Love is in the air - above Sydney!

BY JEFF WRAY

The NFSA celebrates Valentine's Day with recently restored footage of a unique wedding ceremony in the skies over Sydney in 1932.

The NFSA recently digitised a 35mm nitrate film reel revealing the unique wedding ceremony of John and Gladys (née Bullivant) Cousemacker. They took marriage to the next level by being the first couple in Australia to be wed in the sky, while flying in an aeroplane over Sydney:

Love takes flight

The filming and event was organised by the Regent Theatre (Hoyts) in Sydney on Saturday 30 July 1932 and was produced to support the promotion of the Paramount air romance film Sky Bride (Stephen Roberts, USA, 1932), starring Richard Arlen and Virginia Bruce.

Joyce Heyward, the daughter of John and Gladys, donated the wedding film to the NFSA. The family were able to screen a digitised version of the footage for Joyce’s 80th birthday.

John and Gladys took to the air at 3.15pm on their wedding day in a New England Airways Avro 618 Ten (VH-UNJ). The plane was built under contract to Fokker, making it appear very similar to Sir Charles Kingsford Smith's famous Southern Cross.

On the flight, the couple were blissfully wed by Rev H Mills of the Congregational Church. They were accompanied by their fathers, two movie camera operators, a wireless announcer and a journalist, making for a very cramped – and presumably noisy – ceremony!

Organisers had installed a special short-wave radio transmitter in the aircraft so the full wedding service could be picked up and re-broadcast by 2UW radio.

Following the flight, the bride and groom hosted a reception in a hangar at Mascot Airport. They later made appearances at the Regent Theatre to promote Sky Bride where the footage of their wedding was projected before the main feature. Soon after, 'sky weddings' were reported in Brisbane.

The film is a wonderfully romantic historical document and also a brilliant example of new technology being used to provide a unique experience.

The clip features views of 1930s Sydney, including the recently completed Sydney Harbour Bridge. It conveys a sense of the excitement around this pioneering wedding event through shots from inside and outside the aeroplane.

Celebrating their ruby wedding anniversary in 1972, Gladys Cousemacker was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald as saying, 'I’ll never forget it ... I enjoyed it enormously, and I’d go through with it all again.'