|Interviewer: Robin Hughes
Recorded: November 12, 2002
This is a transcript of the complete original interview conducted for the Australian Biography project. Each transcript page covers one videotape (approximately 35 minutes). There is also QuickTime video of the full interview available. To play the video, click on the icon in the right hand column. In addition, each question in the transcript is linked to the video. Clicking on a question will play the video from that point. (Help with this feature.) Optionally, you can download the video file for offline viewing (approx. 10MB).
The interview has been left it in its original state so that you can get a sense of how the conversation developed. The repetition of some questions, or a question followed by another question, is often due to the end of a particular tape or some other interruption, and has been indicated at the appropriate place in the text. There has been minimal tidying up of the text so that the flavour of the encounter has been kept.
Can I ask you about your motivation for going to war? You mentioned that as a young man you were keen to get there. But can you tell me a little bit more about your reasons?
Yes, I've tried to think about this a lot over the years. It was just that you didn't not try to go, you know. It, it, you were so, I suppose orientated towards the fact that the war's on and this is the right thing to do. We also did know quite a lot, a lot more than people realise I think, that difficult things were happening in Europe and, you know, we had Jewish friends who had rellies who had an awful time and we knew that was happening and refugees were arriving in Australia in the pre-war time. I know in Carrington Road we had German family next door and they had a son-in-law who wouldn't not say - he was a suspect, possible Nazi sympathiser, so he had to go inside somewhere. I don't think they were very horrific camps but he had to be interned for quite a while but the rest of the family weren't touched.
So I thought, it seemed to me that there was some fairness in the way we were treating people who were possible [sic] sympathetic to the then enemy, Germany, of course. And Hitler, we knew a lot about Hitler and about Mussolini. Mainly through newsreels and lots of those impressive shots of thousands and thousands of soldiers marching through the streets of Berlin or Rome or wherever. You know, I think we were swept along with the propaganda that was pretty powerful.
What about the Japanese?
Japanese [sic] was a bit of a surprise to the system. I know we had some very old friends of the family, they were in business, they were a Jewish family and actually changed their name from a Jewish sounding name to a more Anglo name. They were Australians and great friends of my uncle's. Lovely family. But they were trading with Japan a lot. They were importers and they used to bring out lots and lots of Japanese goods right up until, it seemed to me, just before Pearl Harbor. So, I've got a feeling we weren't all that concerned about Japan at all. And I think we got a heck of a shock when Pearl Harbor was bombed too, in Australia. And then a few months later I was on leave, about to go overseas, when the Japanese came into Pearl [sic], into Sydney Harbour. And I remember, you know, the air raid warden telling Dad to shut the doors and the curtains. And we had sort of a brown out, not exactly a black out, but a brown out in Sydney.
And then the stories of, you know, some of the bad things that were happening came through. I mean you are taught how to hate your enemy a lot in a big war. Well there's lots of evidence of it in recent wars, I'm afraid. And some of it is, of course, true but it is emphasised a lot, all the bad things. And you got swept along by that. Especially, you thought, you know, we've got to stop the Germans taking over every part of Europe and, gosh, what if they get England? And then, of course, when the Japanese came in, what if they keep coming down and coming down, coming down.
Well, having them coming into Sydney Harbour would have been a bit of a motivator for you, was it?
Oh, well I was already training so that, what it, what it did make was, I was already with a batch that had to go to Canada to complete our flying training as pilots. Some of our, some of the boys were posted to Uranquinty and places like that in New South Wales, but our batch, we had to go to Canada. Now that was a pretty awful feeling to think we were being sent away just after Sydney had been attacked. There were some sort of theories that they weren't going to come down that far and there was the controversial Brisbane Line which I think Dad used to get very upset about and the fact that we could give up part of Australia strategically and, oh no, we couldn't do that. But I think that was more or less after I'd gone away when all that controversy blew up. But then when the war settled, and although the people think the Brits didn't do anything, the British were having a very heavy war in Burma and Singapore had been captured and all that. It was a pretty awful period. So there was no question about not going to the war, you know. It was a worthy thing to be doing.
You went to Canada to do some more training. Could you describe your training?
