Treasures of Katoomba: Seekers of beauty
Along the panoramic drive which skirts the heights of the Blue Mountains, people come in search of beauty and hidden treasures. Looking out from the road, the rock wall dividing the Megalong and Jameson Valleys is shown. Cloud formations and heavy mists form the backdrop to Boars Head Rock and tourists look out to the valley below. Jack and Jill decide to descend the mountain in search of the treasure and take the Scenic Railway down through the treetops to the Federal Pass. The couple stroll amongst the tree ferns and along the paths before stumbling across the consolation prize – three small dolls. They laugh. Summary by Poppy de Souza.
Hurley had the input of Harry Phillips – a local photographer who captured the stunning cloud formations over the Katoomba area. Hurley’s pictorialism – beautifully suited to the travelogue format – can also be seen on this site in clip three of Grandad Rudd (1935), a feature film he shot for Cinesound.
Treasures of Katoomba synopsis
A treasure hunt awarding £500 at Katoomba provides the narrative bookend for this short dramatised film promoting tourism in the Blue Mountains region. Made by Frank Hurley for Cinesound and sponsored by the Blue Mountains City Council, the film begins with lovers Jack (Harry Cantor) and Jill (Margaret Jackson) setting off from Sydney to Katoomba in search of the prize. Once at the Blue Mountains, other sightseers and sun worshippers join in the hunt as do two ‘honest men’ (Harry Drake and Jim Collins), who plant the prize. As the gathered crowd searches amongst the beauty of the mountains, Frank Hurley’s narration points out the natural treasures of Katoomba and its surrounds. Finally, it is Jack and Jill who stumble across the cheque – enough for them to celebrate their marriage in style, perhaps amongst the valleys and waters of the Blue Mountains.
Treasures of Katoomba curator's notes
Treasures of Katoomba is a charming film typical of the travelogues Hurley made during the 1930s and 1940s, including Jewel of the Pacific (1932, about Lord Howe Island), Oasis (1938, about South Australia) and Isle of Many Waters (1939, about Tasmania). He also photographed the sprawling celebration of Australia’s nationhood, A Nation is Built (1938), for the New South Wales Government to coincide with Sydney’s sesquicentenary.
Hurley made his name as a cameraman and photographer when he accompanied expeditions to the Antarctic with Douglas Mawson in 1913 and then Ernest Shackelton. The resulting documentaries, Home of the Blizzard (1913) and Endurance (1933), remain landmarks of documentary filmmaking in extreme conditions.
Hurley’s sense of adventure, as well as his eye for landscape composition, is evident in Treasures of Katoomba. He uses the travelogue format combined with the fictional treasure hunt as a narrative device to explore the natural treasures of the Blue mountains. This melding of styles is a little odd in parts but certainly works to promote the region as an attractive destination for tourists of all types. Hurley worked closely with local photographer Harry Phillips, known for his photographs of cloud formations as seen in this clip. Hurley also stunningly captures panoramas of the Megalong and Jameson Valleys and the rock formations of the Three Sisters and Orphan’s Rock.
Notes by Poppy de Souza