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Seven Little Australians* (Arthur Greville Collins, 1939) O.B. Pictures, wr. Patrick V. Ryan, from the novel by Ethel Turner, dp George Malcolm; 63 mins; Charles McCallum, Patricia McDonald, Sandra Jaques, Robert Gray, Mary McGowan, Janet Gleeson, Ronald Rousel, Nancy Gleeson, Donald Tall, Harold Meade
Ethel Turner's popular novel, first published in 1894, was updated to the 1930s for this crudely made and rambling film. The seven children of the title live with their tyrannical father, Captain Woolcot, and their stepmother, Esther. Try as they may, the children can never please their father, and after several misadventures, the oldest girl, Judy, is sent away to boarding school. Later, Judy runs away from school and falls ill. When she is found by her father, he allows her to go for a holiday in the country to recuperate. The other children accompany her and for a time they are happy. One day a branch falls from a tree and Judy is killed. Her death makes the captain aware of how he has mistreated the children, and as the months pass he learns how to relax and enjoy life with his family.
Shooting began early in August 1939 and was completed quickly within a month. Country scenes were shot on location at Camden, but most scenes were staged in the studios of Commonwealth Film Laboratories, Sydney. Distributed by Universal, the film opened shortly before Christmas at the Lyceum Theatre, Sydney, but did not fare well, commercially or critically.
O.B. Pictures, a Sydney company headed by a businessman, Edward H O'Brien, had planned more films but none followed, and the director, Arthur Collins, did not make another feature until 1947 when he began Strong is the Seed. Collins had worked extensively on stage and screen in both England and America, and in the mid-1930s had directed several B-features in Hollywood including three released in 1936: The Widow from Monte Carlo, Nobody's Fool and Thank you, Jeeves! Pike & Cooper: 186.
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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