https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/collection/hero_image04-2017/mutiny_of_the_bounty_hero.jpg

At the Movies: 100 Years Ago

Wartime moviegoing

Moviegoing During the 1910s

What did Australians watch at their local cinema during the First World War?

During the 1910s huge picture palaces flourished across the country and going to the pictures was a big social event. Small towns and regional areas did not miss out – touring exhibitors set up temporary screens in shearing sheds, halls or wherever they could attract an audience.

When war broke out in 1914, going to the cinema had a new purpose. It served to distract audiences from the horrors of the Western Front and elsewhere, but also helped them keep up with international events and to support the war effort.

This collection includes clips from some of the moviegoing highlights of the era.

WARNING: this collection may contain names, images or voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Charlie at the Show
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
9133
Year:
Year

Was Charlie Chaplin at Sydney’s 1916 Royal Easter Show? Yes, but not the real Charlie Chaplin. Just one of thousands of impersonators, as Chaplin’s worldwide fame grew.

Ern Vockler was a recognised and talented Charlie Chaplin impersonator on the comedy stages of Australian theatrical circuits. He provided a welcome distraction on cinema screens from the patriotic fervour of the newsreels and recruiting films.

Ern Vockler’s earliest appearance as the ‘Charles Chaplin of Vaudeville’ was at Goulburn, NSW, during August 1915.

Charlie at the Show shows the Little Tramp chasing a pickpocket through the crowds of Sydney’s Royal Easter Show. Vockler displays Chaplin’s well-loved expressions and gestures as he responds to a series of odd situations. In one comic encounter, he overcomes his characteristic bashfulness towards women as he tries to rub off the Tattooed Lady’s tattoos.

The film captures the crowds’ delight at Charlie’s antics, as well as their fascination with the process of making moving pictures. The film’s première in Sydney was cleverly advertised to exploit their desire to see themselves on screen. “Were you with Charlie at the Show?” asked Waddington’s advertisement. “Come to the Glaciarium and see. Over 3,000 visitors were snapped in various parts of this latest and mirth-provoking comedy.”

Along with Charlie at the Show, producer John Gavin had three other films in distribution at the same time, including the war-related The Martyrdom of Nurse Cavell.

Mutiny of the Bounty
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/03-2017/mutiny_of_the_bounty.jpg
Mutiny of the Bounty
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
647379
Year:
Year

Australian feature films during the First World War reflected the shifts in public perception. Enthusiasm and patriotism in the first year eventually gave way to cynicism and despair as time passed and casualties mounted. With a growing demand for escapism, film-makers turned to comedy and the romanticised past for inspiration.

Raymond Longford was a prolific and important director of the silent film era of Australian cinema.  In 1916 he directed an Australian-New Zealand feature, Mutiny of the Bounty. The plot deals with the 1788 mutiny on HMS Bounty, Captain William Bligh’s journey back to England in a small launch (as seen on this daybill), and the recapture of the mutineers in Tahiti. The cast included notable Australian actors George Cross, Charles Villiers and Lottie Lyell. Maori actors played the Tahitians who greeted the crew. Despite the mood of thrilling adventure, great care was taken with historical accuracy with a fairly balanced portrayal of Captain Bligh and close research of contemporary records, including Bligh’s logbook. 

Filming took place in Rotorua, Norfolk Island and Sydney. At the time this was described as ‘probably the most costly production yet made in Australia’. A review from the Perth Sunday Times in 1917 declared ‘that no patriotic Australian should miss the great Australian-made production …its thrilling story, glorious tinted scenes and fine action from the hero down to the natives.’

The Hero of the Dardanelles: 'He did his duty'
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
648063
Year:
Year

Will (Guy Hastings) joins his friends in Martin Place, Sydney, for a drink. They discuss the war while drinking and Will urges them to join up. He places a recruiting poster on the hotel wall, but a stranger rips it down. Will sees the man off the premises. Summary by Paul Byrnes.