Yes, well we went, we were half trained as pilots. We had a few hours in Tiger Moths, about sixty hours I think it was, and you were, you were then, you know, you were good, you were possibly going to do alright and you were average, above average and all that qualifications. And we were sorted out as to whether we would be useful as bomber pilots or fighter pilots and I was in a fighter pilot stream. And mostly the younger ones were selected as fighter pilots and the older, in the bracket I think for pilots was from about eighteen to twenty-seven or twenty-eight. Above twenty-eight, yes you could be navigators and air gunners and things but - and I was in the younger end of that, the pilot's age group and so we were trained as fighter pilots.
And we went to Canada to fly the, the aircraft we flew was an aircraft call the Harvard. An American built, quite a powerful aircraft. And the equivalent here in Australia was the famous old Wirraway and, in fact the Wirraway was so like a Harvard I believe one was copied from the other. But I should think the Wirraway was influenced by the Harvard. But we, you know, got our wings and I managed to prang one on a bad landing once in Canada. And I thought, oh that'll finish me as a pilot. No, and what was even more surprising, they made me an officer at the end of it. About fourteen of us, out of our course, were made officers and the lowest commissioned rank is pilot officer. So we graduated as pilot officers and then we were given a choice of either, those of us who'd got commissions, could either be instructors or do what was called a general reconnaissance course.
And we theorised, my mates and I, that if we, those of us who'd got commissions, that if we did the general reconnaissance course we would have a fair chance of getting back to Australia quicker to join a squadron there. Our theory happened to be wrong but, because we were sent on to England, but it was a very good navigational course as well. And that eventually got me on to the job I did which was long range photographic reconnaissance, which was a very interesting job. But that's, I was sort of lucky to get on to that job because it was, and lucky on the squadron I was on because we had fairly low casualty rate on our... sorry... [INTERRUPTION]
So you were sent to England after you were qualified and what happened there in England?
Well, normally you went to, we went to Bournemouth as a sort of air crew reception centre and then the overall strategy said we want so many pilots to go and train as bomber command pilots now and you'd do refined training as fighter pilots or bomber command pilots. Now, I was suddenly sent to the Middle East before I'd had what was called operational training. Which is the refined part of the training before you went into action. And because of my qualification as a fighter pilot with training, trained as a fighter pilot with a general reconnaissance course, which was the navigation, fairly sophisticated navigation course, they said we need pilots with those qualifications in the Middle East. But in those days you had to go all the way round the Cape of Good Hope and - to get to the Middle East. Couldn't go through Gibraltar because the Mediterranean was closed. The Germans were very much in control there. And, and it took us quite a long time to get to the Middle East. We had to wait in South Africa for a while for another ship to take us on. So I had suddenly a big gap in my training as did my mates and we had - we weren't all that experienced. We were qualified as pilots but not very experienced. And it was difficult for us to pick up our training again, which I did in what was then Palestine, now Israel. And I learnt to fly Spitfires and things like that and did this pretty amazing sort of job flying an aircraft loaded with sophisticated cameras and flying over wherever the enemy were. And, and it took quite a bit of training too, it was tricky.
Your first serious film experience... from the sky. What did you actually have to do?
Well, we were given targets and I was in the Mediterranean area. Wherever the Germans were in occupation, they occupied all of Greece and Crete and the islands and they were very heavily defended because the Germans weren't too sure whether, if we were ever contemplating invading - as they did in June of 1944 - they weren't too sure where it was going to come from. There were some theories that we would try to invade up through Italy where that very slow, slogging campaign was happening. A lot of - there were a lot theories that the logical place to do it would be to come up through Greece. And then with the Russian front, well, you know, that looked like a big, sort of pincer movement that we might indulge in. And we encouraged the Germans to think that and that's when they dropped the body of the British officer over with fake plans. I think they called it 'the man who never was'. There was a film called that and, and our - on North Africa we had lots of dummy aircraft and dummy ships and all sorts of things to fool the Germans.
And they eventually did bring about ten thousand crack troops from the Russian front and regarrisoned all that area. And the more sorties we flew, the more they thought we might be going to attack and, of course, the more they shot at us too. And then, ho ho ho, we came in from France eventually and it was a huge, sort of, almost like a game or a chess game I suppose.
