As the world turns its attention to London, host city of the 2012 Olympic Games, nearly 80 years earlier, Melbourne’s Efftee Film Productions was putting the finishing touches to an endearing travelogue of the city, Dear Old London (Claude Flemming, 1934).
Part of the National Film and Sound Archive’s ongoing preservation of the Efftee Film Productions output in the early 1930s, Dear Old London captures scenes of a city emerging from the effects of the Great Depression. Filmed predominantly as a travelogue of London’s shopping attractions, inner parklands and tourist monuments, the 34-minute featurette was directed by Claude Flemming. A veteran actor of the stage and occasional film director, Flemming had returned to Australia Efftee’s production team in late October 1933, after years abroad working in England and the USA.
Before returning to Australia, Flemming commenced pre-production work on Dear Old London in April 1933, and filming occurred in the latter half of the year. As this was the first time Efftee had filmed abroad, a London-based cameraman is likely to have worked with Flemming, since none are mentioned on the film’s credits or indeed elsewhere in the scant documented references to the film. Narration, music and effects were added back at the company’s leased studios at His (now Her) Majesty’s Theatre in Exhibition Street, Melbourne. Flemming, who had coached Hollywood silent film actors making the transition to ‘talkies’, narrated and also sang the film’s musical paean to the city over the opening titles.
Technically Dear Old London is rough in places, with some uneven editing, occasional out-of-focus camerawork and rudimentary sound effects, particularly when compared to Greater Australasian Films’ more ambitious London Speaks (Cecil Mason, 1934), the latter released to much hype in the trade journals later that year. Nevertheless, Flemming effectively portrays London as a cosmopolitan metropolis of style and influence while retaining a sense of warmth and intimacy with its residents, a tone less evident in Mason’s imperious film.
In the following sequence, London’s central shopping district of Regent Street and Oxford Circus is imaginatively captured. English stage and screen actor George Gee, the star of three British Lion comedies produced that year, is seen relaxing at a Regent Street cafe.