Charles (and Elsa) Chauvel

Chauvel was born on 7 October 1897 in the country town of Warwick in south-west Queensland, and he often returned to the area as a location for his films. As a youth he studied art in Sydney and took acting lessons in spare time. With characteristic determination he managed to secure work as production assistant (primarily responsible for the horses) on several local features. He went to California, where he survived for two years writing articles about Australia and finding odd jobs in Hollywood studios. He returned to Queensland in 1923 fired with plans to make his own films. Pike & Cooper: 130.

All of the nine films directed by Charles Chauvel are now available on DVD in a boxset from Umbrella Entertainment.

Moth Of Moonbi, The (Charles Chauvel, 1926) wr. Charles Chauvel, novel Mabel Forrest, The Wild Moth, dp Al Burne; Chauvel's first feature; Marsden Hassall, Doris Ashwin, Arthur Tauchert, 9000ft

Greenhide (Charles Chauvel, 1926) Elsa Chauvel (as Elsie Sylvaney), Gerald Barlow, Irma Dearden; drama; Charles and Elsa Chauvel met on this film and were married in 1927

In the Wake of the Bounty (Charles Chauvel, 1933) wr. Charles Chauvel, dp Tasman Higgins, sound Arthur Smith, Clive Cross; Arthur Greenaway (narrator), Mayne Lynton (Bligh); Errol Flynn (Fletcher Christian); dramatised history, filmed Tahiti and Pitcairn; available on DVD

Heritage (Charles Chauvel, 1935) Expeditionary Films, wr. Charles Chauvel, dp Tasman Higgins, Arthur Higgins, asspro Ann Wynn [Elsa Chauvel], sound Alan Mill; early days of colonial Australia; 94 min.; available on DVD

Uncivilized (Charles Chauvel, 1936) Expeditionary Films, wr. Charles Chauvel, E. V. Timms, dp Tasman Higgins, music Lindley Evans, assdir Frank Coffey, Ann Wynn [Elsa Chauvel]; Dennis Hoey, Margot Rhys, Ashton Jarry; adventure; woman kidnapped by Aborigines led by white man; northern Qld; 82 min.; available on DVD

Rangle River (Clarence G. Badger, 1936) aka Men With Whips; wr. Charles Chauvel, Elsa Chauvel, story Zane Grey; Victor Jory, Margaret Dare, Robert Coote; western

Forty Thousand Horsemen (Charles Chauvel, 1940) 40000 Horsemen, wr. Elsa Chauvel, dp George Heath, additional exterior photography Frank Hurley, Tasman Higgins; Grant Taylor, Betty Bryant, Chips Rafferty, Pat Twohill, Michael Pate's debut film - as an extra; WW1; available on DVD

The Rats Of Tobruk (Charles Chauvel, 1944) Chamun Productions, wr. Charles & Elsa Chauvel, dp George Heath, music Lindley Evans, sound Jack Bruce, L. J. Stuart; Grant Taylor, Peter Finch, Chips Rafferty; war; 95 min.; available on DVD

Sons of Matthew (Charles Chauvel, 1949) wr. Charles Chauvel, Elsa Chauvel, Maxwell Dunn, novels by Bernard O'Reilly; Greater Union Theatres/Universal Pictures; shot in Qld; Michael Pate, Ken Wayne, Tommy Burns, John Unicomb, John Ewart, Wendy Gibb; 107 min.; aka The Rugged O'Riordans (overseas version); available on DVD

Jedda (Charles Chauvel, 1955) wr. Charles Chauvel, Elsa Chauvel; Ngarla Kunoth (Rosalie Kunoth-Monks), Robert Tudawali, Betty Suttor, Paul Reynall; young Aboriginal woman raised by white family and torn between two cultures; 101 min., colour; available on DVD

Already, in his first film, Chauvel's characteristics as a director were apparent: his desire to tell stories that used emphatically Australian backgrounds, and to film those backgrounds even on difficult locations, rather than re-create them in a studio; his willingness to experiment with new acting talent in leading roles; and a marked degree of self-reliance, handling production, direction, writing and promotion himself. During the next thirty years he made only eight more features, but none were routine productions. His sound films usually strove for a grand epic sweep and indicated his strong romantic vision, which elevated the ordinary life of Australians to the heroic. After gaining technical skill during the 1930s, he matured as a director with Forty Thousand Horsemen (1940) and emerged after the war as the only local director of any note to persevere with production in the repressive context of growing foreign control of Australian cinemas. He maintained this struggle until his death on 11 November 1959. Pike & Cooper: 130.

References and Links

Carlsson, Susanne Chauvel 1989, Charles and Elsa Chauvel: Movie Pioneers, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia; Foreword by Ken G. Hall, Introduction by Michael Pate.

Chauvel, Elsa 1973, My Life with Charles Chauvel, Shakespeare Head Press, Sydney, 1973.

Cunningham, Stuart 1991, Featuring Australia: The Cinema of Charles Chauvel, Allen and Unwin, Sydney

Wikipedia entry (includes references)
IMDb entry
Screen Australia entry


Garry Gillard | New: 26 October, 2012 | Now: 27 May, 2017