The Spirit of Gallipoli: ‘A smack on the smeller’
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
19856
Year:
Year

Billy Austin (played as a boy by Leo Meagher) and his pals march out of school after a reluctant day inside. Billy picks a fight with a schoolmate when he sees the boy talking to Gladys, the girl he wishes was his girlfriend. The fighting is interrupted by a local policeman. Back home, Billy lies to his mother (Gwen Sherwood) about the cause of the fight. Summary by Paul Byrnes.

For the Honour of Australia: 'The Sydney's first shot for Australia'
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
15859
Courtesy:
Presented by special permission of HM Board of Admiralty and the Minister for the Australian Navy
Year:
Year

A radar operator receives a brief message from an island near Cocos Island, saying that an ‘enemy cruiser’ has landed men on the island. The Sydney rushes to the scene as the Germans destroy the radio and capture the island’s inhabitants, one of whom is the islander girl Kana (Alma Rock Phillips). The Germans are surprised when the Sydney arrives and opens fire, for the first time in a new war. Summary by Paul Byrnes.

The Woman Suffers: A daughter’s ruin
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
4112
Year:
Year

The Woman Suffers was filmed in South Australia and opened in March 1918 at the Theatre Royal, Adelaide, to rave reviews.

This clip shows Philip (Boyd Irwin) bringing Marjory (Lottie Lyell) home after a day’s outing, during which they have become lovers. Mrs Manton (Connie Martyn) sends her to her room for being so late home. The next section of the film is missing – during which Marjory realises she is pregnant and that Philip has probably abandoned her. According to the written scenario, lodged by Longford at the time, Marjory in despair buys medicine at the chemist, prays for help, and throws herself on the bed sobbing. Mrs Manton hears her sobs and enters the room. The extant footage begins again with the letter to ‘Jack’ – the fake name that Philip is using. Mrs Manton reads the letter and realises her daughter is pregnant. Their argument alerts Ralph, the brother, who demands to know the name of her lover. Marjory refuses to tell him. Summary by Paul Byrnes. 

The Enemy Within: A boxer, butler and black detective
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
6499
Year:
Year

Jimmy Cook (Sandy McVea), an Aboriginal detective, has been assigned to the Special Service to help Jack Airlie (Snowy Baker) crack a ring of German spies operating in Australia during the First World War. On Sunday morning, Jack’s butler Glassop (Gerald Harcourt) discovers Jimmy sleeping on his employer’s sofa. Indignant, the butler tips him on the floor, as Jack rises for his daily exercise. This includes a rowing machine and a boxing ball which Jack uses to turn the tables on the butler. Jimmy finds this very amusing.

Note: The original aspect ratio is 1.33:1 (Academy full frame). The print of The Enemy Within obtained by the NFSA had been incorrectly duplicated at an 1.37:1 (Academy) ratio, which has cut approximately 3 mm off the top and left-hand side off the frame. Summary by Paul Byrnes.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
The Woman Suffers: Philip vows vengeance
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
4112
Year:
Year

The Woman Suffers was filmed in South Australia and opened in March 1918 at the Theatre Royal, Adelaide, to rave reviews.

Joan (Evelyn Black) has thrown herself in the river and drowned rather than bring disgrace on her family. Her mother (Ida Gresham) finds her suicide note too late, and faints. Philip (Boyd Irwin) finds her body in the river, still clasping the locket with a picture of Ralph Manton. Philip vows to avenge his sister’s death. Summary by Paul Byrnes.

The Spirit of Gallipoli: ‘Try to look like a man’
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
19856
Year:
Year

Billy has been summoned to report for military training, which he does not want to do. At the army camp, Billy (Keith Gategood) feigns illness, with a bad cough. The medical officer assures him that he is in the best of health and that he might be a general one day, if he can learn to behave like a man. In his new uniform, Billy finds that his would-be school sweetheart Gladys (Marie Miller) now finds him much more attractive. He begins to get a taste for the discipline of army life, even at home, where he chops wood without complaint. Summary by Paul Byrnes.

