Photo: Lovers and Luggers (1937). Shirley Ann Richards (Lorna Quidley) sitting on the verandah steps with her father Sidney Wheeler (Captain Quidley).
Australia is just too damned big! I keep on coming across new trails to follow.
Over on the Regional Living Australia blog I decided that it was time I looked at the Kimberly region of WA, an area that I am interested in but have yet to visit. In turn, this took me into the history of the pearling industry in Australia. And that took me back to Lovers and Luggers.
A number of years ago, in the seventies I think, the ABC had a series replaying Australian films from the industry's heyday prior to the Second World War. This was, I think, the only period in which the Australian film industry has occupied a key local box office position. I would love to see the series repeated, although it maybe that our images of ourselves have shifted so much that the films would no longer resonate. If so, that's a pity.
One of the films I most enjoyed was Lovers and Luggers. Made in 1937 by Ken Hall with a 194o US release under the title Vengence of the Deep, the film tag reads "Epic pearling adventure romance in glorious sun-splashed tropical settings of Thursday Island!" while the plot is described in these terms "A concert pianist, as concert pianists are wont to do, goes pearl diving in the South Seas to find a giant pearl for his girlfriend. He does, and that's when all the trouble begins."
The film is a romp sitting squarely in the middle of a number of now past streams.
As I remember it, the opening scenes show what used to be called a lounge lizard clearly from the effete side London focused side of the Empire clearly in need of redemption, thus playing to both Australian's images of themselves and of themselves in comparison to the English.
Then we have the tropic, Pacific location, appealing to resonances of the Pacific as an exotic location and source of wealth. Then ,too, we have pearls. By the time the film was made the pearl industry with its romance but also its horrors and dangers was in sharp decline. Still, it retained its fascination.
Needless to say, pianist Daubeney Carshott (Lloyd Hughes) falls in love with and is redeemed by Lorna Quidley ( Shirley Ann Richards). As I said, a romp, and one that I really enjoyed.