On location with the Bloke

In October 1915 the sequence of poems entitled The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke by Australian poet and author C. J. Dennis was published as a book,1 which was an immediate popular and critical success. Two and a half years later the motion picture-making pair of Raymond Hollis Longford and Lottie Lyell set about transferring a version of the story to the screen.2

Dennis set the tale in Melbourne, but Longford and Lyell shot most of the scenes in Sydney where they were based and which they knew well. But because they did not include any geographical reference in the text of the intertitles it would appear that they wanted the locations to be anonymous as the picture was destined for universal distribution.

The film was made, for the Southern Cross Feature Film Company, Limited of Adelaide, South Australia, between May and November 1918, and most of the shooting in Sydney was done between May and August.3 In early April Dennis went to Adelaide to finalise arrangements for the production.4 At the end of May Longford was in Sydney working on the film,5 and was back in Adelaide by early September.6

The first known showing of the film was at a preview given at the Wondergraph Theatre, Adelaide on the morning of 26 November 1918.7 It did not, however, get a public release until 4 October 1919 when it was shown at Melbourne Town Hall, and on 18 October at the Theatre Royal, Sydney.

Sentimental characters by Harry Julius Sketch by Harry Julius
Image courtesy of the
National Library of Australia


The scenes in the film are listed below. For exterior shots the locations, if they have been determined, are noted. "Interior" scenes were, according to Longford, filmed on the site of William Anderson's defunct Wonderland City at Tamarama: the sets were open to sunlight to obtain adequate illumination for the slow film of the time.8

Most shots are relatively narrow-angle and camera movements are kept to a minimum, which result in there being little context presented for the action. This has made it difficult or impossible to determine several of the locations.

If you know any location in the film that has not been identified below, please let me know.

The times below – hours:minutes:seconds – are taken from a copy of the film on YouTube; they might be incorrect by a second. This copy runs about 1½ times as fast as it should: the original film would have been shown at approximately 16 frames per second, whereas the YouTube frame rate is 25 frames per second.

  1. 0:00:00 : main titles
  2. 0:00:24 : C. J. Dennis "at work", writing at a desk
  3. 0:00:41 : exterior view of the front door of the Sentimental Bloke's home
  4. 0:00:43 : the Bloke (whose name is "Bill") at his front door
    The Bloke is portrayed by Arthur Tauchert.
  5. 0:01:02 : Ginger Mick, the Bloke's mate, comes out of his house, across the road from the Bloke's
    Ginger's door is the second one down from the Bloke's street. Ginger is played by Gilbert Emery.
  6. 0:01:23 : inside a pub
  7. 0:01:30 : leaving the pub
    There is a good chance that this is the Grand National Hotel, on the eastern corner of Underwood and Elizabeth Streets, Paddington. A poster advertisement for TOOTH'S XXX ALE & STOUT (with brewers Tooth and Co.'s emblem of a rearing horse) is seen outside the pub.
  8. 0:01:42 : arriving at the two-up school
    There is indistinct writing – probably a business name – on the gates.
  9. 0:01:50 : various shots in the yard of the two-up school
  10. 0:02:05 : outside at the gates
  11. 0:02:14 : inside again
  12. 0:02:21 : police arrive outside
  13. 0:02:25 : the police enter through a gate and break up the game – the participants (attempt to) flee – various shots
  14. 0:02:41 : two players climb a wall and onto a roof, followed by a policeman
  15. 0:02:48 : the three on a roof, which is a different one from that of the previous shot.
    There is what appears to be a ship's mast in the background.
  16. 0:02:58 : man climbing down wall into street, to be met by a policeman
    A TO LET sign can be seen: is this why Longford used this location?
  17. 0:03:02 : the Bloke fighting police
  18. 0:03:04 : horses, and Ginger Mick
    Ginger's coattail is not completely pulled under the hay and is still visible!
  19. 0:03:21 : guy climbing gate caught by police
  20. 0:03:30 : the Bloke is caught by 2 policemen
  21. 0:03:40 : Ginger Mick emerges from hay
  22. * The DVD version of the film from the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) has an additional scene at this point: the Bloke is led to and put in a van, with PATROL written on its side, by a single uniformed man. This scene is at odds with the other scenes in the sequence of the raid of the two-up game: the man's uniform is very different from that worn by all the other police in the sequence, and it is only one man with the Bloke, whereas at all other times he resists strenously the efforts of 2 policemen who are needed to control him.
  23. 0:03:47 : outside a police station
    The building is Woolloomooloo lock-up that was on the south-west corner of Riley and Cathedral Streets, Woolloomooloo.