The Hero of the Dardanelles: Beach landing at Gallipoli
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
648063
Year:
Year

Australian long boats reach the beach at Gallipoli, early in the morning on 25 April 1915. Hundreds of men storm ashore under heavy fire from rifle and artillery. Many die on the beach, and are left behind as the Anzacs rush the cliffs. More long boats follow them onto the beach, with support fire from naval ships. A Turkish machine gun post on the ridge fires constantly, until silenced by an accurate shell from one of the ships. Summary by Paul Byrnes.

The Pioneers
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/03-2017/the_pioneers_356100.jpg
The Pioneers
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
356100
Year:
Year

The lost 1916 Australian silent movie The Pioneers is known only from contemporary descriptions and a few stills such as this one, probably from the closing scenes of the film. It shows Deirdre, played by Alma Rock Phillips, and a boy contemplating the graves of pioneers Donald and Mary Cameron.

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.

For the Honour of Australia: All that was left of the Emden
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
15859
Courtesy:
Presented by special permission of HM Board of Admiralty and the Minister for the Australian Navy
Year:
Year

Jack Lane (actor unknown) recounts the story of the Sydney’s battle with the Emden, which is re-created with historical and miniatures footage. After the Emden succumbs, we see footage of the damage she sustained. Summary by Paul Byrnes.

Nurse Cavell: Britain's Joan of Arc
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Nurse Cavell: Britain's Joan of Arc
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
354927
Year:
Year

Nurse Cavell is a 1916 Australian feature-length film directed by WJ Lincoln about the execution of Edith Cavell during the First World War. It was also known as Edith Cavell. Subtitled as ‘Britain’s Joan of Arc’, it is a lost film.

In an English garden, a Belgian officer meets a ward of an old clergyman friend of Edith Cavell. Eventually Cavell is executed for spying. Nurse Cavell was viewed as rival to The Martyrdom of Nurse Cavell, also produced in 1916, and there was legal action by Jack Gavin’s backers.

The Melbourne Winner (1 March 1916. p. 12) reported: In view of such hurried work, it is a tribute to all concerned that so good a picture was turned out. The story is interesting, and the photography, with the exception of one or two sections, excellent. The cast which interprets Mr Lincoln's story is more than equal to the demands made upon it... Miss Margaret Linden's Nurse Cavell is a sympathetic study, although her face is marred somewhat by the heavy make-up used about the eyes. Miss Agnes Keogh, as Nita Devereux, has a fine screen presence, and acts in a convincingly natural manner.... Mr Arthur Styan... appears to advantage as Lieut. Karl; Mr Fred Kehoe as General von Bissing generally does well; Mr Stewart Garner looks capably alert as Captain Devereux, the Belgian attache, and Frank Cullinan as the priest supports Nurse Cavell in her hour of trial with befitting solemnity.

The Martyrdom of Nurse Cavell
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/03-2017/363211.jpg
The Martyrdom of Nurse Cavell
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
363211
Year:
Year

The Matyrdom of Nurse Cavell is a 1916 Australian feature-length film directed by Jack Gavin and Charles Post Mason about the execution of Edith Cavell during the First World War. The Matyrdom of Nurse Cavell was viewed as a rival to Nurse Cavell, also produced in 1916, and there was legal action by Jack Gavin’s backers. It is considered a Lost Film.

The story is told in four parts. The film starts at the English home of Edith Cavell before the war, then jumps forward six years to a Belgium hospital, where Cavell is working. The war is about to start and Dr Schultz suggests Nurse Cavell return home but she refuses.

Four months later Brussels has been occupied by the Germans and Cavell is tending wounded British, German and Belgium soldiers and secretly assisting those in danger to escape the Germans.

Searching the hospital, an incriminating letter from England is found describing Nurse Cavell’s assistance to a prisoner of war to escape. She is captured by the Germans secretly tried and sentenced to death.

