Australian Biography - Smoky Dawson

Shot Vision Audio In Point
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Animated Film Australia Logo

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Fade up from black

Australian Biography Opening Title Sequence

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Music

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Archival. Excerpt from Black and White film [6 shots]

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Smoky

Smoky sync: I provided them with their first hero.

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Archival. Excerpt from Black and White film [7 shots]

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Smoky

Smoky sync: I never called myself a cowboy. I've always been called a cowboy.

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Archival. Excerpt from Black and White film [2 shots]

Dissolve to:

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Photo. Super:
Smoky Dawson
Born 1913
Entertainer

Dissolve to:

Music

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Photo. Smoky as young child

Smoky v/o: My earliest memories and that was in a place called Warrnambool, Victoria, being dressed up

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Smoky

Smoky sync: as a little soldier boy with putties and all those kind of things, like soldiers were, and leading a parade down the main street. You see, I wasn't Smoky Dawson then I was a little boy called Herbie, Herbie and I was only five and my. cousin she was about my age too, her name was Daisy, a very old fashioned

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Photo. Children. Smoky dressed as soldier, Daisy dressed as nurse

Smoky v/o: name, and I do recall Daisy bending over me dressed as a Red Cross nurse with a water bottle giving me a drink like a wounded soldier.

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Smoky. Slow zoom in to BCU

Smoky sync: I think if I look at my childhood I look at it as another person really, to really get the feeling that it was really a life that was full of trauma, pain, mainly fear.

Interviewer o/s: And why was that?

Smoky sync: Well, in my childhood, you see, a child can't understand why he should get beaten and why such violence should go on, come to him and I was aware that all these things around me were happening with my brothers and sisters. And my father, of course, used to have these bouts due to his illness, he'd get on to the alcohol and become a different man. And so I got no love. I couldn't feel that love and I only have vague memories of my mother. In essence I say that I can't really remember my mother at all, or just as somebody moving around that was loving and caring and trying to defend me.

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Smoky. Slow zoom in to BCU

Then of course there are just sort of flashes. I remember her, she was in bed and it was on my birthday and he brought me in and she was under sedation and I remember them saying to her "Here's Herbie Emily," and I went up and I kissed her and after that she was taken to the hospital. And it was a stormy night, very, a most violent night and my father came home and he said "I'm going to the hospital" and he said to my sister who is quite a few years older than me, "Scrub the kids up and bring them in later will you." He went off. And I don't know what happened, but I wandered out into the street. I found myself wandering out into the storm and I wandered up there to the Clifton Hill Railway Station where this big bridge over the top is still there I believe, and I climbed up the stairs and lent over the rails looking down at the trains passing underneath. And here's just the wind and the rain and the lightning striking, but I had no fear of it. I was numb with cold and my hands were clutching the rail, looking at the trains going down and just caught up with steam and train and lightning and storm but lost, because I didn't know where to go. I'd sort of gone into another world where I was alone and I didn't where to go, and this is where my sister found me. She found, went out there calling out "Herbie! Herbie!" and I could just vaguely hear her calling out to me with this wind whistling around me. And I can see it all now, this lightning, lightning happens. This was how she found me in the lightning flash up on the bridge. Where else could she look? She climbed up there and put her arms around me to show that she cared, and

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Smoky

I remember in the middle of the night someone coming into my room, probably my aunts and all crying, you know, to tell me my mother had died during the night and that was, that was the last thing. I just sobbed and sobbed and sobbed, and so it went on. And then, of course, following that, within six months of that, my brother got drowned on Christmas Day.

Interviewer o/s: How did that happen?

Smoky sync: I was sitting in the same bed, sitting out there on Christmas Day. He went out, he was a victim of my father too. He used to get unmerciful beatings, My father used to come in with a lamp and with this dog lead, and my brother would be waiting into the other room and he'd go in there and somebody would have to hold the lamp up and strip him off and belt into him and when he, he ran away. He was a wood turner, he'd had his first job and he made me a little wooden pistol. Poor Les, under... yeah. I remember he came home one night and he said, "I'll find the boy if it's the last thing I do,"

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Smoky

and he was the one to find him. He found him floating there beside, on the side of the river with all this underbrush, and he was to see this white body

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Photo. Smoky's brother

Smoky v/o: with all scars on it that he had put there.

