Australasian Cinema > directors > Fred Niblo

Fred Niblo


Fred Niblo (right) with Lloyd Nozzler and Charles Chauvel (centre)

Late in 1914 the theatrical firm of J C Williamson grew alarmed at reports of American films being made from plays that were in their current repertoire. Rather than allow the American films to intrude into their territory, 'the Firm' decided to exploit the movie market themselves, and initiated film adaptations of their own stage productions. As a base for these films, they bought the former Lincoln-Cass studio in Melbourne and retained two of the staff - Maurice Bertel as cameraman, and W J Lincoln as script-writer. The project was placed initially under the direction of the visiting American stage producer and actor, Fred Niblo, and in the early months of 1915 Niblo made two films, Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford and Officer 666. In June Niblo returned to America ... Pike & Cooper: 54.

Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford (Fred Niblo, 1916) wr. W. J. Lincoln from the play by George M. Cohan based on a story by George Randolph Chester, dp Maurice Bertel; Fred Niblo, Henry Carson Clarke, Enid Bennett; 4 reels

Officer 666 (Fred Niblo, 1916) J.C. Williamson Ltd; wr. W. J. Lincoln from the play by Augustin McHugh, adapted by George M. Cohan, dp Maurice Bertel; Fred Niblo, Enid Bennett, Mation Marcus Clarke, Sydney Stirling, Maurice Dudley, Henry Matsumoto, Pirie Bush, Edwin Lester, George Bryant, Matee Brown, Reine Connelly; 4 reels

Niblo directed and starred in this comedy immediately after completing Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford, and finished it a few days before his return to America in June 1915. Three reels of the film survive today in the National Film and Sound Archive and reveal a crude production doggedly faithful to the stage and its New York setting: the camera is merely a passive observer of the stage action (complete with knowing winks of complicity between Gladwin and the audience), and the dialogues, although mute, are retained at length. It opened at the Theatre Royal, Sydney, on 1 April 1916, but like the filmed plays released before it in the J C Williamson series, it failed to attract much public attention. Another film of the same play was produced in Hollywood in 1920 by the Goldwyn Corporation. Pike & Cooper: 60-61.

References and links

Pike, Andrew & Ross Cooper 1998, Australian Film 1900-1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, OUP, Melbourne: 60-61.

Reade, Eric 1975, The Australian Screen: A Pictorial History of Australian Film-making, Lansdowne Press, Melbourne: 75 (image).

Garry Gillard | New: 26 October, 2018 | Now: 28 October, 2018