Were you ever very close to being shot down? Were you ever shot down?
No, I wasn't shot down but we get [sic] - shot at an awful lot. And they had very accurate anti-aircraft fire. We used to fire - fly over at about 25, 26, 27,000 feet with lenses of about twenty inch, thirty-six inches lenses on the cameras and take stereoscopic photographs, or 3-D photographs, by using a certain technique. And occasionally we would do low level stuff at about three hundred feet with an oblique camera fixed on the side of the aircraft. Eventually we converted to another aircraft called the Mosquito which had two engines and I had a navigator, who is my son's godfather. But that was good because you had somebody to talk to and you could aim that, the cameras more accurately with the Mosquito because he had a bomb sight and we used a bomber version of the Mosquito aircraft. And it was, yeah, it was good.
Did you have someone operating the photographic equipment when you were flying?
No, we had to do it ourselves. We had little, you know, remote control devices and you had to estimate your time interval between shots and things like that. Had quite a bit of work to do. And...
So, you flew all over the Middle East, over Egypt and...?
Yeah, yeah. Oh yes, yes, yes. But the enemy area was Greece, Crete, all those islands. Rhodes I know was one of them and some targets were more dangerous than others and Athens was a tough one. Salonica was a really tough one.
How did you avoid being shot down?
Pure luck. Pure luck. Especially once we started a run, we had to fly straight and level and that gave the gunners plenty of time to have a good look at us. One good thing was we flew in daylight. Well, it was good in one respect. You, you could see the bursts in the sky around you so you knew where their aiming points were and with a bit of luck, you, they wouldn't be right on to you of if they were bursting underneath you, often we didn't know until we developed photographs and you found a big burst of anti-aircraft fire in the middle of a photograph and you thought, oh, if that had been a few feet higher, you know, we wouldn't have known what hit us.
How long were you doing it for?
For about twelve months, yeah. And I did about seventy-five trips on that tour.
Were you frightened?
Yeah. A bit of really bad flying on my part. Me, the captain of the aircraft, with Bill down - my navigator - down on - in the nose of the aircraft saying, "Left, left, right, right", like they do in the movies. As we were going over Athens one day - but instead of going downwind which would have increased our speed, we were, because of the other targets I said, "Oh we'll go upwind", which slows you way down. But we were iced up a bit in the cockpit which was unusual but it was, crystals had formed inside the cockpit. It was like driving a car when it's all misted up but they were ice crystals. And I had to keep scraping a patch out of the windscreen in front of me so I could see the horizon. And in the middle of my patch suddenly a huge burst of flack went boom right past me and I tried to warn Bill. And all I could hear, in my earphones, was my voice saying, "vvvvv vvvvv", and Bill saying, "What are you saying? What are you saying?" He was Scottish and has this lovely Scottish accent. "What are you saying?" And eventually I said, "Gosh Bill. Flack". I probably used another word. No I don't think I did. I probably did say, "Gosh Bill. Flack". And then him saying, "Well do something".
So we just turned around and looked back and there was a sea of black bursts in the sky. And so we finished - I don't know whether we finished, we must have finished the run and, because we had the photographs when we landed. But what was, what was so strange about it, as frightened as I was so that the vocal chords didn't actually make the appropriate noise, within a very short time we were roaring with laughter at the picture of ourselves, a couple of idiots flying upwind instead of downwind and being shot at and not knowing because we were iced up except for that one patch. And suddenly it seemed, and I can remember, whenever we talk about it even to this day, we still laugh about it. So the contrasts were pretty extreme. And, but one moment when I thought I was really crashing in a Spitfire, again it was bad flying, I got caught in bad cloud. And I knew the cloud base was only about five hundred feet above the water and I was suddenly out of control in what we used to call a spiral dive and you stop believing your instruments and you fly by the way you feel. And the instruments are saying, you are in a spiral dive, but you feel as if you're doing the right thing.