The American Ambassador pleads for her life and the Reverend Gerard demands the right of see her and administer communion. The German officer Von Bissell grants a permit. She is sentenced and shot at 2am, her last words being: "Tell my friends I give my life willingly for my country. I have no fear or shrinking. I have seen death so often, it is not fearful or strange to me."

The Pioneers
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/03-2017/the_pioneers_353328.jpg
The Pioneers
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
353328
Year:
Year

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.

The Enemy Within: Riding, shooting and tackling
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
6499
Year:
Year

Jack and Jimmy have discovered the gang’s secret city hide-out. Gang boss Bill Warne (Billy Ryan) escapes, pursued by Jack (Snowy Baker). They both commandeer horses as Warne heads to the boatshed where his men guard a cache of arms and explosives. Jack and Warne exchange pistol shots until Jack runs out of ammunition. As Warne runs, the athletic Jack brings him down with a flying tackle.

Note: The original aspect ratio is 1.33:1 (Academy full frame). The print of The Enemy Within obtained by the NFSA had been incorrectly duplicated at an 1.37:1 (Academy) ratio, which has cut approximately 3 mm off the top and left-hand side off the frame. Summary by Paul Byrnes.

Mutiny of the Bounty
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/03-2017/mutiny_of_the_bounty_558541.jpg
Mutiny of the Bounty
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
558541
Year:
Year

Mutiny of the Bounty is a 1916 Australian-New Zealand silent film directed by Raymond Longford about the mutiny aboard HMS Bounty. It is the first known cinematic dramatisation of this story and is considered a lost film. 

The story is told in five parts. The mutiny on HMS Bounty in 1780, Captain Bligh's journey back to England, the recapture of the mutineers on the island of Tahiti, and the story of the remaining mutineers on Pitcairn Island.

The cast included notable Australian actors George Cross, Charles Villiers and Lottie Lyell. Maori actors played the Tahitians who greeted the crew. Despite the mood of thrilling adventure, great care was taken with historical accuracy with a fairly balanced portrayal of Captain Bligh and close research of contemporary records, including Bligh’s logbook. 

Filming took place in Rotorua, Norfolk Island and Sydney. At the time this was described as ‘probably the most costly production yet made in Australia’. A review from the Perth Sunday Times in 1917 declared ‘that no patriotic Australian should miss the great Australian-made production …its thrilling story, glorious tinted scenes and fine action from the hero down to the natives.’

 

Percy's First Holiday
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
11407
Year:
Year

WS Percy was a favourite Australian comic opera star. This film clip shows the crowd outside Sydney’s Crystal Palace cinema for a special matinee screening of his first film, Percy’s First Holiday.

With his 1914 short Percy’s First Holiday, the stage comedian William Stratford Percy became one of the earliest Australians in American films. The film was made when Willard Johnson, of the Greater JD Williams Amusement Company, took Percy to visit the New York Thanhouser studios. Within 20 minutes of meeting the head of scenario staff, they were shooting a just-written comedy, intended solely for Australian exhibition. However, says the Evening News, 'so funny were the antics of ‘our’ comedian that it has been included in the feature releases, and shown all over the world'.

The film opened in Australia at JD William’s Crystal Palace on 31 March 1914. This newsreel shows crowds leaving the special screening for Sydney theatrical folks. Among them were Americans Fred Niblo and Josephine Cohan, then starring in JC Williamson stage plays which would be filmed in 1915. Cohan’s sling is the result of an accident which forced her to withdraw from the show Never Say Die. Her understudy, Australian Beatrice Holloway, is also in the car.

What did Niblo think of Percy’s film? 'When first I saw Percy on the stage,' he said, 'I thought he was the funniest I had ever seen. I still think so, too, because he has a certain distinctive personality and he showed it in the picture to-day.'

Australia was not yet at war. However, this newsreel was shown together with an item about a military fete at Moonee Ponds to raise funds for Europeans affected by fighting that had broken out in 1913.

Neptune's Daughter
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
8900
Year:
Year

The silent film Neptune’s Daughter is an 'eight-reel spectacular pictorial triumph' made by Hollywood's Universal Studio. In it, Annette Kellerman plays a mermaid who swears vengeance on the fishermen who trapped and killed her little sister in their nets.

