For those of us back in lockdown, hope you’re doing okay.
Let me tell you about the best thing this past week. (No transport content here; if that’s what you’re after, you can skip this post.)
In 1928, Gurney Slade wrote Lovers And Luggers, a novel set in Broome amongst pearl divers. The movie rights were bought by Cinesound, and director Ken G Hall made it in 1937, changing the story slightly and setting it instead on Thursday Island. It starred accomplished American actor Lloyd Hughes.
The film was released in Australia, and internationally using the name Vengeance of the Deep. (Which is odd – it sounds like it should have a sea monster – it doesn’t.)
Most of the film was made in studios and locations in Sydney. But they sent a crew up to Thursday Island to film background shots.
My dad’s family grew up on Thursday Island, before moving south during World War 2.
Years ago Dad told me that my aunt Lynette (1924-1964) was an extra in the movie. I didn’t think much of it until this year when I began scanning her photo albums for family.
It turned out you can buy the movie cheap on eBay, which I did. But it’s a copy of the American release, drastically shortened from the original 99 minutes down to 65. There was no sign of my aunt.
Then we found the National Film & Sound Archive has the longer version. It turned out that with the copyright holders kind permission (on the basis of researching family history) we could pay a processing fee and get a copy.
It arrived a few days ago. I watched it through. It’s something of a product of its time – the non-white characters are largely caricatures – but it’s quite amusing in parts.
Just a few minutes in, when lead character Daubenny arrives on the island, they cut in some of the shots filmed on Thursday Island. And there, smiling at the camera, is a group of three kids, my then 12 or 13-year-old aunt in the middle.
I wasn’t sure at first, as most of the photos I have of her are much later, and her features changed as she grew up. But comparing a family photo from around the same time, it’s a match.
It’s great to have old photos of your aunt from decades ago. It’s utterly amazing to get what is probably the only film of her that exists – and clearer and better shot than most of the photos in the family collection.
We’re not having the best time right now in Melbourne, but this has put a smile on my face all weekend.