AUSTRALIA. THE BARREN YEARS: 1945 TO 1969 – Schirmer Encyclopedia of Film

Schirmer Encyclopedia of Film

Unfortunately, Forty Thousand Horsemen, which premiered six months after Cinesound’s final film, Dad
Rudd, MP, marked the end of an era. For the next thirty
years the Australian film industry diminished to a point
where, in the 1960s, it barely existed. Only nine
Australian feature films, produced independently, were
released during World War II. The high point, however,
was not a feature film but Kokoda Front Line, a special
edition of the weekly newsreel Cinesound Review, which won an Academy Award for the best documentary in
1942. After the war the British studio Ealing tried hard
to convince Greater Union, the parent company for
Cinesound, to join with it in the production of
Australian films. This followed the worldwide success of
Ealing’s first Australian production, The Overlanders
(1946), an epic adventure starring Chips Rafferty
(1909–1971) as the leader of a small group who drive
eighty-five-thousand cattle two thousand miles from
Western Australia to the Queensland coast during the
early years of World War II. Greater Union, however,
was not interested in resuming production, and after two
more films Ealing abandoned its plan.
This was symptomatic of the 1950s, a decade of lost
opportunities. Only a few filmmakers, such as the New
Zealander Cecil Holmes (1921–1994) and the actor
Chips Rafferty, in partnership with the director Lee
Robinson (1923–2003), kept the industry alive with
low budget action melodramas such as The Phantom
Stockman (1953), King of the Coral Sea (1954), and
Walk into Paradise (1956). This was a period dominated
by overseas companies. The British made Smiley (1956),
The Shiralee (1957), Robbery under Arms (1957), Smiley
Gets His Gun (1958), and The Siege of Pinchgut (1959),
while the Americans filmed The Kangaroo Kid
(1950), Kangaroo (1952), Summer of the Seventeenth
Doll (1959), On the Beach (1959), Shadow of the
Boomerang (1960), and The Sundowners (1960). The lack
of regular film work meant that many Australian actors,
such as Peter Finch (1916–1977), Ron Randell (1918–
2005), John McCallum (b. 1917), Charles Tingwell
(b. 1923), Grant Taylor (1917–1971), Guy Doleman
(1923–1996), Michael Pate (b. 1920), Jeanette Elphick
(1935–1988) (Victoria Shaw), and Reg Lye (1912–1988)
left for either Britain or Hollywood.