Transforming into a human, she seeks the King with the intention of killing him as his laws were responsible for the death. After being discovered, Annette makes her escape and is thrown back into the sea where she realises that she is in love with the King.

Kellerman was internationally famous for long-distance swimming and became a life-long advocate for women’s fitness. It was claimed she had the exact physical measurements of the Venus de Milo statue.

Neptune’s Daughter showcases Kellerman’s aquatic skills as well as her 'perfect' figure, which was shown, 'in the nude – beautifully, chastely in the nude', as Australian Theatre Magazine commented. 

Filming for Neptune’s Daughter took place in Bermuda with a cast of 200, all transported from the US. Both Kellerman and director Herbert Brenon were injured during production, unfortunate incidents which nevertheless made good publicity.

The two-and-a-half-hour film opened in Australia during March 1915 under the auspices of Canadian Frederick Shipman. This was his first venture into motion pictures. He was a well-known manager of world tours by high-profile singers but, in the wartime context, German contralto Madame Schumann Heink’s Australian appearances had been cancelled.

An odd wartime piece of doggerel in a publicity brochure compared Kellerman’s mythical mermaid to submarines, being used with deadly force at the time by the Germans. (The sinking of the liner Lusitania happened not long after the film’s Australian opening.)

Naming the Submarine

'A submarine can swim and dart
So fast', said Captain Carter,
'That if I named the craft' (he laughed),
'I’d call it Neptune’s Darter.'

'The submarine that swims and dives
Has such a knack of taking lives,
That by your nomenclature plan
I’d call it Annette Kill-a-man!'

Notes by Beth Taylor

12,000 Aussies send their love to ‘Little Mary'
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
17183
Year:
Year

Canadian-American silent film star Mary Pickford was one of the world’s most popular movie stars during the First World War. In 1914 12,000 Australian fans signed an autograph book for her and contributed to a presentation silver cup. This film clip shows her reacting with bashful charm as she receives these tributes while filming in Hollywood.

'Always human, lovable, and impulsive': that’s how the Sydney Sunday Times described Mary Pickford’s character in the title role of Tess of the Storm Country when it opened in July 1914. Those words also describe how Australian audiences saw Pickford herself. Around this time, Australian newspapers sometimes even identified Pickford as Australian.

JD Williams, of the JD Williams Amusement Company, promoted Tess by harnessing Pickford’s star power. Audience members signed ‘the largest autograph book in the world’, and each paid one penny into a fund for a ‘typically Australian’ present for Pickford. Sydney’s Lord Mayor signed first, then popular stage performer Muriel Starr.

The idea was so appealing and successful that it was copied in country areas. Goulburn’s Empire Theatre initiated an ‘Empire Album’ and gift subscription.

This film clip shows Millard Johnson, the American-based film buyer for Australasian Films, and his wife Lily Gibson. The Johnsons met Daniel Frohman, a producer at Famous Players Studio in Hollywood, and presented Mary Pickford with a bouquet, the autograph book containing 12,000 signatures, and a silver 'Loving Cup' engraved with kangaroo and Australian motifs.

She was filming The Stepsisters (released as Cinderella, 1914), and was dressed for the ball. Her director James Kirkwood filmed the presentation, as Pickford responds with girlish pleasure, lowering her eyes bashfully and saying, 'I thank you, Australia. You have, indeed, made me the Proudest Girl in America.'

The resulting film was returned to Australia, although it is not clear when it was screened.

Mutiny of the Bounty
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/03-2017/mutiny_of_the_bounty_575001.jpg
Mutiny of the Bounty
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
575001
Year:
Year

Mutiny of the Bounty is a 1916 Australian-New Zealand silent film directed by Raymond Longford about the mutiny aboard HMS Bounty. It is the first known cinematic dramatisation of this story and is considered a lost film. 