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Smoky. Slow zoom in to BCU

Smoky sync: So, you see, although I've been through all that trauma with my father, the day arrived when he knew me as Smoky, met me in the street and sobbed like a child on my shoulder. "My little baby Herbie," and how sorry he was for me, and I had compassion for him because I seen this man, a victim of a war and I was the victim of his war.

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Photo. Smoky and brother. Brother plays guitar.

Interviewer o/s: Now tell me about your musical career, how did that start?

Smoky v/o: Well I took up playing the guitar and my brother took up the Spanish guitar and we become a duo and we called ourselves the Coral Island Boys

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Smoky

Smoky sync: and we made a what do you call it, a demonstration disk, which was done on acetate.

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Archival. Man pressing record

Smoky v/o: I think they used bamboo needles then and we took it up to 3KZ, where

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Smoky

Smoky sync: I auditioned for it and they said "Leave it with us." Now I went back, waiting in my lonely cabin, waiting for word to say that I'd got the job. And they rang me back and said "We have a sponsor for you, have you ever heard of a program called Pinto Pete?" And I said "Yes, I listen to it." It was sponsored by Pepsodent Toothpaste, an American company, and he said "They're very, very keen to give you a contract, because they like your program better than Pinto Pete, because it relates to the Australian landscape and so forth," and I was to learn that this was the first broadcast live of a Western group in Australia.

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Advertisement showing drawing of Pepsodent packaging

Interviewer o/s: So Pepsodent became your sponsor?

Smoky v/o: Pepsodent became my first sponsor.

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Smoky

Smoky sync: They were the one that kept my teeth in order. Now look, I still have them and you might say that my teeth have outlived the product, because they don't make toothpaste any more, not Pepsodent. So I think that they did me a bit of good, they were my first sponsor.

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Photo. Dot

Smoky v/o: Dot was my second sponsor.

Interviewer o/s: How was she your second sponsor?

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Smoky. Slow zoom in to BCU

Smoky sync: Well she wouldn't marry me, she said "Either adopt me" or she would sponsor me.

Interviewer o/s: So how did you come to meet Dot? This was all happening...

Smoky sync: Well she was on the station. Actually, before that we had met on what they call an amateur station, the Hams. Every Sunday morning in Victoria, in Melbourne, The Ham stations used to come on early in the morning and go off at ten o'clock. That was about the time the commercial stations used to come on air.

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Photo. Interior of Ham radio station

Smoky v/o: So a fella called Chris Rainbow had this big amateur station out at west Preston and he'd invite us to come over and

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Photo. Radio equipment

try our talents and when I got there of course, there was Dot.

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Smoky

Smoky sync: And she was doing drama, and she had her sister Jean with her and they did little French sketches, you know, and my brother and I had walked five miles carrying our guitars all the way from East Melbourne, only to get there and be told that they couldn't fit us in because Miss Cheers and her sister was on. Arghh! Didn't know that I was going to marry her one day.

Interviewer o/s: So Miss Cheers was Dot?

Smoky sync: Florence Cheers I'll

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Photo. Dot

Smoky v/o: have you.

Interviewer o/s: What attracted you to Dot?

Smoky v/o: Oh, she was magic.

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Smoky

Smoky sync: She was my first girl. So it was a great experience for me and a great triumph when I brought it off. But it took a war to do it. [Laughs]

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Smoky laughing

Interviewer o/s: So what do you think she liked about you?