    The Bloke being escorted to gaol
    Frame detail from YouTube copy
    Woolloomooloo lock-up

  24. 0:03:53 : into gaol
    This shot is probably of the cells inside Woolloomooloo lock-up.
  25. 0:04:28 : gaol gates
    This shows the old cast iron gates at the Forbes St entrance to Darlinghurst Gaol. (The building complex was at the time managed by the Department of Defence. The gates seen in the film are no longer there.)

    Leaving gaol
    Frame detail from YouTube copy
    Forbes St gate of Darlinghurst Gaol, 1887

  26. 0:04:48 : entrance to garden
    This is the main gate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, on the southern boundary, off Fig Tree Road. In 1962 the structure was moved around the corner to the eastern boundary, off Mrs Macquarie's Road, and is now known as the Woolloomoolloo Gate.

    At the gate of the Botanic Gardens
    Frame detail from YouTube copy
    Botanic Gardens Woolloomooloo Gate now
    Image courtesy of Google, Inc.

  27. 0:04:52 : the Bloke walking to sit on a bench in the garden
  28. 0:06:07 : another view in the garden – girls in white – fountain
    This appears to show part of what was once known as the Main Walk of Adelaide Botanic Garden. (The fountain is no longer there.)
    Was this an actuality shot?

    Fountain in garden
    Frame detail from YouTube copy
    Fountain once in Adelaide Botanic Garden

  29. 0:06:09 : the Bloke on the seat
  30. 0:06:37 : he gets a job hawking (exterior shot)
  31. 0:06:46 : the Bloke's first encounter with Doreen (played by Lottie Lyell)
    This was, apparently, filmed in a Sydney market.
    There is a continuity error in this scene (whether from the original film or the reconstruction is not known): the woman selling hats behind the Bloke has a potential customer who is first seen trying on a hat, but shortly after comes in to do so.
  32. 0:07:45 : medium close-up of the Bloke, with guy trying on hat
  33. 0:07:49 : longer view of the Bloke
  34. 0:07:50 : guy comes in to try on hat
  35. 0:07:58 : leaving the market
    There is a sign for VANILLA ICE-CREAM behind.
  36. 0:08:04 : sunrise
  37. 0:08:25 : an actuality scene, looking south towards Central Railway Station
  38. 0:08:31 : Doreen leaving her house
    In later views of the front of Doreen's (and Mar's) house, the curtains visible in the front window aren't always the same as the ones seen in this shot!
  39. 0:08:37 : the Bloke with cart in a street. Doreen appears on the way to work, and again spurns the Bloke's advances
    The street runs roughly east-west.
  40. 0:09:14 : Doreen going to work, with the Bloke following
    The street goes uphill to the north; it may be Forbes St, Darlington, running parallel to Golden Grove St – see at 0:11:29 below.
  41. 0:09:26 : at entrance to the pickle factory
  42. 0:09:27 : first appearance of the (other) Bloke
    The other Bloke is played by Stanley Robinson.
  43. 0:10:21 : the Bloke in a street with the hawker's cart
  44. 0:10:56 : inside the pickle factory – Doreen at work
    Visible on the back wall is SOUTHAN'S PICKLES. W. M. Southan & Co. had a pickle and sauce factory in Lachlan St, Waterloo, which may be where this interior shot was taken. As Lachlan St is flat, it was not where the exterior shots, supposedly of the entrance to the factory, were filmed. No mention of Notting Pickles, which is seen on boxes behind Doreen, has been found, and the name may have been made up for the film. [Is this an in-joke?]
  45. 0:11:11 : sunset
    The tower on the right side of the picture appears to be that of the Adelaide General Post Office, while that on the left may be the spire of the Presbyterian church in Flinders St (demolished in 1957).
  46. 0:11:21 : workers leaving the pickle factory
    The Bloke's mate and Doreen converse and then walk north. It is windy and most likely overcast, as there are only very faint shadows.
  47. 0:11:29 : the Bloke waiting
    I.X.L. JAMS. is written on the wall of the building in the background.
    The street is Golden Grove St, Darlington and the building is the Sydney factory of H. Jones & Co., jam and sauce manufacturers and fruit canners. (The building was demolished between 1979 and 1984, and a housing complex built in its place.)
    There are strong shadows.

