Treasures of Katoomba: A treasure hunt at Katoomba

Treasures of Katoomba: A treasure hunt at Katoomba
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At Echo Point in the Blue Mountains, lovers Jack (Harry Cantor) and Jill (Margaret Jackson) begin their quest to find a £500 cheque hidden in the area. They proceed along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk followed by other sightseers and treasure seekers. They pass by the Three Sisters. 'Uncle Leo and his Californian yodelling hikers’ join in the fun and, with the gathering crowd, sing and saunter by the rippling waters of Leura Cascades. A man plays a piano accordion atop a rock outcrop. Jack and Jill and assorted questing hikers wave to each other across the Jameson Valley. Summary by Poppy de Souza.

Hurley became the chief cameraman for Cinesound Productions in 1935 and filmed Cinesound travelogues, documentaries and feature films throughout the 1930s and 1940s. He would often shoot, script and narrate the films, giving him strong creative control. Hurley’s enthusiastic narration in this clip is an example of how he used an on-the-spot commentary style of narration (possibly developed during his Antarctic expedition films) to add an immediacy to the scenes unfolding on the screen. The yodelling hikers in this clip are an odd touch (they seem to be more suited to the European snowfields) but, together with the music, create a celebratory mood presenting the Blue Mountains as an enjoyable destination for recreation and fun. The film screened locally and these scenes quite probably included extras from the region.


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 (see the yodelling hikers) 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. 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

Production company:
Cinesound Productions
Frank Hurley
Sponsored by the Blue Mountains City Council