And I knew I was, I was very tired, it was my second trip of the day, which ws unusual. And I knew I was about to break cloud at 500 feet and the - there's a danger line on the airspeed indicator in the spitfires we flew, at 480 miles an hour. It was past that so I was probably at about 500 miles an hour going down vertically. And we broke - I, I broke out, nobody else in the aircraft - and there was the water straight ahead of me. And I can remember letting everything go thinking, "Ah, this is it". And it was the calmest feeling I can ever remember having. It was extraordinary. Then I realised I hadn't hit the water yet, grabbed the control column, hauled back on it and I'd come out in a strange hump of cloud. There was probably about 700 or 800 feet. Over there it was only 500 feet. And I've staggered across the top of the water. But I've never forgotten that extraordinary feeling of calm for probably only a split second but in my memory it was longer than that. Couldn't have been 'cause otherwise I'd have been in the water. And so I was safe.
But the tough thing was having to go back into this enormous bank of cloud to get back to our base in North Africa and that was one of the toughest days flying I ever did. And, again, trying to stop, trying to stop me believing my own body and believing those instruments and I nearly got into another spiral dive and then broke cloud. I came out of the top of it and as soon as you can see the sun, bang, you're alright. You're reorientated. But that was, that was a pretty, you know - other times when I got off course and nearly flew into a mountain in Turkey which was on the way to one of our targets when we had a flight in Cyprus at one stage. You weren't supposed to but I cut the corner of Turkey at a safe height and I let down too soon and came out in a valley in Turkey. God, that was very embarrassing. That was on my first operational flight I think.
What effect do all these near misses have on your nerves?
I don't think it could have been very good because I was in a bit of a nervy old state by the end of the war. I had to go up to Borneo to - we were doing some photo survey work. We were doing Australia first. I was an instructor for quite a while and then as the requirements for trained pilots diminished when the war ended because of my photographic experience I was posted to, to 87 squadron I think it was, which was eventually called the survey flight and we were flying Mosquito aircraft and mapping Australia from the air. An endless, endless task. For some reason they decided we should go to Borneo and start mapping the islands up there but it was the wet season and, again, we got into terrible trouble over Borneo, my navigator and I.
We ran out of oxygen about 20,000 feet and we both passed out and I woke up in a valley with mountains all around us and then that was pretty terrifying. That was our first experience in Borneo. In fact the other two aircraft also had a tough time and the three of us landed, all very experienced operational pilots. We'd been shot at a lot, all three of us. Now the war's over and we had a really tough flight into Borneo. Then we tried to do our mapping but in the wet season it was pointless and eventually the air force took the squadron back - or the flight, I suppose it was, back, leaving me up there as flight commander and I did become very ill and started to lose a lot of weight and I think it was partly nerves and I think - but I was due for release and I was suddenly offered a screen test.
So I did a screen test and then I left the air force, you know, with honourable discharge and all that and away I went. But I don't remember it having too many hangover problems. But I think we were, I think any of us who'd flown as long as, I suppose, I had and, you know, a lot of others, we were all probably a bit of a quiet mess inside that we weren't either too sure about or hid it well. Maybe drank a few too many beers and things.
Do you recall from that time how people expected to handle stress from the war time?
No. There were things like operational fatigue and I've got a funny feeling I was probably in - officially classed as that. I, we were pretty casual about it I think. And I do think that our sort of wild parties in the Officers' Mess at night after a bad day flying and getting too drunk and then flying the next day, was probably one way of coping with stress perhaps. I had one horrible operational flight. I had engine trouble over the target in a spitfire and it kept cutting and no matter what I did, it kept cutting and I was, and I thought I may have had to bail out before I got back to base. So they vectored me, I think was the term, to a South African squadron, a spitfire squadron, a fighter squadron, further down the coast but closer to where I was at the time. And I just got in and landed. Turned out that we had, you know, spark-plug problems or something.
And they proceeded to get me very drunk that night because I'd come back from an operational flight over the enemy and the South Africans filled me with brandy and I was hoping they wouldn't be able to fix the aircraft for a long, long time. But at five in the morning, some young mechanic with his delightful South African accent said, "Your aircraft's ready, sir". And at five in the morning and I had to fly with this terrifying hangover and probably still, I should think I'd be way over .05, fly back to my squadron. And just as they strapped me in, they said, "You'll give us a good beat up sir", which meant doing something pretty spectacular and zooming around. No, I gave them the gentlest, wimpiest, low flight over the aerodrome that they'd probably ever seen. But oh that was awful. And yet - and I suppose recovering from that hangover was as good a way of getting over stress as any other. It became a funny experience of course.
