The Flying Doctor hoped to appeal to audiences in Australia and internationally. It combined a story drawing on the Australian landscape, boasted British technical expertise behind the camera (including Gaumont British director Miles Mander, scriptwriter JOC Orton and cinematographer Derrick Williams), Hollywood drawcard Charles Farrell, and the inclusion of two well-known sporting identities – Bradman and wrestler Tom Lurich.
The film was moderately successful in Australia but only received a limited release in Britain and was not released at all in the USA. It did however receive a ‘special recommendation’ at the Venice Film Festival in 1937 and remains of lasting interest for featuring Bradman’s one and only feature film appearance.
Finding The Flying Doctor
The Flying Doctor was believed to be a lost film until around 1970 when, as later recounted by NFSA Curator Emeritus Ray Edmondson, a chance encounter led to the first eight of nine reels of the film being rescued from the back of a truck destined for the tip. The truck was full of cans of film cleared out from a demolished film studio in the Sydney suburb of Lane Cove. It attracted the attention of a local council employee who gave chase in his car and prevented the destruction of the films. They found a home in the predecessor to the NFSA, the National Film Archive at the National Library of Australia. The final reel was then located after a routine enquiry to the then National Film Archive in London.
Ray Edmondson recalls that the film's production stills came into the NFSA collection years later, after an official studio stills book was kindly donated by a member of the public who had picked it up at a suburban second-hand shop. Edmondson writes, 'A remarkable chain of coincidence had given us back not only [the full] film, but a complete coverage of its stills. Truly a happy ending.'