Franklyn Barrett (real name Walter Franklyn Brown) was one of Australia's finest cinematographers and a prolific director of feature films. Born in 1873 in England, he went to New Zealand about 1895 and worked as a press photographer and as a violinist in touring theatre orchestras. He also gained experience in film as a newsreel photographer and shot his own 'scenics' of New Zealand. In an early use of film for dramatic purposes, he shot an 800-foot narrative film, A Message from Mars, in Wellington in 1903.
Over the next decade he travelled widely in New Zealand, Australia and England, shooting newsreels and travelogues for various sponsors, including Pathe Freres, whom he joined in Sydney in 1908. He was with Pathe when West's Pictures took over the company and he remained to photograph productions for them, including All for Gold. In 1913, after West's had merged with Australasian Films, he joined the Fraser company as a film-maker and film-buyer and his career flourished thereafter as his reputation as a director grew.
His features, whether made for himself or for other companies, revealed a flair for realism in the setting of conventional plots, and The Breaking Of The Drought (1920) and A Girl Of The Bush (1921) survive today as evidence of his sensitive eye as a photographer of Australian landscapes. His efforts to remain active as a film-maker in the face of Australasian's. monopoly over theatres eventually defeated him, and in 1922 he made a clean break from production and settled into life as an exhibitor in Sydney and Canberra. He died in Sydney on 16 July 1964 at the age of 91. Pike & Cooper: 26.
Franklyn Barrett as director
All For Gold (Franklyn Barrett [?] 1911) aka Jumping The Claim; dp Franklyn Barrett; Herbert J. Bentley, Hilliard Vox, Lilian Teece, Ronald McLeod, E. Melville, Walter Bastin; goldfields drama; 3000 ft; lost
In a remarkable instance of early split-screen technology, Barrett made three separate exposures to cover the action of the heroine making a telephone call to order the speedboat to take her across Sydney Harbour: on the left side of the screen, Nora was shown making the call, with the boatman receiving the call on the right, the two separated by a wide view of the boat harbour. The Bulletin, 12 October 1911, found the chase scene 'a triumph of photo art' and one of the most exciting moments in a 'wild and whirling tale'. Pike & Cooper: 25-26.
The Christian (Franklyn Barrett [?] 1911) dp Franklyn Barrett; Roy Redgrave [father of Sir Michael], Eugenie Duggan, Rutland Beckett; 28 min.
The Daily Telegraph, 4 December 1911, commended the production warmly: 'The work of the cinematographer, Mr W. Franklyn Barrett, was up to the best traditions of the West, Ltd management, the fire scene being a strikingly well arranged piece of stagecraft'. Pike & Cooper: 29.
A Silent Witness (Franklyn Barrett, 1912) Cyril Mackay, Leonard Willey, Sydney Stirling, Loris Brown; 2400ft
Franklyn Barrett claimed (in Theatre, 1 January 1917) that this detective drama was the first production in which he had 'a free hand'. Pike & Cooper: 35.
A Blue Gum Romance (Franklyn Barrett, 1913) Tien Hogue, Tom Middleton, Douglas Lotherington ('Aboriginal chief'); drama among the trees; used local white boys in blackface
Life Of A Jackeroo, The (Franklyn Barrett, 1913) Tien Hogue, Tom Middleton, Ruth Wainwright; like the previous film, used Gosford locations and another 'corroboree'; another loyal Aboriginal saves the hero's life
Pioneers, The (Franklyn Barrett, 1916) novel Katharine Susannah Prichard; Longford also made this story into a film in 1926
Australia's Peril (Franklyn Barrett, 1917) war story; 5 reels
Monk And The Woman, The (Franklyn Barrett, 1917) 18C France; caused Catholic controversy; 6000ft, 66 min.
Struck Oil (Franklyn Barrett, 1919) vehicle for Maggie Moore, the ex-wife of J.C. Williamson, despite her age; 7 reels
Breaking of the Drought, The (Franklyn Barrett, 1920) Trilby Clark, Dunstan Webb, Charles Beetham, Marie La Varre; 6 reels; NFSA restoration
The story is perfunctorily melodramatic and implausible, but there are some striking scenes, especially those showing moribund and dead sheep. Audiences of the time might have engaged by horse-racing scenes. Now perhaps the most striking shots are those which simply show the streets of Sydney in 1920. Notable is the moment where a literally seductive woman lights her cigarette from that of her male prey, clearly indicating that an even more intimate contact is imminent. Censored by the NSW Govt because of the drought scenes.