How did the screen test come about?
Well, before I started, I came back from the Middle East in the early part of 1945 and Cinesound directed - a film directed by Ken Hall, they were about to make a film about Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, the great flier. And Ronnie Randall, one of our top radio actors was going to play the part and he looked a bit like Smithy. And Ron went on to Hollywood later and became known as Ron Randell but Ron was cast. But my mother said, "Ah, they're making a film called 'Smithy', you'd make a wonderful Smithy and you know where Cinesound is. Why don't you go out?" And I was a flight lieutenant and I had wings and some service ribbons and things. So I went out to Cinesound and the casting director saw me approaching and you had to go up the steps because Owen and I used to hang around Cinesound and watch them making movies when we were still at school. And the casting director said, "Have you come about a part?" I said, "Yes". He said, "Is that your own uniform?" I said, "Yes". "Can you read lines?" I said, "Yeah". He said, "Good, you're in, providing you bring your own uniform".
So they cast me as the control tower officer at the beginning of the film which was - started as a flashback. American aircraft arriving and, ho, ho, ho, we're talking about that wonderful pioneering work done by Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and that's how the story started. And some many weeks later I was called to do a day's work on the film and Bill Townsend, Group Captain Townsend, my commanding officer at Williamtown where I was being a flying instructor on Mosquitoes, gave me a day's leave. And I went down and did the part and got it right apparently and a year later, now that I'm back from Borneo, I got a call to go and do a screen test for Charles Chauvel's film 'Sons of Matthew' because of that role. But before they made a decision on Charlie Chauvel's movie, I was offered the lead in another film so I accepted the other one and the boys went off, and girls went off, to do 'Sons of Matthew'.
You mentioned that you knew the Cinesound. So you - as well as Owen leading you into radio, how did you know the Cinesound?
Well, when I'd gone to these special classes at the school in Woollahra, I had to catch the Waverley Depot tram from Coogee which went through Bondi Junction. And coming back from school, if I walked to Bondi Junction, I could go down Ebley Street, I think it was, to where the Cinesound studios were. And I think occasionally Owen would come with me and we would look through chinks in the door and watch them making a movie. And eventually Alec [Alex] Ezard, Alec Kellaway, not Alec [Alex] Ezard , Alec Kellaway invited Owen and I in on the set to watch - these two schoolboys. So, then we found out they were shooting some scenes at the showground of that particular film and we went out to watch them shooting there and, in fact, we were both unpaid extras in a scene. So that's my, that was 1938 and I was then, what, 15. And, but Alec Kellaway was very good. He used to let us come and watch them shooting.
So, you're back there. You did the film there and you say that you were offered the lead in another film, not 'Sons of Matthew'. What film was that?
A film called 'Always Another Dawn'. It was set - had a naval background. It was a fictional story written by a New Zealand writer called Zelma Roberts. Sort of based on a rather gallant action by one of the Australian naval ships which was sunk in a naval battle. And she wrote this story about a young man from the country who, who's father had been a naval officer in the First World War and he had this ambition of joining the navy when the war started and I played the young man. But that was an absolute fluke.
And I met a woman recently, when I was on tour with a play, who reminded me that she sort of introduced me to the director who - not the director, the producer who gave me the audition or introduced me. My mother had a friend who's a great old school friend of hers and her daughter, Peggy, was in the navy. Now just before the war ended I called into Mum, came home to Mum's place where I was staying anyway. I must have been on leave or something and there was Peggy in her naval uniform with - I'd forgotten about the friend, but Peggy had a friend - and they, we were talking about films and things and I think by then I probably had just played that part of the control tower officer. And they said, "Oh, you'd be interested in this then", and they gave me a card which had L. Scott Ehrenberg, Producer, Director, Commonwealth Film Studios. Said, "Why don't you give this chap a ring?" So I rang him and I was - think I was just about due to leave the air force anyway and he said, "Oh yeah".