    The Intro: 'I dips me lid'
    Image courtesy of NFSA
    H. Jones & Co: IXL Jams

  48. 0:11:30 : view of a street corner
    Doreen and the other bloke appear, turn the corner, and walk east towards the camera.
    The Sun is out. The fellow's jacket is buttoned, whereas it wasn't in the scene at 0:11:21.
  49. 0:11:38 : the introduction
    The Bloke is waiting (as at 0:11:29) and Doreen and friend appear from the right and walk south to meet him.
    (Doreen and the other chap walk north, then east, and then south, and must cross a road, in going from the factory entrance to meet the Bloke.)
    Possibly all the shots of this sequence were filmed in the area of Darlington around the H. Jones & Co. factory.9
  50. 0:12:07 : a carriage goes past: on it are signs for Zetz-Spa; mineral and aerated waters; Tooth and Co. The Zetz-Spa springs, run by Tooth and Co., were at Ballimore, near Dubbo, NSW.
  51. 0:13:20 : days drag by – street scene – hawking
  52. 0:13:58 : Ginger Mick and friends outside a pub
    The decoration of the walls and the Tooth's poster match those of the pub seen early in the film (at 0:01:30).
  53. 0:14:17 : the Sunday night meeting
    In a street with suburban (rather than city) buildings seen in the distance.
  54. 0:14:40 : the Bloke and Doreen on a ferry
    In a shot showing the boy selling chocolates, etc Fort Denison might be visible in the background.
  55. 0:15:22 : moonlight on water
    Longford confirmed that this is a day-for-night shot, and the "Moon" in the film is the Sun through a strong filter. (The shadows of the couple come from the "Moon".)
  56. 0:15:42 : the bandstand at the beach
    A newspaper article10 states that the rotunda was at Henley Beach, Adelaide. (The building was demolished long ago.)

    The rotunda at the beach
    Frame detail from YouTube copy
    The Henley Beach rotunda, Adelaide in 1918

    But why was this scene included? There are two men who appear obvious in this sequence; were they involved in the film's production – directors of the Southern Cross Feature Film Company?

    The 2 men at the rotunda

    At the Henley Beach rotunda: who were these two men?

    Frame detail from YouTube copy

  57. 0:15:46 : the Bloke and Doreen sitting on the sand
    Very likely at Manly, Sydney.
  58. 0:15:51 : women walking along promenade
    At Manly.
  59. 0:15:52 : sitting on the sand
  60. 0:16:49 : a fisherman watching the couple
  61. 0:16:51 : sitting on beach – end of kiss – and fisherman
  62. 0:16:56 : a repetition of the view of the Henley rotunda (but truncated by a few frames)
  63. 0:16:58 : on the beach
    This is Manly beach or North Steyne beach; the nearer headland in the background is Queenscliff and the further one is at the north end of Freshwater beach.
  64. 0:17:08 : the pair walking along the beach
  65. 0:17:36 : outside Doreen's house
  66. 0:17:59 : the Bloke at his new job in a printing office
  67. 0:18:18 : Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet at the theatre
    For more about this see below.
  68. 0:22:19 : the portal of the theatre, with people leaving
    The theatre is the Palace Theatre, which was at 261a Pitt St. This is an actuality shot, presumably taken after a matinee performance there. In the extant copy of Longford's scenario for the film this is Scene 60, and the Bloke and Doreen were to have been included in the exiting crowd. Note that there are many soldiers in uniform.
    The shot was probably taken from The Banking House, across the road at 228 Pitt St, where the Australian Variety and Show World magazine, E. J. Carroll, and J. & N. Tait had their offices. Variety and Show World, who kept readers up-to-date with Longford's activities, were on the first floor, which appears to be the level of the camera.

    Leaving the theatre after 'Romeo and Juliet'
    Frame detail from YouTube copy
    The Palace Theatre, Sydney in mid-1929

  69. 0:22:27 : the Bloke and Doreen enter a shop
    The key to identifying this location is TEL. 705 WAV. written on the window. Sydney telephone directories circa 1918 assign the number to A. Peluso, fruiterer and confectioner, of Hall St, Bondi; Sands' directories and NSW electoral rolls confirm that Antonio Peluso (and his wife Giovannina) had a shop on the southern corner of Hall St and Bondi Rd (now named Campbell Parade), Bondi.
    Trams can be seen in reflections in the windows of the shop, and indeed just a little further north on Bondi Rd was the terminus of the Bondi tram line.
    The shop and adjacent premises, much modified, are now (2016) a boutique hotel, Ravesi's. The Ravesis took over the corner-shop business in 1920.
  70. 0:22:28 : a drink – milkshake? – at the shop
    Ginger Mick and the Stror 'At Coot (acted by Harry Young) are already there.
    This purports to be outside behind the shop, but may have been any convenient exterior location.
  71. 0:23:47 : another, longer view of the entrance to the shop
    Again, reflections of trams are seen in the windows.
  72. 0:24:21 : street corner near Doreen's house
    This appears to be a view south down Mealia Lane, Edgecliff, from the intersection of Artlett St with South St.

    Street corner near Doreen's house
    Frame detail from YouTube copy
    Mealia Lane, Edgecliff, Sydney
    Image courtesy of Google, Inc.

