Frank Hurley

Frank Hurley (1885-1962) was a significant pioneering photographer and cinematographer who also wrote and directed.

Frank Hurley (1885-1962): ... an artist interested less in expressing human experiences than the grandeur of nature and the romance of exotic lands. ... His journeys began in December 1911 when he joined Mawson's expedition to Antarctica as official photographer; his stills of the expedition were published widely around the world, and a 4000-foot documentary, Home of the Blizzard, was released in 1913.
Another explorer, Francis Birtles, engaged Hurley to travel with him through the tropical north of Australia, the outcome of which was another feature-length documentary, Into Australia's Unknown.
By the time of its release in January 1915, Hurley was again in Antarctica, this time with a British expedition led by Ernest Shackleton, and it was on this harrowing two-year trip that Hurley took his most famous photographs and films, depicting the destruction of the ship endurance in pack-ice and the crew's long struggle for survival through a polar winter. The footage was released as In the Grip of Polar Ice in 1917, and again in 1933, as Endurance. In June 1917 he accepted a position with the Australian Imperial Forces as the first official photographer of the Australian war effort. Here Hurley produced some striking 'epic' photography, and perfected his technique of 'combination printing', intensifying the realism of battle photographs by superimposing several negatives together. The war was followed by aeroplane flights with the Australian pioneer aviator Ross Smith, culminating in a highly successful film, The Ross Smith Flight, released in mid-1920.
At this point in his career, Hurley became interested in Papua. In December 1920 he left Australia to record the work of Anglican missions in Papua and to make a 'travelogue entertainment'. The result was Pearls and Savages, a documentary released in Sydney in December 1921, with Hurley lecturing from the stage as the film was screened.
A lecture and film tour of Australia followed, and another major trip to Papua to secure additional footage. The expanded film, With the Headhunters in Papua, was released in Sydney in October 1923, and Hurley travelled widely in Australia and England with the film, acting as both entrepreneur and lecturer. An attempt to broach the American market failed, and Hurley lost many thousands of pounds before becoming convinced that lecture-film packages were impossible for the conditions of the American film trade.
He decided to make films in Papua with a narrative interest to hold together the documentary footage so that they could be released in America without the presence of a lecturer. He approached the Australian-born magnate of the British film industry, Sir Oswald Stoll, and won his backing for a major production venture; Stoll provided £10,000 and several of his studio's stars and technicians to go with Hurley to Papua to produce two feature films 'back to back'. The British crew joined Hurley in Sydney in August 1925 and the party set off for Thursday Island, where the first of the films, The Hound Of The Deep, was shot. The second film (although the first to be released) was The Jungle Woman.
After two more trips to Antarctica with Mawson, during which Siege of the South (1931) was filmed, Hurley remained in Australia during the 1930s to become the dominant figure in Australian documentary. He also worked as director of photography on several features for Cinesound. During the Second World War he served again as official photographer with the Australian forces in the Middle East until 1943 and remained there until 1946, making films for the British Ministry of Information. After his return to Australia he worked primarily on still photography and book publication. He died in Sydney on 16 January 1962. Pike & Cooper: 131-132.


Home of the Blizzard (Frank Hurley, 1913)

Into Australia's Unknown (Frank Hurley, 1914)

In the Grip of the Polar Ice (Frank Hurley, 1917)

South (Frank Hurley, 1919) doco about the Ernest Shackleton expedition to the South Pole 1914-16; 88 min.

The Ross Smith Flight (Frank Hurley, 1920) doco

Pearls and Savages (Frank Hurley, 1921) doco about Anglican missions in Papua; with additional footage expanded to become With the Headhunters in Papua, 1923: Hurley presented both films lecturing from the stage; see Pike & Cooper 1998: 131-133

Jungle Woman, The (Frank Hurley, 1926) Stoll Picture Productions; prod. wr. dp Frank Hurley; Eric Bransby Williams, Grace Savieri (Hurana), Jameson Thomas, Lillian Douglas; shot Thursday Island PNG; 6070 ft

Hound Of The Deep, The (Frank Hurley, 1926) aka Pearl of the South Seas; Stoll Picture Productions, prod. wr. dp Frank Hurley; Jameson Thomas, Eric Bransby Williams, W G Saunders, Lillian Douglas; shot Thursday Island PNG; 4950 ft

Siege of the South (Frank Hurley, 1931) doco of Mawson expeditions to Antarctica

Squatter's Daughter, The (Ken G. Hall, 1933) prod. Ken G. Hall, Cinesound Productions, wrs Gayne Dexter, E. V. Timms, play by 'Albert Edmunds' (Bert Bailey & Edmund Duggan), dp Frank Hurley, George Malcolm; Owen Ainley, W. Lane Bayliff, Dorothy Dunkley, Jocelyn Howarth, George Lloyd, Grant Lyndsay, Fred Macdonald, Claude Turton, Katie Towers, Les Warton, John Warwick; 35 mm, 104 min. Romeo and Juliet story

Silence of Dean Maitland, The (Ken G. Hall, 1934) Cinesound Productions, prod. Ken G. Hall, wr. Gayne Dexter, Edmund Barclay from play by Maxwell Gray, dp Frank Hurley; John Longden (Dean Maitland), Charlotte Francis (Alma Lee), Jocelyn Howarth, Bill Kerr (Cyril Maitland Jnr); clergyman murders the father of his pregnant lover and then allows his best friend to be convicted for the crime; 97 min.

Strike Me Lucky (Ken G. Hall, 1934) dp Frank Hurley, George Heath; vehicle for Roy Rene (Harry Van der Sluice aka Henry van der Sluys) as Mo McMackie; Roy Rene's father was a Dutch Jew and and his mother Anglo-Jewish

Treasures of Katoomba (Frank Hurley, 1934) see Pike & Cooper: 151, columns 2-3

Grandad Rudd (Ken G. Hall, 1935) aka Ruling the Roost, wr. Victor Roberts, George D. Parker from the play by Bert Bailey adapted from stories by Steele Rudd, Cinesound Productions, prod. Bert Bailey, Ken G. Hall, dp Frank Hurley, George Heath; Bert Bailey, Fred MacDonald, George Lloyd; 90 min.

Tall Timbers (Ken G. Hall, 1937) prod. Ken G. Hall, Cinesound Productions, wr. Frank Harvey from Frank Hurley story, dp George Heath; 89 mins., 35 mm.; Frank Leighton, Shirley Ann Richards, Aileen Britton, Campbell Copelin, Letty Craydon, Peter Dunstan, Frank Harvey, George Lloyd, Joe Valli, Ronald Whelan

Lovers and Luggers (Ken G. Hall, 1937) aka Vengeance of the Deep (US title); scenario Frank Hurley; dp George Heath, Frank Hurley; Lloyd Hughes, Shirley Ann Richards, Sidney Wheeler; 99 min.

Nation is Built, A (Frank Hurley, 1938) dramatised documentary to celebrate sesquicentenary of white settlement; see Pike & Cooper: 151, columns 2-3

40000 Horsemen (Charles Chauvel, 1940) Forty Thousand 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


Snow, Sand and Savages: The Life of Frank Hurley (Anthony Buckley, 1972) wr. Joan Long, narr. Leo McKern; doco; 45 min. Umbrella Entertainment sell (as of 2009) a two-DVD set comprising South (1919) and Snow, Sand and Savages: The Life of Frank Hurley (Anthony Buckley, 1972).

Frank Hurley: The Man Who Made History (Simon Nasht, 2004) TV biodoco narr. Linda Cropper; 60 min.


Garry Gillard | New: 11 February, 2013 | Now: 1 March, 2017