Born on 23 June 1921 in New Zealand, [Cecil Holmes] had worked first as a newsreel editor and later as a documentary director with the New Zealand government film unit, and had been one of the founders of the New Zealand film society movement in the 1940s.
In 1949 he came to Australia to direct a documentary, The Food Machine (1950), for the Shell Film Unit under John Heyer. He then became involved in Scrimgeour's plans for Captain Thunderbolt and found himself thrust into feature production. The cast, especially Grant Taylor, helped him to reduce the script's reliance on dialogue (its author, Creswick Jenkinson, usually wrote for radio), and he found support in technical direction from Margaret Cardin, who had recently arrived from England, where she had worked as an editor in film and television studios.
A preview was held in January 1953, but the Australian trade paid scant attention. Despite their lack of interest, the film went on to earn £30,000 (twice its cost) from overseas sales, especially to Britain, Germany, Canada and the USA. Australian release, through Ray Films, was slow and spasmodic. A premiere was held near the film's location site at Armidale in June 1955, and in September 1956 it ran in Sydney for a week at the Lyric, a 'blood house' reserved for action movies.
Holmes followed Captain Thunderbolt with a documentary for the trade union movement, Words for Freedom (1952), and then devoted his energies to a distribution enterprise, New Dawn Films, which specialised in Russian cinema. He was still closely involved with New Dawn in 1955 when a chance arose to direct his second feature, Three In One (released in 1957). Pike & Cooper: 216.
Captain Thunderbolt (Cecil Holmes, 1953) Grant Taylor, Charles Tingwell; bush western
Three in One (Cecil Holmes, 1957) trilogy about mateship; Holmes's last film; Joe Wilson's Mates (Henry Lawson story, 'The Union Buries Its Dead'); The Load of Wood (Frank Hardy story); The City (wr. Ralph Petersen)
Gentle Strangers (Cecil Holmes, 1972) 'mini-feature' about the problems faced by Asian students in Australia; 58 min.
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