  73. 0:24:50 : in the street at Doreen's house
  74. 0:25:37 : the Stror 'at Coot waiting for Doreen
    AUSTRALIA is moulded on the lamppost.
  75. 0:25:39 : Doreen coming out her front gate
  76. 0:25:41 : the Stror 'at Coot again
  77. 0:25:45 : Doreen walks up the street – the Coot comes over
    Someone looks out from an upstairs window, then withdraws.
    The directions of the shadows do not match with the action in the last 2 scenes.
  78. 0:25:55 : the Bloke waiting in a reserve
  79. 0:25:59 : reverse shot – Doreen arrivng with the Coot
  80. 0:26:01 : the Bloke is annoyed to see them together
  81. 0:26:14 : reverse shot again
  82. 0:26:17 : the Bloke – the other two arrive
  83. 0:27:13 : reverse shot – close-up of the Bloke
    There are further alternating shots.
  84. 0:28:41 : the Bloke is thrown out of a pub
    This appears to be a different pub from the one seen earlier.
  85. 0:28:53 : at the Bloke's front door
  86. 0:28:57 : young boys in doorway laughing at the drunk Bloke
  87. 0:28:58 : going inside
  88. 0:29:00 : interior shot of his bedroom
  89. 0:29:27 : The Tragedy dream sequence
    The location of this scene is on the rocks just to the north-east of Tamarama beach; the headland behind is Mackenzies Point.

    Background of 'The Tragedy'
    Frame detail from YouTube copy
    Mackenzies Point, Tamarama
    Image courtesy of Simon Fisher

  90. 0:29:45 : the Bloke rolls out of bed and wakes up
  91. 0:30:35 : leaving home by the front door
    The shadows are much the same in the "morning" as in the previous "evening".
  92. 0:30:55 : the Bloke and Ginger Mick, selling rabbits, meet at a corner
    The view is facing east along O'Briens Lane, Darlinghurst at the corner with Palmer Lane, with Bourke St in the background.

    O'Briens Lane then
    Image courtesy of NFSA
    O'Briens Lane now
    Image courtesy of Google, Inc.

  93. 0:31:11 : close-up of Ginger Mick
  94. 0:31:23 : medium shot
  95. 0:31:34 : Ginger Mick continues on his way
    Ginger has turned into Palmer Lane, Darlinghurst and is heading south; Berwick Lane is at the end.

    Palmer Lane then
    Frame detail from YouTube copy
    Palmer Lane now
    Image courtesy of Google, Inc.

  96. 0:31:46 : inside printing office – Bloke day-dreaming
  97. 0:32:01 : Doreen pasting labels on pickle jars
  98. 0:32:10 : Bloke and Ginger Mick outside Bloke's house
  99. 0:32:25 : outside door of house of singalong party
    This could be the same house outside which the Stror 'at Coot was waiting at 0:25:37.
  100. 0:32:35 : inside party house
    On a wall in the background there is a picture of a man with a bottle: this picture reappears in the scene at 0:59:49.
  101. 0:33:04 : cover of sheet music of The Curse of an Aching Heart
    This song was popular in the USA in 1914, and in Australia was featured in the pantomime The Babes in the Wood late that year and early in 1915, where it was performed by Josephine Gassman and her troupe of piccaninnies.
  102. 0:35:02 : leaving party house
  103. 0:35:18 : in street on way home
  104. 0:35:33 : in another street on way home
  105. 0:35:41 : in a reserve – creek, and post and rail barrier
  106. 0:36:14 : the Bloke looking back – high paling fence behind him
  107. 0:36:18 : Doreen will have him back
  108. 0:36:46 : outside Doreen's house
  109. 0:37:34 : Bloke inside at home reading book on etiquette
  110. 0:37:55 : Sunday Night – outside Doreen's
  111. 0:37:58 : view down street with the Bloke arriving
    There is a small boy watching at a gate; he steps out of the gateway and walks in the opposite direction to the Bloke.
  112. 0:38:02 : at gate of Doreen's house
  113. 0:38:43 : Mar – long interior sequence
    Mar is played by Margaret Reid.
  114. 0:43:27 : at gate outside Doreen's house
  115. 0:43:35 : Mar watching from inside
  116. 0:43:37 : at gate again
  117. 0:43:47 : Mar and Doreen inside
  118. 0:43:49 : the Bloke walking away down the street – takes off a shoe
  119. 0:44:10 : Bloke with Ginger Mick preparing for wedding
  120. 0:44:16 : Doreen in wedding dress, also preparing
  121. 0:44:23 : Bloke and Ginger Mick
  122. 0:44:33 : in church: the marriage
    This was almost certainly not taken in a church: a publicity still held by the NFSA shows much of the background is painted; also note that the attendees are standing, because there are no pews.
    The parson is played by Charles Keegan.
    I suspect that one of the people who appear in the various scenes of the wedding and after is Lottie's younger sister, Lynda Marion Cox.
  123. 0:46:39 : leaving the church
    This is St Mark's church, on the corner of Greenoaks Ave and Darling Point Rd, Darling Point.

