AUSTRALIA. GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION IN THE 1920s AND 1930s – Schirmer Encyclopedia of Film

Schirmer Encyclopedia of Film

A Royal Commission was established in 1927 to investigate the influence of Hollywood films, and although
there were concerns over the state of the Australian film
industry, the commission was equally concerned by the
decline of the number of British films screened in
Australia. In 1913 British films represented 26.3 percent
of the total number of imported films, but by 1923 this
figure had fallen to 3.4 percent. Although the commission recommended protection for the British industry
with an exhibition quota, it did nothing to change
American domination. In the 1930s the Fox film company purchased a controlling share in Hoyts, while
MGM and Paramount secured their own first-run theaters. In 1945 the British Rank Organisation acquired a
controlling interest in Union Theatres.
In 1934 an inquiry established by the New South
Wales government recommended a five-year distribution
and exhibition quota for Australian films. The resultant
NSW (New South Wales) Cinematograph Films
(Australian Quota) Act of 1935 required that 5 percent
of all films handled by distributors and 4 percent of all
those screened by exhibitors in the first year should be
Australian. The act also encouraged the establishment of
a new studio modeled on the Gaumont-British National
Studios in London, namely National Studios, built at
Pagewood in Sydney. However, its first film, The Flying
Doctor (1936), with the American actor Charles Farrell
(1901–1990) in the lead role under the direction of the
British actor Miles Mander (1888–1946), failed badly,
and the company only made one more film, Rangle River
(1936), an Australian western written by Zane Grey
(1872–1939) during a visit to Australia and starring the
Hollywood actor Victor Jory (1902–1982) and the British
actor Robert Coote (1909–1982), under the direction of
the American Clarence Badger (1880–1964). Although
Rangle River was commercially and critically successful in
Australia, it did not receive an American release until
1939, and by then National Films had collapsed.
Other than The Flying Doctor and Rangle River,
Charles Chauvel’s Uncivilised (1936) was the only other
film to be made as a direct result of the NSW Quota Act of 1935. In December 1938 the New South Wales
government offered guaranteed bank overdrafts to local
productions and, again, Charles Chauvel benefited as the
guarantee provided 50 percent of the financing for his
most popular film, Forty Thousand Horsemen (1940), a
stirring war film celebrating the courage of Australian
soldiers in the Sinai Desert campaign during World
War I. An ardent nationalist, Chauvel directed only nine
feature films, including Errol Flynn’s (1909–1959) first
film, In the Wake of the Bounty (1933).