He said, "I run free workshops for people", he was production manager and producer and director of Commonwealth Films, "on a Monday night". It was Monday night. He said, "You know, when you're able to, come out". He said, "It doesn't cost you anything. If you want to be behind the camera or in front of the camera, you know, likely people". A lot of people trying to get the film industry sort of going again after the war. And so when I was able to I went out on the Monday nights. I think we're about now into 1946 and it was Scotty who put me up for the screen test for this film 'Always Another Dawn' and I got it. And after I did that film he had me directing commercials for one of the advertising agencies for the cinema and where I met Joe Scully who went on to be a producer and director with Film Australia.
It was tremendous. And Scotty, who was an Australian, who had worked in Hollywood in the thirties and knew a lot of the training methods they gave American actors when they left the theatre to go to Hollywood to do this new thing call sound films when sound came in in the early thirties. And they had a fairly well organised training system to teach stage actors how to be film actors and Scotty knew all the stuff. And he'd worked there, there were rumours that he'd once been Ronald Colman's stand-in because he looked a bit like Ronald Colman, same hair and general look. And Ronald Colman, of course, was a very, very big star in those days. And Scotty certainly knew his stuff and taught it well.
From your memory, what was the nub of what he taught you?
Mainly discipline. Very - about hitting your marks and shutting up on the set and all this, you know, burbling when the microphone's over there and you're talking about what you had for tea last night, you know. And I'm afraid I still teach it when I'm lecturing. He, he was a bit of a - a bit conventional. Step off with the upstage foot even in front of a camera. I used to walk up and down tram stops trying to turn like Scotty did. He was very, but very, very - like any good film, you know, any department respecting the problems of the other department and not mucking about and do your job, learn your lines, don't trip over the furniture. All those things. But hit your marks and if the soundman wanted you to lift your voice, yes, you had to work out a way of doing and all those things. And I found that, oh it just gave me more and more respect for each department. And when I worked in the industry, apparently I had a good reputation for being easy to work with, but that would have been thanks to Scotty. And if there was any sign of us swanning around trying to movie stars or anything, that was very, very frowned on.
So, had you done those courses - that course before you took up the lead role?
Yes, and after I'd finished the film, Scotty invited me back to help run the course too with him and that was very good experience.
Now, you say, you also, at this very early stage, got a little taste of directing?
Yes. Yes. Well, again it was Scotty. They needed another director at Charles E. Blanks and he sent me along to meet Clarrie Blanks who was the - one of the managers of the company. It was a very, very low budget sort of advertising agency that had kept themselves going through the Depression when a lot of other advertising agencies had a bad time. And they developed a system of making films without wasting any film and you had to fit into that. It sounds extraordinary but I think we were sent out to make a ninety foot commercial, which would be about a one minute commercial on 35mm, with about a hundred feet of raw stock. You only had ten feet to spare. Admittedly some of that would be the little logo at the end of commercial. But these were for the cinema. So, you had to have everything really very well worked out so you didn't waste a foot. And it taught me a great deal.
How did you feel about directing compared with acting?
I must admit I liked it very much.
I don't know. I - again I think thanks to Scotty, knowing what the problems were and also, yes because I'd acted in a film, I knew what the actor's problems were. And I had a bit of a feeling, I loved, I loved doing things simply. I remember I got a heck of a kick out of - I had a - my cameraman was John Walker, Johnny Walker, and we had a studio in the basement of the building in which Blanks had their head office in the city. And he had a bit of a good lighting setup there. We had to do a commercial for hairdressing and I had about four very, very beautiful girls, some of whom I'd worked with in Scotty's classes, young models and actresses as well. And I wanted to imitate the kind of lighting that they had in those lovely MGM movies where all the faces looked beautifully moulded and everything and I decided that they must have used one main key light. And I remember telling John, we had the girls there and all they had to do was look around and look attractive, you know, into the camera. And he had about eight lights on.
