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Dad and Dave Come To Town* (Ken G. Hall, 1938) aka The Rudd Family Goes to Town; stories by Steele Rudd; Cinesound Productions, prod. Ken G Hall, wr. Frank Harvey, Bert Bailey, story Ken G Hall, dp George Heath; 97 mins; Bert Bailey, Shirley Ann Richards, Fred MacDonald, Billy Rayes, Alec Kellaway, Sidney Wheeler, Connie Martyn, Ossie Wenban, Valerie Scanlan, Muriel Ford, Leila Steppe, Marshall Crosby, Peter Finch, Cecil Perry, Billy Stewart, Marie D'Alton, Leslie Victor, George Lloyd, Jack Settle, Sid Doody and Cyril Northcote, Raymond Longford; comedy; Peter Finch's first film
The third in Cinesound's Dad and Dave series had virtually nothing in common with Steele Rudd's stories and was based instead on one of Ken Hall's favourite comic formulas of the 'fish out of water'. The Rudd family tree, always mutable in the Cinesound series, was modified by the addition of Jill, a sophisticated adult daughter, and by the removal of Dave from his marriage bonds. Also, because Hall believed that the rural setting was exhausted after the popularity of Dad and Dave on radio and in the two earlier films, he moved the main location of the plot to a bustling modern city (unnamed to avoid Sydney-Melbourne rivalries).
Dad unexpectedly inherits a women's fashion store in the city, and the family moves there to take charge. They find it hard to adapt; Dad still rises at dawn (feeding time for the fowls) and a modern bathroom causes complete confusion. Entwistle, an effeminate floor-walker at the shop, helps the Rudds to foil a plot by a rival firm to put the store out of business. In the process Dad becomes renowned as 'the farmer dress-maker' and stages a giant fashion show, which is a huge success. With the business saved, Dad returns to the farm and leaves the store in the hands of his daughter, Jill.
With a budget of £23,000, the film was shot in mid-1938 at Cinesound's Bondi studio and on location at Camden. The highlight was the fashion show (complete with a ballet and rear-projected backgrounds), conceived by Hall and designed jointly by the costumier Mavis Ripper with Eric Thompson and J Alan Kenyon. The film also introduced Peter Finch in the small part of a gangling yokel in love with Sarah Rudd. Born in London in 1916, Finch had come to Australia at the age of twelve. His acting career began in vaudeville and in George Sorlie's touring tent show in New South Wales and Queensland. He quickly progressed to radio drama and the Sydney stage, and made his first film appearance in The Magic Shoes (1935), an unreleased children's short directed by Claude Flemming. His later film roles in Australia were character parts and varied widely, from the yokel in Dad And Dave Come To Town to a Nazi spy in The Power and the Glory (1941), a sensitive English-born soldier in The Rats Of Tobruk (1944) and a dissolute drunkard in A Son Is Born (1946). Finch was also a leading figure in the progressive Mercury Theatre in Sydney, a radio producer for the ABC, and an assistant director on two documentaries made in Arnhem Land by George Heath. In September 1948, after playing a brief but effective role in Eureka Stockade, he went to London and quickly established himself there as a major international star. He died in the USA in January 1977, and in March 1977 was post humously awarded an Academy Award for his performance in Network (1976).
Dad And Dave Come To Town was first released by BEF on 30 September at the Capitol Theatre, Sydney, where it ran for three weeks despite the Capitol's normal weekly change of program. Early in 1939 a version shortened to 78 minutes was given a West End release in London under the title The Rudd Family Goes to Town. Unlike the earlier Dad and Dave films, it proved quite popular in England, probably because of its more sophisticated comedy, and it received over 1800 bookings in British theatres, claimed at the time to be a record for an Australian production. Pike & Cooper: 183-4.
Hall, Ken G. 1980, Australian Film: The Inside Story, Summit, Sydney; second edition: the first edition was entitled Directed by Ken G. Hall, 1977.
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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