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Clara Gibbings* (Frank Thring, 1934) wr. Frank Harvey, dp Arthur Higgins; Efftee Film Production, wr. Frank Harvey, from the play by Aimee & Phillip Stuart, dp Arthur Higgins; 81 mins; Dorothy Brunton (Clara Gibbings), Campbell Copelin, Harvey Adams, Noel Boyd, Harold Meade, Byrl Walkley, Marshall Crosby, Russell Scott, Guy Hastings
Clara Gibbings is the proprietress of a London pub who discovers that she is the legitimate but abandoned daughter of the Earl of Drumoor. She launches herself into high society but soon grows disillusioned with the morals and fashions of the aristocracy and decides to return to the 'fresh air' of her own class. A young aristocrat, Errol, has meanwhile learnt to respect Clara's principles and to see his own decadent life in perspective. Impulsively he proposes marriage and they depart for Australia, presumably to a land where class differences can be forever reconciled.
The play had been presented live by Efftee at the Garrick Theatre, Melbourne, in August 1933, with Ruby May in the title role. The film version, shot early in 1934, remained very much a photographed stage play. The Argus, 15 October 1934, commented that the action moved 'with the stiffness and rigidity of a guardsman on parade. This is in no sense the fault of the cast. [Dorothy Brunton plays] with spirit and understanding [and] Mr Campbell Copelin gives a smooth and competent performance as the hero'.
Released by Universal at the Mayfair Theatre, Melbourne, on 13 October 1934, the film relied on Dorothy Brunton as a drawcard. She had been a star of musical comedy in Australia during the First World War and later in England, and Thring intended her name to carry the film both in the home market and abroad. However, after a three-week season at the Mayfair the film virtually disappeared, despite the award of third prize in the Commonwealth government's film competition in the following year. Pike & Cooper: 166-7.
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