Girl of the Bush, A (Franklyn Barrett, 1921) Barrett's Australian Productions - the first of three for this company;Vera James, Jack Martin, Herbert Linden; the second of the only two films directed by Franklyn Barrett that still exist, thanks to the NFSA; 6000ft
Although based on an original screenplay, the film is firmly in the squatter's-daughter tradition: the heroine rides and works as the equal of the men, yet at other times displays a more conventional form of screen femininity, for example, bathing demurely in the nude in a bush pool (actually wearing a flesh-coloured bathing costume). Comic relief, too, comes from a time-honoured source, the parodying of the central love interest by the 'low life' of the station, in this case not Aborigines but Chinese, with a Chinese laundrymaid (played by a white actress) pursued relentlessly by the cook, an old man repeatedly abused by the station hands as a 'damned yeller streak of misery'. Pike & Cooper: 105.
Know Thy Child (Franklyn Barrett, 1921) Roland Conway, Nada Conrade, Lotus Thompson, Vera James; 6 reels
Know Thy Child was a 'problem drama', nominally exploring a case of social injustice, but actually revelling in sex and scandal. Pike & Cooper: 108.
Rough Passage, A (Franklyn Barrett, 1922) Stella Southern, Hayford Hobbs, Elsa Granger; 6000ft
Barrett's last feature was an undistinguished race-track melodrama that showed obvious signs of haste and carelessness. Pike & Cooper: 112.
Franklyn Barrett as cinematographer
Strangler's Grip, The (West's Pictures, 1912) dp Franklyn Barrett; Sydney Stirling, Cyril Mackay, Leonard Willey
In 1912 four films were made by the actors Cyril Mackay, Leonard Willey and Sydney Stirling for West's Pictures. All of the films were photographed by Franklyn Barrett, but only on the last, A Silent Witness, did he claim (in Theatre, 1 January 1917) to have had 'a free hand' in the production. The other films were probably directed jointly by the principals in the cast. Pike & Cooper: 31.
Mystery Of The Black Pearl, The (West's Pictures, 1912) aka The Black Pearl Mystery; dp Franklyn Barrett; Sydney Stirling, Cyril Mackay, Leonard Willey
Eleventh Hour, The (West's Pictures, 1912) aka Saved by Telegram; dp Franklyn Barrett; Sydney Stirling, Cyril Mackay, Leonard Willey, Charles Lawrence, Loris Brown; 'the adventures and vicissitudes in the life of a Girl Telegraphist' Pike & Cooper: 34.
Pommy Arrives In Australia (Raymond Longford, 1913) aka Pommy, The Funny Little New Chum; dp Franklyn Barrett; Longford's first comedy
Mutiny of the Bounty, The (Raymond Longford, 1916) Aust/NZ; wr. Raymond Longford, Lottie Lyell [?], dp Franklyn Barrett; George Cross (Captain Bligh), John Storm (George III), D.L. Dalziel (Sir Joseph Banks), Wilton Power (Fletcher Christian) 5000ft
Murder Of Captain Fryatt, The (John Gavin, 1917) Australian Famous Feature Company, wr. Agnes Gavin, dp Franklyn Barrett; Harrington Reynolds, John Gavin, Olive Proctor; based on 1915 events
Enemy Within, The (Roland Stavely, 1918) dp Franklyn Barrett; Reg L. 'Snowy' Baker (Jack Airlie), John Faulkner (Henry Brasels), Lily Molloy; spy actioner
Romance Of The Burke And Wills Expedition Of 1860, A (Charles Byers Coates, 1918) Antipodes Films/Austral Photoplay Company; cinemaphotographers G.L. Gouday, Franklyn Barrett, A.O. Segerberg, Walter Sully; Charles Clarke, George Patterson, Chris Olsen; 6 reels
Lure Of The Bush, The (Claude Flemming [Franklyn Barrett?] 1918) Snowy Baker Films; wr. JackNorth; dp Franklyn Barrett; Reg L. 'Snowy' Baker, Rita Tress, Claude Flemming; 6 reels
Garry Gillard | New: 8 November, 2012 | Now: 17 May, 2017