    Leaving the church
    Frame detail from YouTube copy
    Side door of St Mark's church, Darling Point
    Image courtesy of Google, Inc.

  124. 0:46:42 : wedding group walking beside church
  125. 0:47:00 : beano at Mar's: celebrations after the marriage
  126. 0:48:11 : the couple leave Mar's
  127. 0:48:29 : the party continues at Mar's
  128. 0:48:36 : a view from outside Central Railway Station looking north towards Pitt St
    [Signs on buildings visible in background]
  129. 0:48:42 : the couple rush onto the train
  130. 0:48:55 : in the train carriage
  131. 0:49:04 : the party at Mar's is now in full swing
  132. 0:49:19 : first view of the newly-weds' home, named Preston
    It is a duplex property, on the north or east side of the street.
  133. 0:49:24 : inside Preston
  134. 0:49:49 : the Bloke meets his mates outside a pub
    This is a different pub from the ones seen earlier, and appears more up-market.
  135. 0:50:14 : inside the pub
  136. 0:50:18 : outside the pub
  137. 0:50:33 : inside Preston; Doreen is getting anxious
  138. 0:50:41 : leaving the pub
    The previous shot where the men enter the pub and this one where they leave are not as different in time as we are meant to believe: the shadows in each scene are almost the same in length and direction.
  139. 0:51:28 : Doreen is more anxious
  140. 0:51:31 : at the 2-up school
  141. 0:51:39 : Doreen anxious outside Preston
  142. 0:51:44 : playing 2-up
  143. 0:52:25 : leaving Steeny's 2-up school
  144. 0:52:49 : Doreen anxious inside
  145. 0:52:51 : the Bloke arrives at his front door
  146. 0:53:04 : inside
  147. 0:54:08 : next morning – inside
  148. 0:55:12 : inside Mar's – she takes ill
  149. 0:55:16 : outside Mar's
  150. 0:55:18 : across the street from Mar's
  151. 0:55:20 : outside Mar's
  152. 0:55:28 : inside Mar's
  153. 0:55:32 : outside front door of Preston
  154. 0:55:42 : Mar is dead
  155. 0:55:47 : arriving outside Mar's
  156. 0:55:49 : inside Mar's
  157. 0:56:31 : inside Preston
  158. 0:56:47 : leaving front door of Preston – the postman arrives
  159. 0:56:54 : back inside Preston – Uncle Jim's letter
  160. 0:57:09 : full view of the letter
    The address on it is Apple Gully.
  161. 0:57:27 : inside Preston
  162. 0:57:35 : train arriving at (presumably) Central station
    The number of the train is 462.
  163. 0:57:47 : close-up of Uncle Jim at the carriage door
    Uncle Jim is played by William James Coulter.
  164. 0:57:50 : Uncle Jim gets out of the train; Doreen and the Bloke arrive and greet him
  165. 0:58:34 : inside – discussion with Uncle Jim
  166. 0:58:42 : first view of Uncle Jim's farm
    This was, according to Longford, Mrs. Harrington's orchard and farm in Hornsby Valley, also known as Old Man's Valley, to the west of Hornsby.11
  167. 0:58:48 : inside – continuing discussion with Uncle Jim
  168. 0:59:30 : arriving by horse-drawn cart at the farm
  169. 0:59:34 : view of farm
  170. 0:59:47 : view of the verandah of the farmhouse
  171. 0:59:49 : inside the farmhouse
  172. 1:00:37 : ploughing at the farm
  173. 1:00:51 : feeding chickens
  174. 1:01:08 : further ploughing
  175. 1:01:14 : outside the stables at the farm
  176. 1:01:18 : inside the farmhouse
  177. 1:01:45 : leaving the farmhouse to get the doctor
    Several trees in blossom are seen.
  178. 1:01:52 : outside the doctor's house – a suburban setting
    There is a sign for DR. T. BONNER on the gate – and the doctor is played by Sydney pressman Robert Bonar.
  179. 1:02:06 : leaving the doctor's to get the nurse
  180. 1:02:11 : at the nurse's – another suburban setting
    There is also a sign on her gate: NURSE BRADY.
    Helen Fergus plays the nurse. (Lottie's maternal grandmother is named Elizabeth Brady.)
  181. 1:02:38 : leaving the nurse's
  182. 1:02:51 : returning on the track to the farm
    All following scenes are on the farm, either outside or in the farmhouse.
  183. 1:02:54 : arriving at the farmhouse
  184. 1:03:07 : inside the farmhouse
  185. 1:03:52 : the doctor arriving at the farm
  186. 1:03:54 : inside the farmhouse; the doctor enters
    The door to the outside is, viewed from inside, hinged on the right.
  187. 1:04:15 : the Bloke comes out of the house onto the verandah
    The door into the house is, viewed from outside, hinged on the right – so obviously this door and the one in the previous scene are not the same. This is understandable as the scenes 'inside the farmhouse' were filmed elsewhere on a set which was open to sunlight.
  188. 1:04:38 : inside again
  189. 1:06:37 : on the verandah again
  190. 1:07:07 : in the bedroom – Doreen and baby
  191. 1:07:14 : pruning a tree on the farm
    This is "Three Months Later" but the trees are still in blossom.
  192. 1:07:55 : the Bloke, Doreen, and baby on the verandah
  193. 1:08:23 : The End


