft, Gladwin disguises himself as Police Officer 666. However, one of the thieves arrives disguised as Gladwin, and merry confusion ensues.

As war raged across Europe, and Hollywood began building cinema audiences internationally, the Australian film industry was thriving. An impressive 16 feature films were released in 1916. Officer 666 was one of four features released by theatrical company J.C. Williamson. Williamson aimed to film hit US plays before the American companies, and then import them into Australia.

Officer 666 was a successful Broadway comedy in 1912, starring US actor Fred Niblo. He went on to both direct and star in this film version, playing millionaire Travers Gladwin. When Gladwin hears that thieves plan to steal his art collection, he disguises himself as Officer 666 to observe the criminal activity. When the crook arrives, he too is disguised, as Gladwin himself.

The film was released in March 1916 and toured Australia until late 1917.

In 1916 Niblo also directed Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford, again based on a stage play. Both films feature the young Australian actress Enid Bennett. She went on to the US to try her luck in movies, married Niblo after his first wife’s death, and became a star in spite of her less-than-dazzling film debut.