Smoky sync: I grew on her. [Laughs] I wore her out. No, I'll tell you what it was. After about nine years of it, 'til in the end I didn't ask any more, because I was still getting this, it was rather a difficult period for me to keep my self respect and feel I was important, there being dragged down that I was using the wrong words and I was always looking up the dictionary to see what it meant, you know, and that business of coming in and saying "Guess what I done". It was really put in order and she said "You didn't done it, you did it." Which sent me into confusion, because I used to say, turn around and say "I didn't did at all." "Now you're getting worse, forget about it." So she'd keep pulling me up on these things. So one day the war had broken out and they start thinking differently don't they. I'd think "Ah she'll think more of me now, I'll enlist." [laughs] Inside I was hoping they wouldn't take me. So I said "Well what about us getting married?" And she looked shocked. We were sitting down there, I think it was Mordialloc or somewhere down there, or Mentone, on the beach, watching the seagulls, tide coming in and out, you know, looking out to sea and my thoughts on her and I said "What about us getting married?" and she said "For what reason?" And I said, "Well I love ya" and that's when she put me down. She said "It is not ya, it is you, not ya." So I didn't ask her any more until I got enlisted, and I come home and I said "As a married man when I go overseas I get one and six extra a day, what about it?" It's marvellous what they do for money! [Laughs]

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Photo. Smoky and Dot wedding photo

Music -- 'Wedding March'

Interviewer o/s: How did you feel

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Smoky

when you had to go back to war?

Smoky sync: Oh, terrible. It was terrible, because it all went so quickly, you see. I kept telling myself we'd waited all these years, all the years waiting to get her, only to go now, now I'm going away. I might lose her.

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Movietone news excerpt. Title: 'Screen and stage starts now army entertainers' [5 shots]

Newsreel Narrator v/o: Australian soldiers in an important theatre of war. Fully trained troops who take army entertainment units right into forward areas. National Studios, Pagewood, Sydney, is headquarters of the army's entertainment section.

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Archival. Entertainment troupe performing for soldiers

Dissolve to:

[Singing sync]

Smoky v/o: We were to boost up the morale

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Photo. Four Soldiers

of the boys in the islands and we all had our jungle training, and

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Smoky

Smoky sync: I didn't even know we were going to Balikpapan, but that's where we went.

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Archival. Cinesound Review 1945
[13 shots]

Music

Newsreel Narrator v/o: On the outskirts of Balikpapan, great oil pot of Borneo, the AIF push in as victors. Veterans of many campaigns adds this rich prize to their battle honours. And the Japs lose some of what they need most - oil.

Smoky v/o: We were doing concert after concert making people happy. See we were right behind, we were sent up there right behind the lines. I saw men die, and that upset me a lot, and all this kind of thing had a tremendous, terrible effect on me. So by the time I got to

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Smoky

Smoky sync: Tarakan where everything was easing off and the war had ended, the Japanese had capitulated, they were all put into camps and we all were taking a sigh of relief, and we were sitting down there one night and it was just a casualty clearing station at Tarakan, and we had some American films they were showing us, and I suddenly I just felt myself going numb and my breathing become harder and I found it very hard to control my breathing. So what was happening, I was losing control of my diaphragm, so suddenly my legs become numb and I was paralysed from there.

Interviewer o/s: And this was your nervous collapse?

Smoky sync: I just completely had a nervous collapse of the whole nervous system. So much that I didn't know where I was, and they took me over to casualty clearing station put me on the table and I was shaking all over. I was getting palsy. There wasn't one piece of my face that wasn't a quivering piece like jellyfish. I lost complete control of thinking even.

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Archival. Field hospital. Red cross van

Smoky v/o: So they put me under for five days

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Archival. Soldiers boarding plane

and I woke up and trying to tell me

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Archival. Army plane takes off

well they're going to send me back to Australia, because they didn't think I'd

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Archival. Interior of troop plane

live and I would

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Archival. Soldier and patient

be put in repat hospital at Heidelberg.

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Archival. Soldiers carrying wounded on stretcher from plane

Interviewer o/s: Tell me about your

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Archival. Wounded on stretcher being offloaded from plane

reunion with Dot? What was it like...?