Further remarks

Comment has been made about part of the film's pictured environment being a slum. Chamber's 20th Century Dictionary (1983) defines a slum as "an overcrowded squalid neighbourhood", and "squalid" as "filthy, foul; neglected, uncared-for, unkempt; sordid and dingy; poverty-stricken". But nowhere in the film looks as bad as this reads. There is no rubbish in the streets – in fact, they look well swept. We do not see dark, dank, narrow alleys: the streets have plenty of sunlight – and the film was shot in winter. The Bloke's front door could do with a clean and a repaint, but there are curtains in his front window. The area of the early scene at the two-up school is rough around the edges, but as there are horses there it appears to be a stable-yard, and can't be expected to be tidy.

The Age (of Melbourne) carried a review of the first public showing of the film in that city, which pointed out that the Sydney locations were preferable to those in Melbourne:

Patriotic Melbourne citizens will perhaps regret that the characters were not photographed in the actual locale of the story, "Little Lon" and its vicinity. However, Melbourne City Council might well congratulate itself upon the fact that the camera is betraying to the other side of the world not our own disgusting slums, but the cleaner under world of a sister State.12

An obvious difference between the Bloke's neighbourhood and Doreen's is the presence or not of trees and other plants. In the Bloke's part of town there is little greenery: there is a leafless tree behind the two-up school at the scene starting at 0:03:04 (– it is deciduous or dead); and there appears to be the shadow of a tree on the ground at 0:30:55 and following. In Doreen's neighbourhood trees and plants are prominent, especially in the vicinity of houses.

In his 23 March 1958 recollections8 Longford stated that the suburb of Woolloomooloo was one area where filming was done, but only one scene has been confirmed to be in the 'Loo: the Woolloomooloo lock-up at 0:03:47. The streets in the vicinity of Mar's and Doreen's house are too elevated to be in Woolloomooloo, as is evident from the views in the backgrounds. The as-yet-unidentified locations where the Bloke lives and works may be in the suburb, but there are several other parts of Sydney that are possibilities, such as Darlinghurst, Surry Hills, the Rocks, Millers Point, and Balmain, where Lottie Lyell's family was once based.

However, the modern extent of Woolloomooloo is different from that of a century or so ago. The southern boundary is now William St, but it appears that earlier, at least on the west side, the 'Loo extended south to Oxford St. And the popular understanding of the position of the area may not have aligned with any formal boundaries. So, without splitting hairs, a scene filmed in Darlinghurst may have been thought at the time to have been in Woolloomooloo; the meeting of the Bloke and Ginger Mick at 0:30:55 is one such case.

Nonetheless, most of the scenes in the film were not shot in Woolloomooloo.

One rather colourful description of the actors' preparations for their roles appears in the monthly trade paper The Green Room (Sydney) of 1 November 1919:

Each and every one of the well-known characters saturated themselves in bloqueism from the moment they were selected for their roles. They stewed in Dennis atmosphere. They talked Woolloomoolese by day, and slept by night with a book of the verses under their pillows. They sought Doreens among the mazes of Strawberry Hills and Chippendale, and embarked on strange and adventurous enterprises with wild rabbit men in the high-ways and by-ways of the [sic] Waterloo. ...
Granted there is hyperbole, but the matter of talking "Woolloomoolese" is ridiculous: it is a silent film for a start, and the actors mouth the text of Dennis' book, which comes from Melbourne. As for visiting other (working-class) suburbs looking for representative characters, it wasn't necessary. Tauchert and Longford had been brought up in Darlinghurst and were living in Paddington in 1918; Lyell had been brought up in Balmain and then lived in Paddington; and Emery was at least based in Darlinghurst.

