Australasian Cinema > films > The Joan of Arc Of Loos
Joan of Arc Of Loos, The** (George Willoughby, 1916) wr. Herbert Ford, Willoughby's Photo-Plays, dp Franklyn Barrett; Jane King, Jean Robertson, Clive Farnham; shot Tamarama Beach, Sydney; war story; Jane King (Emilienne Moreau), Jean Robertson, Clive Farnham, Beatrice Esmond, Arthur Greenaway, Austin Milroy, Harry Halley, Winter Hall, Irve Hayman, Arthur Spence, Fred Knowles; 5000 ft.
The town of Loos is taken by the Germans in 1915, but a young peasant girl, Emilienne Moreau, escapes to the Allies and gives them vital information. In the ensuing attempt to re-take the town, Emilienne is inspired by the vision of an angel of war and rallies the retreating Allies back into attack, 'waving a bullet-swept flag and the tricolor of France, and singing the Marseillaise, she turned the tide of battle from the shame of defeat to the glory of victory' (Australian Variety, 3 May 1916). For her bravery, Emilienne is awarded a Military Cross, and she becomes the bride of a gallant young soldier who had fought by her side in the battle.
Sets to represent the village were built on Tamarama Beach, Sydney, by Jack Ricketts, an experienced scenic artist from live theatre, and the battle was staged there with 300 extras, including 100 returned soldiers, and many explosives. Other locations to represent the battle area were found in and around Sydney, including an avenue of poplars near Randwick racecourse to suggest the countryside of Flanders. The film opened as a supporting feature at the Glaciarium, Sydney, on 31 April, where it aroused little public or trade attention.
The film initiated a short-lived production program by George Willoughby. Born in England as George Willoughby Dowse, he travelled back and forth between England and Australia as a theatrical entrepreneur, and in 1912 became managing director of George Marlow's theatrical operations in Sydney. The Joan Of Arc Of Loos was followed within weeks by an adaptation of a popular stage play, The Woman In The Case, but neither film was a commercial success and Willoughby abandoned his further projects (which included two South Sea island romances). Critical reaction to Willoughby's first film was discouraging. Theatre 1 May 1916, found it only 'moderately interesting' and criticised the attitude towards war expressed by Emilienne's father, an old war veteran who 'looks forward to war with the eagerness and joy of a child that is about to play with a new toy'. Objection was also taken to the notion that divine intervention, and not courage or skill, had saved the day at Loos. The vision of the armoured angel, however, was one redeeming feature. The part was played by a young Adelaide actress, Jean Robertson, who had acted in Willoughby's stage company, and who appeared 'tall enough to keep one hand up in the clouds, and her off-side foot touching the earth; and in that way to magically do the appearing and disappearing trick at will'. A minor role was played by Winter Hall, who later went on to a prolific career as a character actor in Hollywood in the 1920s. Pike & Cooper: 62-63.
Pike, Andrew & Ross Cooper 1998, Australian Film 1900-1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, OUP, Melbourne: 62-63.
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