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Smoky. Slow zoom in to BCU

Smoky sync: Well Dot came out to see me and of course how can I describe that. First, our first meeting after coming home and she said "They're going to allow you to come home of a weekend." So she was allowed to take me. Now I wasn't, I didn't have the confidence to even get on a, on a tram or a bus, to walk across the road. I just couldn't do it on my own, and she'd have to take me across to the bus or the tram and I'd be hanging onto her arm just like a little boy hanging onto his mother and get on the tram and everybody on the tram would all wait 'til I got settled. I was that bad. My feet were all shaking under me, I still had the trembles, I couldn't face it. I'd lost my complete confidence and I had to start all over again, start a life all over again.

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Smoky

Smoky sync: But Dot by this time had been commandeered by the ABC. In fact she was the first woman to be engaged by the ABC for the Special Effects Department.

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Smoky

Smoky sync: And I was sitting at home there twiddling my thumbs wondering when I was going to get the next job, and Dot came home one night and she said to me "I've got a job for you." I said "At last." She said "It's a play called The Golden Lover". My eyes lit up. The great acting part for Smoky. "What part do I play? The Lover?" She said "No it's a dog [laughs], a dog!" "A dog," I said, "what do I do?" She said "You have to bark." And I was bit crestfallen, because I really wanted something a little bit more dignified than that. She said "Go in and do it

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Photo. Smoky in hat

Smoky v/o: and you're going to love it." So I decided to do something a little bit different like Smoky does.

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Smoky

Smoky sync: I got down on all fours and marked out my territory, I lifted my leg and I rushed at Frank [laughs]. A comedy act really, grabbed him by the cuff of the thing and growled and I did this enormous bark and nearly sent him flying into the corner. He said "My God, I never thought I'd ever hear this one." I was never out of work. That dog bark was barking all the way to the bank with me, dog barks.

Interviewer o/s: So you, so you got to be a dog in lots of other plays?

Smoky sync: Absolutely.

Interviewer o/s: So what kind of a bark was it that you did?

Smoky sync: Well first of all I'd do various types for him and he said "Well give me a type of the dog." So I started off [dog bark sound], well that's a normal dog. "No" he said, "what I want is something is really big." I said "Something like this?" [deeper dog bark sound]. "You got the job."

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Photo. Smoky on horse beside rodeo truck

Interviewer o/s: Smoky, could you tell us about what you did in the country, when you

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Photo. Smoky's car with his name on the side. Zoom out to car with caravan and rodeo trucks behind

used to travel around with your big shows and when you were involved in rodeo.

Smoky v/o: Well what I used to do is thrown knives but first of all I had to prove that I was accurate. By the time I got to Melbourne

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Photo. Smoky beside caravan

I had perfected my act and we were showing out at Ringwood

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Smoky

Smoky sync: and I invited Dot to bring Mum. Her mother was alive then. And her mother said "What's he doing?" and she said "He's throwing at balloons?" And I'll never forget it -- they came in and we had a special seat for them,

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Archival. Smoky with knives

Smoky v/o: and then out came this

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Archival. Young man in front of knife throwing board

young fella and he stood against

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Smoky

Smoky sync: this board. "My God, he's not going to throw it at him?" and I said "Well ladies and gentlemen, I have never done this act before, this is my first time I've ever used a human target,"

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Archival. Young man in front of knife throwing board. Knives being thrown from off screen

Smoky v/o: and I proceeded to throw.

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Archival. Smoky throwing knives

Today I

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Archival. Young man in front of knife throwing board. Knives being thrown from off screen

would never even think about it

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Archival. Smoky with axe like knife

because I'd have

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Archival. Smoky throws knives at man in front of board

a writ on me straight away just for upsetting their nerves, so the thought of it. And it was amazing,

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Archival. Smoky throws knives

I'd never,

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Archival. MWS Smoky throws knives

all the time that I've been throwing and I've been throwing a long time now

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Archival. Smoky throws knives

I have never

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Archival. Man in front of knife throwing board

hurt anybody, never hit anybody,

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Archival. Smoky throws knives

and I took that act with me all the way to America.

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Smoky

Smoky sync: That was, I suppose, one of the greatest highlights of my life, bar getting married of course to Dot, was arriving in the United States there on a seven year contract with options up to twenty-one. Until Dot cried

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Photo. Dot and Smoky leaning out of portholes. Smoky holds boomerang

Smoky v/o: and want to come home and she thought we were put into exile. We sold up everything and went away.