The story is told in five parts. The mutiny on HMS Bounty in 1780, Captain Bligh's journey back to England, the recapture of the mutineers on the island of Tahiti, and the story of the remaining mutineers on Pitcairn Island.

The cast included notable Australian actors George Cross, Charles Villiers and Lottie Lyell. Maori actors played the Tahitians who greeted the crew. Despite the mood of thrilling adventure, great care was taken with historical accuracy with a fairly balanced portrayal of Captain Bligh and close research of contemporary records, including Bligh’s logbook. 

Filming took place in Rotorua, Norfolk Island and Sydney. At the time this was described as ‘probably the most costly production yet made in Australia’. A review from the Perth Sunday Times in 1917 declared ‘that no patriotic Australian should miss the great Australian-made production …its thrilling story, glorious tinted scenes and fine action from the hero down to the natives.’

Officer 666
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
6496
Year:
Year

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.

Triangle Films
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
467121
Year:
Year

The arrival of a shipment of US films in Sydney in 1916 confirmed that Hollywood had won Australian hearts. But some commentators were already concerned about the impact on Australian film production. On 16 March 1916, ‘Kinema’ of the Melbourne Argus asked, 'Why should Australia be mainly dependent upon other countries' for its motion pictures? The article explored costs and marketplace realities that forced the closure of Australian film-producing companies, 'one after the other'. In a conclusion that resonates even today, Kinema says, 'whilst the successful Australian productions can be counted upon the fingers of the two hands, the number of those which have entailed serious financial loss is unfortunately considerable'.

In this clip the Oceanic liner SS Sierra arrives in Sydney with a shipping crate filled with Hollywood movies from the US studio Triangle, ‘the most valuable shipment of films yet shipped to Australia’. The cargo is offloaded at Circular Quay, delighting wartime audiences and creating despair for Australian filmmakers.

This film clip item appeared in the newsreel Australasian Gazette (No 277). The newsreel was made by Australasian Films, which happened to have the exclusive rights to distribute Triangle Films productions in Australia and New Zealand. Their publicity efforts are understandable - the company had paid £40,000 for its Triangle contract. The investment paid off when, after an introductory screening of the new films, picture-show managers pronounced Triangle productions ‘as fine as anything yet seen here, and the photography is well-nigh perfect’.

Triangle Film Corporation was a prestigious Hollywood studio with high-profile film directors Thomas Ince, DW Griffith and Mack Sennett. It was 'incorporated for a million pounds', said the Sydney Sunday Times, and each director earned £20,000 per year. Among its stars were the up-and-coming Douglas Fairbanks as well as established theatre celebrities such as Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree.

Seven Keys to Baldpate
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
6480
Year:
Year

In Seven Keys to Baldpate, a silent film based on a stage farce, a struggling novelist undertakes to write a novel during 24 hours in the Baldpate Inn. He thinks he has the only key but a succession of strangers arrives.

Australian impresario JC Williamson had already produced several war-themed films when he turned to filming plays such as this ‘mystery farce’, his final film. The war films, with outdoor scenes and dramatic action, were apparently more successful than these filmed theatre productions with their quivering canvas sets. Ironically, being less popular may have protected them from being destroyed through repeated projection.

Seven Keys to Baldpate was directed by Monte Luke and filmed at the J C Williamson Biograph Studio in Melbourne. ‘Elaborate preparations have been made to give the story an effective setting’, claimed Melbourne’s Winner on 24 November 1915. The original theatrical cast included popular Americans Fred Niblo and Josephine Cohan, resident in Australia for three years. Josephine Cohan’s brother, playwright/actor George M. Cohan, had written the script, a family connection that undoubtedly helped to clear the rights for Williamson’s motion picture.

The inclusion of the ‘soldiers’ sweetheart’, the stage and musical comedy star Dorothy Brunton as the female lead in the film, implies a certain success for the film but it was not the case. Seven Keys to Baldpate appears to have had a suburban and regional NSW release only, beginning in early May 1916, and Brunton is the only named star in the advertising.