In most scenes where the film's characters appear there is little activity going on elsewhere in the field of view: we occasionally see other people and some road traffic. In several scenes the incidental people are obviously aware of, because they look at, the camera(man). No doubt Longford chose streets with few people present to minimise the chance that this would occur.

On 25 June 1918 Longford applied to the Director of the Sydney Botanic Gardens (Joseph Henry Maiden) for permission to film in the Gardens; his letter was forwarded to the Under-Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (George Valder). No reply to this is recorded, but reference to it is noted in the registration of the request in November 1917 by Charles Byers Coates of the Antipodes Film Company to film in Centennial Park, Sydney, which was approved. There is no reason to think that Coates' request was approved while Longford's wasn't.

But in his evidence to the 1927 Royal Commission on the Moving Picture Industry in Australia, Longford made an issue of apparently not being given formal permission to film in the Botanic Gardens. At question 4230 on p.153b he stated that "it was three weeks before we obtained permission to take a picture of a man sitting on a seat in the Botanical [sic] Gardens"; and at question 4408 on p.161b: "but at last Mr. Valder gave me verbal permission". (Decades later, Longford misremembered the events, for he stated: "My written request was well and truly turned down by both the Chief Secretary of the State and the Curator of the Botanical Gardens, Sydney. Mr. Maiden went so far as threatening me with police action if we ever attempted to set up the camera. Eventually I took the shot without permission." (The Chief Secretary of New South Wales was not involved in this matter.))

One has to wonder why he felt the necessity to film in the Botanic Gardens, when there are many other public gardens in Sydney. And ultimately in this sequence he used a shot taken in Adelaide Botanic Garden.

There are a few scenes in the film that were shot in South Australia: were these left over from the making of The Woman Suffers, which was filmed in Adelaide and nearby early in 1918?

The history of the exhibition of the film is intriguing. At the time of its first (and private) showing, on 26 November 1918, it was expected to be presented publicly about a fortnight later at the Theatre Royal, Adelaide. This did not however eventuate. There was another private screening, at the Majestic Theatre, Melbourne on 3 December 1918, but again nothing for the public. Early in 1919, it was announced that J. & N. Tait had secured the British and American rights of the film, and E. J. Carroll the rights for New Zealand. Come March 1919 the influenza epidemic, which caused the NSW government to close the theatres at certain times, was blamed for holding up a Sydney release. Then early in June E. J. Carroll announced that the film would open on 28 June at the Auditorium, Melbourne (leased by J. & N. Tait); but the advertisements only appeared over a couple of days. Finally, on 20 September 1919, advertisements announced that the film would be shown from 4 October at the Melbourne Town Hall. And it was, at both matinees and evening sessions each day. But why were there so many false starts over a period of 10 months?

Openings in other capital cities followed soon after. Sydney first saw the Bloke on Saturday, 18 October at the Theatre Royal; Adelaide on Saturday, 22 November at the Theatre Royal; and Brisbane on Friday, 26 December at West's Olympia. Perth had to wait till Saturday, 12 June 1920 to see the film at the Theatre Royal, and Hobart's release was on Monday, 29 November 1920 at His Majesty's Theatre – 2 full years after the Adelaide preview. (That Hobart's His Majesty's was run by Union Theatres, Ltd. may have had something to do with the Tasmanian public's long wait.) New Zealand audiences first saw the film in Wellington on Friday, 24 October 1919 at the King's Theatre; then at Christchurch on Saturday, 1 November.

Prior to and after the film's public exhibition, advertisements made much of C. J. Dennis' opinion of the film. We are told that he was initially reluctant to allow it to be made – or, presumably, to grant the rights to his text so that it could be used in the film. Then there is a letter from Dennis to someone – Longford; the production company? – that was quoted in advertisements:

They were very solid doubts indeed that I took along with me to the private screening of the picture. I went expecting, at best, a burlesque; at worst, a fiasco.
I came away almost believing in miracles.
The fidelity with which the written story has been converted into what may be termed a visual narrative is amazing to me.
(Sgd.) C. J. DENNIS.
(In the first advertisements on 7 June 1919 in both Melbourne newspapers The Age and The Argus, "private screening" in this quote appears as "private secretary"!)

The scenes from Shakespeare's stage play Romeo and Juliet shown in the film require consideration. No contemporary comment on them beyond that noting the humour of the Bloke's responses has been found. Nor is there any elaboration by Longford himself about the inclusion of the play scenes. In the 30 October 1919 issue of The Bulletin we are told that the Australian motion picture actor Charles Villiers played Mercutio in the film. As no contemporary stage production of Romeo and Juliet is known, it is reasonable to assume that the scenes were shot specially for the film, and also that the actors were Australians. If this is indeed the case, were the sets made for the film or did they belong to a theatre company, and if so, whose? And who were the other actors?

