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Dad Rudd, M.P.* (Ken G. Hall, 1940) prod. Ken G Hall, Cinesound Features, wr. Frank Harvey, Bert Bailey, dp George Heath; 83 mins; Bert Bailey, Connie Martyn, Yvonne East, Fred MacDonald, Ossie Wenban, Valerie Scanlan, Alec Kellaway, Frank Harvey, Grant Taylor, Jean Robertson, Barbara Weekes, Ronald Whelan, Chips Rafferty (fireman), Raymond Longford (electoral officer)
A sequel to On Our Selection (1932) about Dad's career in politics was proposed as early as 1932. When completed in 1940, the film had almost nothing in common with the original Steele Rudd stories, and resembled instead the sort of small-town family comedy epitomised by Hollywood's Andy Hardy series. Dad Rudd became less a naive comic figure than a bastion of middle-class morality, and the story turned from the frivolity of the earlier films to an inherently more sober, if rudimentary, allegory on the war in Europe.
Young Jim Webster is in love with Ann Rudd, but their families are at loggerheads. Jim's father is the local member of parliament and is using his influence to prevent improvements to a new dam. Dad Rudd knows that the dam is vital to the welfare of small farmers in the district and decides to fight Webster in the coming elections. On the eve of polling day a fierce storm causes the dam to collapse, proving Dad's criticisms of the design to be correct. Dad is duly elected to parliament and the film ends with his rousing maiden speech, a grand tribute to the little man's struggle to preserve his rights in the face of intimidation from powerful enemies.
Comic interludes scattered through the basically serious plot included a scene with a team of country firefighters who operate with all the efficiency of the Keystone Kops (a scene in which Chips Rafferty appeared, uncredited, as one of the firemen). The film also displayed some of J. Alan Kenyon's most polished special effects, with models and complex matte work to represent the collapse of the dam. But the main strength of the film was Bert Bailey, with a performance that perfectly realised Dad as a 'beaming philosopher' and 'public-spirited tiller of the soil'; as the Sydney Morning Herald, 17 June 1940, wrote, Bailey performed 'with the full conviction of a great personality'.
The film was released in June 1940 and became an immediate financial success. Later in the same year it was released in Britain and proved to be one of the most popular Australian productions screened there, receiving over 1400 screenings by mid-1941.
Dad Rudd, MP was the last of the Cinesound features; after shooting was completed in February 1940, the studio and crew were leased for three months to Chauvel for Forty Thousand Horsemen, but in June, Hall reluctantly announced the cessation of feature production for the duration of the war. Staff was substantially reduced and the few who remained worked only on the production of newsreels and official propaganda. Ironically Dad Rudd, MP was the first feature to win tangible government encouragement in the form of a State-guaranteed overdraft of £15,000.
Grant Taylor who played the juvenile romantic lead was soon to become one of Australia's most popular stars in Chauvel's Forty Thousand Horsemen. He was born in England in 1917 and came to Australia as a child. His extensive work on the local stage and in radio was aided by a strong and distinctive voice, and his personality led easily to the portrayal of cheerful and solid Australian citizens, at home or at war. Instead of pursuing a Hollywood career, which could readily have been his after Forty Thousand Horsemen, he remained in Australia to see the film industry fade away. He later moved to England and worked on the stage and in television, but his British film appearances were never more than slight character parts, such as an overweight London bobby in Quatermass and the Pit (1967). He died in England in 1971. Pike & Cooper: 190-191.
Hall, Ken G. 1980, Australian Film: The Inside Story, Summit, Sydney; second edition: the first edition was entitled Directed by Ken G. Hall, 1977.
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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