And I slowly talked him into turning all the lights off until he had just one key light. And he was very worried about it, the exposure and everything else. I said, "No she'll be right". And I got a tremendous kick because when I went to the laboratory to see the rushes there was Alec [Alex] Ezard and all the boys saying, "Hey, mate, look at this". And these glorious shots he'd taken of these girls. And I was very pleased about the fact that my little, simple approach had worked terribly well and they were quite successful commercials. But Johnny Walker was very, very concerned about turning out the lights and just working with one key light.
Looking back at 'Always Another Dawn', what do you think of yourself in it?
There are patches that are not bad but I, again I had a marvellous influence by an actor called Guy Doleman who was, who'd come over from New Zealand. Guy had a terribly rich, fruity, very, very British voice. In fact I think he had a marvellous part in 'The Ipcress File' many years later playing a very, very proper British MI5 man. But he had this rather rich, fruity voice. I think he, you know, probably had a posh English background in New Zealand where he grew up. He was born there. But he had a passion for naturalistic acting and Guy and I used to have hours and hours of discussion as to how, how did Spencer Tracy get to that point where he so played a scene that you thought, it couldn't have been scripted. It had to be coming from deep inside him and had to be what he was really thinking. And we had all these theories about it and we used to try and put them into practice.
What kind of theories?
Oh, that we don't speak all that glibly all the time. We don't, you know, you don't, it ins't always smooth. You do have to stop and think what to say next a bit. And I think it worried some directors when they were used to people sort of, you know, with the lovely flow of dialogue, particularly in radio. But there were some great directors in radio like John Saul who fully approved of us trying to sound as if we were just making it up at the time. And I think we were right and probably a bit ahead of our time. But that was largely Guy's influence. Or it was, certainly it matched what I'd always wanted to achieve, was to be so natural in front of a camera or real or true or believable, that the people forgot they were watching a movie and it was a chunk of life going on there.
At this time, can you put this into a little bit of context as far as the film industry was concerned? What was happening in the film industry and how did 'Always Another Dawn' get made?
Well, it was an interesting time because we'd had this drought during the war when I believe it was official policy that we weren't allowed to make feature films in Australia once the war started. They could import films in big cans which was a bit unfortunate because radio, people couldn't import radio discs because they took up too much wartime space. That's how our radio industry really got going in the early days of the war, in my memory. But with films, films were allowed to come in. But the powers that be said all our film work must be devoted to training, propaganda and anything that could help the war effort. Now the average entertainment film couldn't get into that category. They worried about the morale aspect of it or whatever.
The first film, I think, that really hit the headlines would have been 'The Overlanders' which was the Ealing film. Oh no, Charles Chauvel did get permission to make 'The Rats of Tobruk' when the war was still on. He'd made 'Forty Thousand Horsemen' right at the start of the war and that would have been the last feature film made, I think, when the war started. I think I'm right in that. I may be a bit wrong. But there was this long official gap in feature film production. But he had made 'Rats of Tobruk'. He had Peter Finch and Chips Rafferty and Pat Twohill, then became known as John Sherwood, and it was a worthy film about this, the defence of Tobruk that would have come under the heading probably of propaganda movies or, you know, educational documentary or something. But the first, the first genuine feature film would have been 'The Overlanders' made by Ealing Studios.
So what about 'Always Another Dawn'?
Well Tom McCreadie and Alec McCreadie, his brother, had been making some documentaries. Most famously I think they made some about the coal industry and they would have been part of that, you know, educational documentary stream. And when the war was over, then the restrictions were off and you could make feature films if you could get the money. And, as I remember, Tom McCreadie had some access to some money and I think the budget for 'Another Dawn' would have been probably only about 15,000 pounds and he was able to raise that and make it. He also must have had enough money or was able to raise money before 'Into The Straight', before 'Another Dawn' was on release we were already planning 'Into the Straight', their next movie which he made twelve months later. At the same time there were people like Arthur Collins who raised money to make a film about William Farrer in which Guy Doleman played the lead, playing Farrer. There were a couple of others from Rupert Kathner who was always having to battle and, you know, the theory was that he would pinch what he could buy, a lovely guy who made a very early Ned Kelly movie which I narrated.
And I saw it again recently and it wasn't all that bad. But it was a real battling time. Trying to get just enough money to get up and running and if you could beg, borrow, steal, whatever you had to do to get the film together.
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