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Harvest Gold* (Kevin Murphy, 1945) prod. Harold Gray, Supreme Sound System, sponsor Caltex, dp Arthur Higgins, ed. James Pearson; 55 mins; Joe Valli, Harry Abdy, Tal Ordell, Leal Douglas, Ethel Lang, Maurice Flannery, Clifton Penny, Bruce Beeby, Grace Lappin, Zoe Holland, Peter Dunstan, Beverley McMahon
This narrative film, sponsored by the oil company Caltex, is a skilful blend of 'hard sell' propaganda for the mechanisation of farming, and of 'soft sell' publicity for Caltex fuels and lubricants. The story focuses on the conflict between Andy Johnson, a farmer who has taken full advantage of mechanisation, and McDougal, a hard-headed Scot who stubbornly refuses to discard his antiquated farming methods. A change is only wrought when a cyclone threatens McDougal's crop: Johnson comes to the rescue with his machines and helps him to complete harvesting in time.
The film is chiefly notable for a fine comic performance by Joe Valli and for its semi-documentary record of the life of a small agricultural community under wartime conditions, with its War Agricultural Committee and Women's Land Army unit. Exteriors were shot in and around Tamworth and Campbelltown, NSW, and interiors at Supreme's small North Sydney studio. Raw film stock, then scarce, was made available for the production because of support from the Department of Agriculture. Released on both 35-mm and 16-mm, the film screened widely in non-commercial outlets in 1945 and after the war.
Harvest Gold was the only feature directed by Mervyn Ross Murphy, one of Australia's foremost technicians and a pioneer in sound recording. In 1935 he opened his own business, Supreme Sound System, initially making sound equipment and servicing many local productions. In the late 1930s, with cameraman Arthur Higgins, he developed a bi-pack two-colour system called Solarchrome, but Murphy soon left Higgins to establish an identical rival system, Panachrome, which he used in numerous advertising films. After the war Supreme expanded to offer full technical and laboratory facilities to producers, and became one of the major service centres in the industry. These facilities were used by many features, including The Back of Beyond (1954), On the Beach (1959), The Sundowners (1960) and Journey Out Of Darkness (1967), in which Murphy invested heavily. He died suddenly in March 1971 while still intensely active in the industry. Pike & Cooper: 197-8.
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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