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Adorable Outcast

Adorable Outcast, The* (Norman Dawn, 1928) aka Black Cargoes of the South Seas; Australasian Films. A Union Master World Picture; prod. wr. Norman Dawn from the novel Conn of the Coral Seas, by Beatrice Grimshaw, dp Arthur Higgins, William Trerise, 7300 ft; Edith Roberts, Edmund Burns, Walter Long, Jessica Harcourt, John Gavin, Katherine Dawn, Arthur McLaglen, Arthur Tauchert, Fred Twitcham, Compton Coutts, William O'Hanlon, Claude Turton, Charles Weatherly, Tom Dalton, Walter Hunt; action adventure


Norman Dawn's second feature for Australasian Films was a Pacific island romance about a young adventurer, Stephen Conn, and his love for Luya, 'a beautiful untamed little Pagan'. Rumours of a hoard of gold belonging to Stephen arouse the interest of an evil 'blackbirder', Fursey, and his fellow traders in 'native flesh'. When Fursey kidnaps Luya the islanders are aroused to warlike fury, and with Stephen they attack Fursey's stronghold in their outrigger canoes. Luya is saved, and when an island chieftain reveals that her parents were white, she and Stephen are happily united.
In April 1927 the crew and Australian cast sailed to Fiji, where they were joined by three American players, Edith Roberts, Edmund Burns and the prolific Hollywood villain, Walter Long. Most of the film was shot on location in the Fiji islands, and late in June the unit returned to Sydney for a few interior scenes in Australasian's Bondi studio.
Dawn returned to America in September. After a thorough national publicity campaign, Australasian released the film at the Tivoli Theatre, Brisbane, on 25 June 1928. Although trading was initially strong, it is unlikely that the film covered its high production cost of £35,000 before sound eradicated the market for silent films. In 1929 it was given limited release in America under the title Black Cargoes of the South Seas. Coming after £50,000 tied up in For The Term Of His Natural Life (1927), its cost was more than Australasian could justify for the local market without guarantees of adequate overseas distribution. With their heavy commitments in theatre construction, and uncertainty in the industry over sound, the company decided to abandon feature production.
Reviews were cautious: Everyones, 26 December 1928, found the story 'too episodic' but acknowledged the potential box-office appeal of the exotic settings. Trick photography, in which Dawn specialised, was less in evidence than in his earlier Australian film, but a few effects were worked into the film, most notably some startling composite shots for underwater scenes, including a cross-section view of a lagoon showing turtles (actually in an aquarium) swimming beneath native canoes. Pike & Cooper: 144-5.

References and Links

Pike, Andrew & Ross Cooper 1998, Australian Film 1900-1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, revised edition, Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

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