Remembering the Past Australia

Silks and Saddles 1921

Directed by John K. Wells (1886-1949)

Written by John Cosgrove (1867-1925) and John K. Wells

Premier: Strand and Lyric Threatres, Sydney, 5 March 1921

Silks and Saddles is a 1921 Australian silent film set in the world of horse racing. The film was also known as Queen o’ Turf or Queen of the Turf in the United States.

The film is one of the rare Australian movies to survive today almost in its entirety. It was made by Commonwealth Pictures, a company formed in October 1920 with Eric Griffin as managing director at a value of £10,000. They hired American filmaker John K. Wells to direct, who had moved to Australia in 1919 with Wilfred Lucas to work as an assistant director.

The movie was shot in and around Sydney, including Randwick racecourse and at Camden, with interiors at E. J. Carroll’s studio at Palmerston in Waverly. Footage was also taken involving an aeroplane, one of the first Australian movies to do so. Some scenes include the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron and the champion racehorse Kennaquhair also appears in the movie.

The story covers the experiences of a squatter’s son who in a visit to the city falls in among “crooks”. The film gives pictures of poker and two-up schools and shows other incidents in the life of the city and bush. The racecourse setting in which the heroine outwits the villain by riding her own horse to victory shows actual footage of a real-life racing event at Randwick.

Cast members include Brownie Vernon, Robert MacKinnon, John Cosgrove, John Faulkner, Tal Ordell, Evelyn Johnson, Raymond Lawrence, Gerald Harcourt, Tommy Denman and the racehorse Kaennaquhair as “Alert”.

This is a silent film, there is no sound in the movie. An audio file containing traditional piano-roll music, similar to what would have been played in theatres during this era, is made available for your use while watching the movie.

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