Well-known actors, elaborate sets and a sizeable budget were assembled to make The Pioneers. This 1916 silent movie, set in the 19th century, follows the lives of a pioneering family and two escaped convicts. The film is considered lost and is known only from contemporary descriptions and a few stills such as this one. It probably shows the pioneering couple Mary and Dan Cameron, cutting timber in the bush.
The Pioneers was based on Australian writer Katharine Susannah Pritchard’s award-winning 1915 novel of the same name and was shot in 1915 near Gosford, NSW and in Franklyn Barrett’s Sydney studio.
It follows the lives of two generations in the Australian bush. An escaped convict from Van Dieman’s Land (Dan Farrel, played by Winter Hall) surrenders himself to pioneering couple Mary and Donald Cameron. Dan becomes a schoolteacher, marries and has a daughter, Deirdre. McNab, a local pub-owner, learns of Dan’s convict past and threatens to make the information public. In order to silence McNab, Deidre agrees to marry him. Her sacrifice is pointless, as McNab alerts the police anyway and Dan is arrested. Deirdre accidentally kills McNab, but Donald Cameron manages to save her from prison and brings about the release of her father.
The Pioneers was Katharine Susannah Pritchard’s first published novel. It was again adapted for cinema in 1926.