Remembering the Past Australia
The Australian film industry had its beginnings with the 1906 production of The Story of the Kelly Gang, the earliest feature film ever made. Since then, Australian crews have produced many films, a number of which have received international recognition. Many actors and filmmakers also started their careers in Australian films.
The first public screenings of a film in Australia took place in October 1896, within a year of the world’s first screening in Paris by the Lumière brothers. The first Australian exhibition took place at the Athenaeum Hall in Collins Street, Melbourne, to provide alternative entertainment for the dance-hall patrons.
It is rare to find early Australian movies that have survived to today, and those that have are often missing sections.
The four films featured here are now considered classics and are among the few of Australia’s earliest movies that have survived.
The Story of the Kelly Gang is a 1906 Australian bushranger film by Charles Tait that traces the exploits of 19th-century bushranger and outlaw Ned Kelly and his gang. Not only is it regarded as the origin point of the bushranging drama, a genre that dominated the early years of Australian film production, it also was inscribed in 2007 on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register for being the world’s first full-length narrative feature film.
The Kid Stakes is a 1927 Australian silent black and white comedy film written and directed by Tal Ordell. The film is a fast-moving tale of the lives of typically Australian children, based on the adventures of “Fatty Finn”, who was known throughout the Commonwealth through the comic strip of Syd. Nicholls, the “Sunday News” cartoonist. Thought lost, the movie was rediscovered in 1952.
Silks and Saddles is a 1921 Australian silent film set in the world of horse racing written by John Cosgrove and John K. Wells, who was also the director. The film is one of the rare Australian movies to survive today almost in its entirety.
Robbery Under Arms is a 1920 Australian film directed by Kenneth Brampton. A copy comprising about three-quarters of the film was found and combined with already known footage to produce a near-complete version.