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Diggers In Blighty

Diggers In Blighty* (Pat Hanna, 1933) Pat Hanna Productions, ass. dir. Raymond Longford, wr. Pat Hanna, dp Arthur Higgins; 72 mins; Pat Hanna, Joe Valli, George Moon, Norman French, John D'Arcy, Prudence Irving, Thelma Scott, Edwin Brett, Nellie Mortyne, Isa Crossley, Raymond Longford, Guy Hastings, Field Fisher, George Randall, Alfred Frith, Reg Wykeham, Sylvia Sterling; available for purchase from NFSA together with the earlier film


On the right: Pat Hanna, George Moon, Joe Valli >

After his unhappy experience with Thring in the production of Diggers (1931), Hanna set up a separate firm and hired the Efftee studio to make his own films. Diggers In Blighty was again based on sketches used in the Diggers stage show. While serving in France in 1918, Chic and Joe abscond with rum from the quartermaster's store. Later they unwittingly help British Intelligence to pass false battle plans to a German spy and are rewarded with ten days leave in England. There they rendezvous in a stately home in Essex and find their uncouth manners at odds with the proper behaviour of the English. A pair of romantic sub-plots involving the diggers' upper-class friends are resolved happily in the final scenes, and the film ends with the diggers enthusiastically broaching a large keg of home-brewed beer.


Raymond Longford on the right >

With a cast largely drawn from the Diggers stage company, the film was shot over a six-week period, commencing early in October 1932. Although less static than Diggers, the action remained slow-moving and laborious, with studio scenes relieved only by a few newsreel shots of the war and stock footage of London's tourist highlights. Sound reproduction was also poor, and one critic complained of the 'Niagara of noise' coming from the screen. The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 April 1933, found the humour swamped by three major faults: the 'torrent of shouting and noise' on the soundtrack, the lack of adequate direction for the cast, especially 'the energetic "registering" of emotion' by the women; and the 'exceedingly weak' continuity of the story.
The film was released by Universal on a double bill with Efftee's Harmony Row at the Hoyts Theatre De Luxe in Melbourne, on 11 February 1933. Pike & Cooper: 159-160.

The diggers and their officer, who has fallen for a nurse at the hospital, are subtly manipulated by a British intelligence officer to assist in passing false battle plans to the Germans. Given leave in England, they end up billeted at a country house and offered barley water instead of the home-brew they anticipated.
Directed by Pat Hanna and assisted by acclaimed silent film director Raymond Longford, who also played the role of the German spy.

References and Links

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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