Australasian Cinema > films >

The Breaking of the Drought

The Breaking of the Drought (Franklyn Barrett, 1920) Golden Wattle Film Syndicate, prod. Franklyn Barrett, wr. Jack North, Franklyn Barrett, from the play by Bland Holt, dp Franklyn Barrett; Trilby Clark, Dunstan Webb, Charles Beetham, Marie La Varre, , John Faulkner, Rawdon Blandford, Nan Taylor, Arthur Albert, Ethel Henry; 6 reels; NFSA restoration


The story is perfunctorily melodramatic and implausible, but there are some striking scenes, especially those showing moribund and dead sheep. Audiences of the time might have engaged by horse-racing scenes. Now perhaps the most striking shots are those which simply show the streets of Sydney in 1920. Notable is the moment when a literally seductive woman lights her cigarette from that of her male prey, clearly indicating that an even more intimate contact is imminent. Censored by the NSW Govt because of the drought scenes.

Bland Holt, one of the grand old men of Australian theatre, renowned for lavishly produced melodramas, wrote The Breaking Of The Drought in 1902 as a topical drama about a severe drought that then crippled the country. In 1919 another drought gripped Australia and the time was ripe for a revival of the story. Shooting began in December 1919 at Narrabri and Moree in the far outback of New South Wales, where the ravages of the drought provided Barrett with grim sequences showing trees cut down for cattle fodder, crows feeding off dead livestock, and miles of scorched earth. Indoor scenes were staged in a temporary studio at the Theatre Royal, Sydney. A brief interlude (missing from the only existing copy of the film in the National Film and Sound Archive) was provided by a water ballet and diving display by a group of 'water-nymphs', staged amid idyllic surroundings in the National Park near Sydney; many of the nymphs were later disqualified from the Amateur Swimming Association for taking part in the film. Pike & Cooper: 97.

References and Links

Pike, Andrew & Ross Cooper 1998, Australian Film 1900-1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, OUP, Melbourne: 97.

Reade, Eric 1975, The Australian Screen: A Pictorial History of Australian Film-making, Lansdowne Press, Melbourne: 96-97, 162.

Shirley, Graham & Brian Adams 1989, Australian Cinema: The First Eighty Years, Currency Press: 38, 59, 60, 61, 80.

Garry Gillard | New: 9 November, 2012 | Now: 26 November, 2019