All of the street names in Canberra are national memorials, but it is not widely known that the suburb of Chapman, established in the early 1970s, celebrates the nation’s film pioneers in its street names.
The names given to Chapman’s streets include some of the highest profile figures from the past, for example Rafferty Street is named in honour of the actor Chips Rafferty, and Chauvel Circle is named after the director Charles Chauvel. But many of the other names acknowledge and celebrate pivotal figures who are less well known to the general public:
Perry Drive, named after Joseph Perry: Perry was a true pathfinder and the driving force behind one of the earliest productions of dramatic film in Australia. Perry ran the Limelight Department of the Salvation Army, based in Melbourne and his most ambitious and successful production was the legendary Soldiers of the Cross which premiered at the Melbourne Town Hall on 13 September 1900. A multi-media show, it incorporated 13 short films depicting scenes from the life of Jesus, along with lantern slides, lectures and songs. The films had been staged in the grounds of the Salvation Army girl’s home at Murrumbeena in Melbourne. The whole show lasted more than 2 hours and was a huge success, touring throughout Australia and New Zealand.
Thring Street, named after Frank Thring Snr, honours the memory of a dynamic theatre owner and entrepreneur who was one of the key figures in the emergence of the Hoyts cinema chain in the 1920s. He also founded the important Efftee Studios in Melbourne in 1931, and, until his death in 1936, the studio produced an extraordinary slate of seven feature films and many short films, most linked closely to shows that Thring had produced on the stage. His productions included a re-make of The Sentimental Bloke, and comedies featuring some of the biggest names of local theatre, among them Pat Hanna and George Wallace.
Ordell Street, named after Tal Ordell, a prolific actor in Australian silent cinema and the director of one of Australia’s landmark classics, The Kid Stakes (1927). The Kid Stakes was a faithful rendition of the characters and spirit of the Fatty Finn comic strip drawn by Syd Nicholls for the Sunday News in Sydney. As an actor, Tal Ordell was the archetypal Dave Rudd in Raymond Longford’s film of On Our Selection (1920). Off-screen he made a career out of living the role of a colourful character from the bush: he frequently contributed bush yarns and poems to the Bulletin, and appeared on radio spinning bush stories on variety shows as well as appearing in a long-running radio serial called Wattletown.
Monkman Street is named after Noel Monkman and his wife, Kitty, a team that pioneered early wildlife documentaries in Australia, including early underwater photography. In the 1930s, they branched out into feature film production: their first feature, Typhoon Treasure (1938) was filmed on and around Green Island off the cost from Cairns, where Noel and Kitty lived and ran a wildlife sanctuary. Their second feature was The Power and the Glory in 1942, a wartime spy adventure starring Peter Finch as an evil Nazi sympathiser in the Australian airforce.
Beaumont Close, named after Beaumont Smith: one of the most colourful entrepreneurs of early Australian cinema, flourishing for an intense and prolific decade from 1917 until the mid-20s. He made seven films that were spin-offs from the Dad and Dave tradition, featuring a family of outback yokels called the Hayseeds. The seven films were rich with often outrageous novelties – one of them was called Prehistoric Hayseeds, about a family of primitive cave-dwellers (all white) found in unexplored reaches of the Australian outback. Smith’s films were ingeniously promoted with gimmicks galore, and found audiences everywhere.
Doyle Terrace, named after Stuart Doyle, one of the great entrepreneurs of Australian cinema. As the head of Union Theatres, he built a number of luxury cinema palaces in Australia in the late 20s and early 30s, most notably the State Theatre, still standing in Market Street in Sydney. He then set out to produce a series of large-scale Australian film productions to play in his chain of picture palaces. His elaborate production program began in 1925 using imported directors, with a highly promoted jazz age comedy called Painted Daughters, and climaxing with his biggest production, For the Term of his Natural Life in 1927. After adjusting to new sound technology, Doyle persisted with production, this time creating Cinesound Productions in 1932 and appointing his protégé, Ken G. Hall, as the unit’s director. Success was immediate with their first film – the Dad and Dave farce, On our Selection, and Cinesound’s feature film program continued successfully throughout the 30s. Doyle retired from the film industry in 1937 and turned instead to the emerging field of commercial radio. He died in 1945.
It is people like these that we hope to celebrate through future programs of the re-configured Canberra International Film Festival.