Monday, March 07, 2005

When Hollywood went to Melbourne

in 1959 this was the result[^]. I just watched it again.

I honestly can't recommend the film; I find it boring and long winded. I also find it totally fascinating. Uh a paradox you say? Uh huh. (Why do I feel like launching into that song from Gilbert and Sullivan? ). It's a personal thing!

The interest, for me, lies in the fact that it was shot in Melbourne and suburbs when I was about 5 years old. There are shots of Flinders Street, Frankston Station, the GPO (General Post Office), McGills, RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Techology) and the Victorian State Library that date from about the first time I saw those places in person. Let's not even dwell on Portmans in Swanston Street, arrayed next to Croft's with nary a sign of the McDonalds that would in later decades take over that location. Toward the end of the film we see the vestibule of the Queen Victoria Hospital, Lonsdale Street. I'm not completely certain but I think the part we see is the part that still stands today; my wife and I were married there in 2002.

Anyone who's lived in Melbourne and walked up Swanston Street past the State Library would recognise the statue of the digger clad in his mudware. The camera pans up past his face, across the library building and northeastward. Nowadays there are office towers but in this footage you see sky and cloud. This matches my memories of Sunday afternoons at the Sydney Myer Music Bowl in 1959/1960 when, looking northward toward the city the tallest building on the skyline was St Pauls Cathedral, closely rivalled by the Mutual building on the corner of Collins and Swanston streets. Nowadays it's dwarfed by the Commonwealth Bank Building, BHP house (old and new) and a thousand other buildings.

I find it fascinating watching outside centre frame; those people are locals. My aunt told me sometime in the mid 1970's that my father was one of the extras in the film but I haven't, to this day, found him. Maybe he was and I don't recognise him; or maybe he was and he fell to the cutting room floor. *shrug*

Early in the film you see a train arrive at Frankston Railway Station. I can remember the station when it looked that way; it's long since been demolished and rebuilt.

One thing I hadn't realised; Most of the trains you see are the 'Tait's' but you do see the odd 'Harris' train. I'd always thought the 'Harris' trains were introduced in 1961 but there they are in 1959. (The Taits are the old red rattlers, the Harris's were the blue trains). For my money the Taits were a lot more comfortable. It's fascinating to see 'SMOKING' stenciled on the outside of the carriages. Had the movie been made 2 years earlier we'd have also seen 'Third Class' stenciled but suburban class travel was dropped in 1958.

Oh, and in the shot of the American submarine at the start of the movie; I still framed and counted the stars on the flag; it was the 49 star flag (this means that piece of footage was shot after June 1959 and that someone was paying attention). I'll expatiate in another post about stars on the flag in movies.

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