SENTIMENTAL BLOKE, THE (Raymond Longford, 1919, Australia, BW)
Directed by Raymond Longford
Produced by Raymond Longford
Written by Raymond Longford
Based on The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke by C. J. Dennis
Starring Arthur Tauchert
Cinematography Arthur Higgins
Southern Cross Feature Film Company
Distributed by E. J. Carroll
26 November 1918 (Adelaide)
4 November 1919
Language Silent film
Bill is a Woolloomooloo larrikin, who vows to abandon his life of gambling (playing Two-up) and drinking after a spell in gaol following a raid on a two up game. He falls in love with Doreen (Lyell), who works in a pickle factory, but faces competition from a more sophisticated rival, Stror 'at Coot.
Bill and Doreen argue, but are eventually reunited and get married. Bill gives up drinking and hanging out with his mate, Ginger Mick, and becomes a family man. He gets an offer from his uncle to manage an orchard in the country, and he and Doreen settle down there with their baby.
The Sentimental Bloke (1919) is an Australian silent film based on the 1915 poem The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke by C. J. Dennis. It is generally considered the greatest Australian silent film, and one of the best Australian movies of all time. C. J. Dennis' original book had been a best seller since its publication in 1915. It was read by executive J. D. Williams who gave Raymond Longford a copy and suggested it might make a good movie. Longford gave it to his partner Lottie Lyell and she was supportive. Finance was provided by an Adelaide company, the Southern Cross Feature Film Company who had funded The Woman Suffers. C. J. Dennis was reluctant to give away the movie rights for fear it would affect book sales, however he eventually agreed after prolonged negotiations and a royalty payment of £1,000, half the film's budget.
Lyell is thought to have co-authored the screenplay which relocated the story from Melbourne to Woolloomooloo in Sydney. Arthur Tauchert had extensive experience working in suburban vaudeville but had only made two short movies prior to this. The movie was shot in 1918 on location in Woolloomooloo, with the orchard scenes done at Hornsby Valley in near Sydney, and interiors at open-air sets at Wonderland City, Bondi (which meant Longford could avoid paying excessive rental for using sets at the Rushcutters Bay Studio). Some shots of sunsets and sunrises for the inter titles were done in Adelaide. Sydney authorities refused to allow police uniforms to be depicted, or for shooting to take place in the city's gaols. However Longford managed to persuade Commonwealth dockside officials to appear as policemen and let him use an old watch house in Woolloomooloo.
It was a treat to watch this Australian silent, A Sentimental Bloke, with Lottie Lyell, who was called Australia's first movie star. An adaptation of the popular poem by Australian poet C.J. Dennis, the film was humorous and homey. It tells the tale of a ordinary "bloke" whose life is transformed by love. The Australian slang in the title cards made them a real challenge to read, but the acting style is so natural that it's not hard to understand what's going on. Arthur Tauchert, as the bloke, brings just the right amount of roughness and pathos to the part as he undergoes his transformation, and Lottie Lyell as Doreen, just the right amount of working girl toughness and maidenly sweetness. You can tell that she was ill during the shooting of the movie, and she died young of tuberculosis, bringing to an end a fine collaboration with film maker Raymond Longford.
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