Jack Atkins, in his Wonderland City and Tamarama Beach (Orient Point, NSW; 2000), provides an interesting story (on page 51):

(Arthur) Perce Flanders – acted as extra in 'Term of Her [sic] Natural Life'; also in another well-known (but name not remembered by his daughter, Mary Flanders) local film.

Their greatest moment was: one day there were people everywhere, cameramen and others setting up. Lottie Lyell was talking to mum, who took her inside "Rocky Nook." While waiting to be called, they chatted away for Lottie seemed very interested in the inside. A glance in the mirror brought the actress back to reality. Combed her hair and put on a little make-up, talking to Mrs Flanders the whole time. Great excitement.

Although we can't be sure that the above event occurred during the filming of "The Tragedy" sequence it seems highly likely when it is known that "Rocky Nook" was the Flanders' home built into the rocks below where the scene was shot.

References and notes

[1] Most of the individual poems had appeared over several years in Sydney's The Bulletin magazine. The first four 'songs' were also previously published (in August 1913) in Dennis' Badblock Ballads and Other Verses. The order of the poems in both books is not the order in which they were published individually; the first to appear was The Stoush o' Day which came out on 1 April 1909 in the Sporting Notions section of The Bulletin, and is a response to the Burns-Johnson heavyweight boxing championship fight that took place in Sydney on 26 December 1908. The first poem in the books is A Spring Song, which was published on 13 March 1913 as Spring Song of a Bloke.

[2] The Bulletin of 25 January 1917 has a note that "[a] movement is on foot to introduce Dennis's Sentimental Bloke and his Doreen to film students." In the context it refers to the making of a film of the poem. Nothing further about a motion picture is mentioned until 14 March 1918 when it is reported that the film rights for the Sentimental Bloke "have been disposed of for a sum running into four figures." (It was in fact £1000 and was negotiated at the turn of the year.)

[3] Thus most, if not all, of the filming was done between the (southern hemisphere) autumn and spring equinoxes. This is useful to know because it places constraints on the position – elevation and azimuth – of the Sun in the sky, which in turn puts limits on the length and direction of any shadow seen in the film. And the direction of a filmed shadow constrains the orientation of the scene in which the shadow appears, in particular the direction along any street pictured.

On page 48 of the 1 December 1919 issue of Theatre Magazine (Sydney), under "A PHOTOGRAPHIC FAMILY.", we are told that "Mr. [Arthur] Higgins' experience is that the best Australian hours for film-photographing are from 10 to 3 – summer or winter." If this time interval was adhered to during the filming of The Sentimental Bloke then the direction of any shadow seen in the film is even further restricted.

At the latitude of Sydney, approximately 33·9 degrees south, at an equinox the shortest any shadow can be is about 67 % of the height of the respective object: so if what is seen in the film was shot in the winter every shadow will be longer than 2/3 of the height of its source object.

[4] 10 April 1918, Advertiser (Adelaide), p.7d, "THE SENTIMENTAL BLOKE."

[5] 31 May 1918, Australian Variety and Show World (Sydney), p.6a, WITH THE MOVIES, BRIEF MOVIE NOTES.

[6] 6 September 1918, Australian Variety and Show World, p.6c, WITH THE MOVIES

[7] 27 November 1918, Advertiser, p.11a, "THE SENTIMENTAL BLOKE."
27 November 1918, Register (Adelaide), p.9, "THE SENTIMENTAL BLOKE."
27 November 1918, Daily Herald (Adelaide), p.3d, 'SENTIMENTAL BLOKE'

[8] 23 March 1958, Longford's reply to a request for information about his career and The Sentimental Bloke:
National Library of Australia, Papers of Larry Lake, MS 8324, Series 11, Folder 3, Correspondence on ‘Sentimental Bloke’, 1958
Forty years after the making of the film, when Longford was almost 80 years old, his recollections can't be trusted to be correct – as he himself admitted in a preamble to his notes.

[9] Did the management of H. Jones & Co. allow Longford and Lyell to film at their Darlington factory in return for some advertising? If the several scenes in the sequence in which the Bloke is introduced to Doreen – in particular those at the entrance to the works – were shot at the factory then this could explain why I.X.L. JAMS. is prominent in the background when the actual introduction takes place.

[10] 27 November 1918, Daily Herald, p.3d, 'SENTIMENTAL BLOKE' A MAGNIFICENT SUCCESS.

[11] Ann Elizabeth Harrington (née Higgins), wife of Matthew James Harrington, had inherited 12 acres 10 perches (4·881 ha) from her father in 1885, which she kept till her death in 1939.

[12] 6 October 1919, The Age (Melbourne), p.8g, AMUSEMENTS., TOWN HALL. - THE SENTIMENTAL BLOKE.

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