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Smoky

Smoky sync: I had to go and hitchhike my way down there to Nashville with this record under my arm of the Last Supper, and I met the great Fred Rose and there were all these wonderful people there, and he invited me in, and his son Wesley, who has died since, and Bud Brown the accountant who signed me up on a three year exclusive song writing contract and took my record and said "Smoky we guarantee you a major label."

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Photo. Performers on stage

Smoky v/o: All these great things were happening to me because I was suddenly wrapped up in a world of show business;

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Smoky

Smoky sync: and the Palace Theatre there was offers for me. Irving Barrett, he was a, a big booking agent there at the Palace Theatre where Judy Garland was then showing and Will Mahoney and he said "You've got a great future, boy you got talent. I want to represent you" and I said "No I don't want any more please. I've got to go home." "Oh you can't do that."

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Photo. Smoky and Dot

Interviewer o/s: Why did Dot want to come back?

Smoky v/o: Bit homesick I think.

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Smoky

Smoky sync: Mainly, it all started when I was training to play

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'Kiss Me, Kate' poster

Smoky v/o: Petruchio in Kiss Me Kate and there I was torn

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Smoky

Smoky sync: between Dottie, my love for Dottie, and that and I'll never be able to do that, and my ego, not climbing the success, who knows where I might have ended up. 'Oh dear, oh dear, now what do I do?' and I thought this is all emotional, you know, and I thought that what she'd gone through for me, because you see I was out doing things where Dottie -- and all these things were happening and she was powerless. And then half the time I was never there I was just reporting back to her. "Where have you been. I've been waiting here all this time and where are you. I'm hearing you on the radio. What are you doing?" "No it'll all be over, let us go home." "Alright we'll go, we'll go home."

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Archival. Cinesound Review. Title: 'Fans mob singing cowboy' Smoky and Dot's homecoming [5 shots]

Dissolve to:

Music

Newsreel Narrator v/o: An Australian star who's made good on American and British television, arrives by plane at Kingsford-Smith airport, Sydney. Yes sir, that's a box of real cactus flowers for Smoky Dawson, back in Australia to fulfil a commercial radio contract.

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Photo. Smoky and radio colleagues. Zoom in to ECU Smoky

Interviewer o/s: You were asked by Kellogg's to come back and do this radio program. What other kinds of things did they want from you as your sponsor?

Smoky v/o: They wanted me to

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Smoky

Smoky sync: do a serial which was called Jindawarabelle [?] a national program. They were going to have an Australian character that would replace on the movies and the theatres where they go with Gene Autrey and Wild Bill, they were going to have Smoky Dawson. And the first time the drovers in Australia, they'd be like me, they'd have their own cowboy.

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Archival. Smoky riding through bush on horse [dissolves through one shot]

Dissolve to:

Smoky v/o: And when I told this to Americans later that we only had one cowboy on a horse, "How come?" I said "that's all they can afford." [Laughs]

Music

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Photo. Smoky and colleagues at microphone

Dissolve to:

Radio serial fx

Smoky v/o: So Kellogg's

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Photo. Smoky on horse

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Smoky

Smoky sync: did something there, they gathered in one million fans,

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Photo. Smoky signing autograph with child fans

Dissolve to:

Smoky v/o: one million all over Australia, which was the biggest and most,

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Photo. Smoky on horse

Dissolve to:

the biggest club that we've had. So big that they couldn't

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Photo. Smoky surrounded by fans

Dissolve to:

handle it any more, of the correspondence.

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Photo. Smoky pins badge on boy

So they invented, had a lovely badge, this was this the big pin on every child that was able to adhere

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Smoky

to certain principles; a code of the West.

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Archival. Paul Keating in Parliament

News Narration v/o: When Paul Keating kicks political heads, is he following the codes

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'Codes of the West' poster

of the west? That's the question. It's been revealed that

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Archival. Smoky signs autograph for women

the young Paul Keating was a Deputy Sheriff in the Smoky Dawson Fan Club.

