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“AUSTRALIAN WALKABOUT”

Posted by scarlsson at 09:39, December 12 2012.

The Chauvels’ career took a totally different direction with their last venture, “Australian Walkabout”. Before leaving London, after post-production work on “Jedda”, the BBC had interviewed Charles and Elsa on television, with excerpts from the film. They had a huge public response to the interview, with viewers asking to know more about outback Australia. The BBC had run a series of wildlife adventure films in South Africa with a husband and wife, Armand and Michaela Dennis, but the couple had recently deserted BBC for a more lucrative offer with a commercial station. Charles received a cable from the BBC asking them to return to London and discuss the making of a similar series in Australia.

Charles was in his element, filming do...

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Australian Walkabout – Various Locations Outback

Excerpts from biography:

“Their two landrovers amusingly bore number plates commencing with the words BAN and BAD, perhaps not the best choice for a filmmaker. My father said that it was lucky he was not superstitious. He was driving the third vehicle, a Holden utility. On the sides of each was a large inscription, ‘Charles Chauvel’s Television Unit – Australian Expediton’. Canvas water bags hung from the front, ready for the drier places outback, and there was a battery trailer to supply light.”

“The first sight of Coober Pedy seemed surreal – just a landscape of pale-coloured mounds, with a few gaping holes and tiny tin chimneys the only evidence of habitation. A water tank accommodated the annual six inches of rain, and the only sound was the dull thud of picks below ground...

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The Northern Territory and JEDDA

Posted by scarlsson at 10:00, September 14 2012.

The settings for JEDDA were eclectically-chosen from many beautiful parts of the Northern Territory, from The Centre to Mataranka, the Roper River, Beswick, Kakadu and Marrakai. Two key locations were Katherine Gorge and Ormiston Gorge, both extremely difficult to reach in the fifties, long before organised tourism. The homestead used for exterior shots was Coolibah Station, near Victoria River, with interiors replicated at Avondale Studios, Sydney. Crocodile scenes in Jedda were filmed on the Roper River near Mataranka. Rosalie Kunoth from Alice Springs (Ngarla Kunoth on screen ) played Jedda and Bobbie Wilson from Darwin (Robert Tudawali) was cast as the charismatic Marbuk...

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JEDDA (1955) – The Northern Territory

“Jedda” is the story of an Aboriginal girl caught between two cultures, and the tragic consequences. She has been raised on a remote buffalo station in the Northern Territory by a white woman mourning the death of her own baby. It is understood that she will eventually marry Joe, the part-Aboriginal head stockman, but when a wild Aboriginal man arrives at the station looking for work and tries to attract her attention, she is mesmerised by his bearing and strange tribal customs. He abducts her and takes her on a long journey to reach his own tribe, at the same time pursued by Joe and the police, who  want him on a charge of murder.

The chase sequence reveals stunningly beautiful landscapes from Central Australia to Kakadu, and the waters of Katherine Gorge...

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“SONS OF MATTHEW”, CANUNGRA 1949

The saga of making “Sons of Matthew” equalled the drama of the story itself. After reading Bernard O’Reilly’s books, “Cullenbenbong” and “Green Mountains”, Charles and Elsa wrote a script inspired by the pioneering exploits of the famed O’Reilly family, who carved a trail into the mountains of the McPherson Ranges, to claim land on the Plateau.

The story traced the adventures of the film’s O’Riordan family, their five sons and two daughters, so the cast of adults and their junior counterparts was large. Together with technicians, the unit numbered about seventy when they arrived in southeast Queensland. They were hit with the state’s wettest season in forty years...

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CANUNGRA AND THE SCENIC RIM

Posted by scarlsson at 10:00, June 28 2012.

We’re in Queensland! No other town in Australia has featured as much in Charles Chauvel’s films as Canungra. The little town tucked into the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, in the Gold Coast hinterland, was the location for scenes in his 1935 film “Heritage”, his second war film, “Rats of Tobruk” and then the epic “Sons of Matthew”. Canungra was first established by timber-cutters, but today is a hub for The Scenic Rim, an area of tourism, wineries and horse studs. It is the gateway to the Lamington National Park and Mt. Tamborine – two of Chauvel’s key locations for his pioneering drama, “Sons of Matthew”...

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Currans Hill, Narellan NSW

Posted by scarlsson at 10:00, April 24 2012.

Currans Hill today is deemed a suburb of Camden. In 1942 it was a bare hill surrounded by farmland. Chauvel found it the perfect location for his ‘town’ of Tobruk, a portion of which was reconstructed on the hill according to official war photographs.

Excerpt from biography:

“There were unexpected diversions for farmers in the Narellan district, early in 1944. On Currans Hill, normaly a quiet, rural location, war suddenly and noisily erupted. Bewildered residents watched as the Hill was invaded by truckloads of equipment and people – some in uniform with weapons, others with cameras.

A sealed road was laid. On either side of it carpenters erected white-painted buildings and what appeared to be ruins of a church...

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CURRANS HILL, NARELLAN, NSW

RATS OF TOBRUK – 1944


A story of Aussie heroism in the Tobruk chapter of World War 1, when men of the AIF, living in dugouts and conducting silent raids at night, held Tobruk against the German forces for an exhausting eight months.

“Rats of Tobruk” was a hard-working production made under wartime conditions; finance and equipment were scarce, major studios closed and many actors and personnel had joined the armed forces. It was not the blockbuster of its predecessor, ‘Horsemen’, but a sincere portrayal of the Australian soldiers’ mateship and stoicism while defending Tobruk. It was generously assisted by all three armed forces, in order to ensure authenticity.

The film starred Peter Finch, Grant Taylor and Chips Rafferty...

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Forty Thousand Horsemen – 1941

There was a swashbuckling element of adventure behind the making of ‘Horsemen’, yet this film was a turning point in my father’s career. He was said to have matured as a director, with a greater sense of realism. It was a timely morale booster, as W.W.11 was looming and Australian men would soon be enlisting. When a contingent of Light Horse was in Sydney for the city’s sesquicentenary, in 1938, Chauvel seized the opportunity to feature the horsemen in the film’s desert marches. He gained the Army’s permission to use the Light Horsemen, initially for one day only. This audacious gamble was his ‘shop window’ and the catalyst for the rest of the film, both creatively and financially.

While action scenes were filmed on the sandhills of Kurnell, the eastern village of El-Arish,...

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CRONULLA/KURNELL, SYDNEY

Posted by scarlsson at 10:00, February 8 2012.

What a difference between Kurnell today and the sweeping sand dune country that we saw in 1938.

The sandhills of north Cronulla/Kurnell stretched for about 250 miles and provided a convincing stand-in for the Sinai Desert. The ravages of sand-mining and landfill operations, 4WD driving and horse riding have since reduced them to a small area used today for fitness training.

Excerpts from biography:

“The men were in the saddle at 3 a.m., waiting for the dawn shots Chauvel wanted. The sky was overcast and a slight drizzle began, filling Charles and Elsa with apprehension. These sand dunes, with their shifting shadows and wind-tossed crests, seemed to embody all Charles’ hopes for the film.”

“The horsemen milled about in the dawn light, sil...

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