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Archival. Smoky signs photo

The old cowboy singer expected his deputies to follow the three codes

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Archival. Smoky [3 shots with super continuing]

Super: Smoky Dawson

and still expects it.

Smoky sync: One was come when you're first called to the table and to come with clean fingers and clean mind. And we also had -- what was the other one? Yes, good sportsmen. Help your neighbour in need and honour your flag and country.

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Wagon wheel at ranch. Smoky and Dot walk in b/g

Interviewer o/s: How did you get the Smoky Dawson Ranch?

Smoky v/o: Well Dottie presented me with about, a lovely, twenty-six

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Smoky

Smoky sync: beautiful acres up in a place called Ingleside, which was to become the Smoky Dawson Ranch. It was on my birthday, and she gave me the keys to the gate.

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Dot and Smoky walk through ranch town

Smoky v/o: We went on to an empty piece of land and we built a complete Western town there. No we had a wonderful time up there. We put about

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Smoky

Smoky sync: thirty years into it and Dot, God bless her, she looked after all the kids, because everybody found "Oh, we'll take our kids up there, let Smoky and Dot look after them." Although we didn't have children of our own we soon found them, and all the years we were there

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Photo. Smoking playing guitar surrounded by children

Dissolve to:

Smoky v/o: we were putting kids to bed, we were teaching them the good values of life I might tell you, too. And they loved it.

Interviewer o/s: Smoky,

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Photo. Smoky

Dissolve to:

I'm interested in the fact that you often talk about yourself in the third

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Photo. Smoky on horse with blonde child

person and it's almost as if Smoky was created

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Photo. Children. Smoky dressed as soldier. Daisy dressed as nurse

Dissolve to:

to be the opposite of what Herbie have become, that the invention,

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Photo. Smoky

in a way, of Smoky gave you a way of getting over your childhood.

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Smoky

Smoky sync: It was, it was real magic. It was one of those like searching for the pot of gold, you know, at the foot of the rainbow, but it came my way and I figured, to me it seems to be prearranged, programmed, all things, everything born is programmed.

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Photo. Smoky and boy

Interviewer o/s: How would you most like to be remembered?

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Smoky

Smoky sync: As just an ordinary bloke. As a kid who grew up with a bit of hate here and there that found his way.

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Photo. Smoky performing with guitar

Smoky v/o: I hope that I have left behind a legacy.

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Smoky

Smoky sync: I hope that I have left behind something that will benefit mankind, that will be remembered as, as goodness,

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Photo. Smoky with children

Smoky v/o: that it's helped some kid understand. I don't know. All I

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Smoky

Smoky sync: know that is if I do go, that there is a place where we do meet again.

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Smoky embracing Dot

Smoky v/o: The one thing that I would like, that I'll always be with Dottie.

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Smoky and Dot sit on sofa. Smoky plays guitar

Smoky sings sync

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Smoky plays guitar

Smoky sings v/o

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Smoky and Dot on sofa

Credits begin over:
Interviewer
ROBIN HUGHES

Camera
PAUL REE

Sound Recording
HUGO DE VRIES

Smoky sings sync

00:27:53
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Credits continue over

Sound Mixing
ROBERT SULLIVAN

Research
GRAHAM SHIRLEY & FRANK HEIMANS

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Smoky singing
Credits continue over:

Marketing Executive
KAYE WARREN

Production Manager
FRANK HAINES

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Dot and Smoky
Credits continue over:

Production Accountant
CAROLYN JOHNSON

Production Assistant
AMANDA HOWITT

Production Coordinator
JANE MANNING

On-Line Editor
PHIL STUART-JONES

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118

Credits continue over shots of Smoky and Dot:

Film Australia would like to thank:
Smoky & Dot
ABC-TV Archives
Filmworld Research
Nine Network
John Fairfax Ltd
The Age
The West Australian

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119

Producer/Director/Writer/Editor
FRANK HEIMANS

Executive Producer
SHARON CONNOLLY

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Film Australia
(c) MCMXCIV

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00:28:42
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