Australasian Cinema > films >

A Hero of the Dardanelles

Hero Of The Dardanelles, The** (Alfred Rolfe, 1915) Australasian Films; wr. Phillip Gell, Loris Brown; Guy Hastings, Loma Rossmore, C. Throoby, Ruth Wainwright, Fred Francis; war; two brothers at Gallipoli; 4000 (?) ft.


Early in 1915 Australasian Films embarked on the production of feature films for the first time since 1912 (they had continued to produce 'novelty' items and newsreels). They returned to narrative films with a 2000-foot propaganda message, Will they Never Come? written by two of Australasian's publicity staff, Phillip Gell and Loris Brown, and directed by Alfred Rolfe, with assistance from the Department of Defence. It was a rudimentary recruiting appeal and contrasted the stories of two brothers, one who willingly does his duty and enlists, the other who persists with a reckless life of sport. It was released at the Crystal Palace, Sydney, on 5 April 1915, and proved in such high demand that Australasian promptly set about a second and more substantial film, The Hero Of The Dardanelles. The writers, director and much of the cast were retained from the earlier film, and again official endorsement and support came from the Department of Defence.


William Brown bids farewell to his old life of leisure >

The central incident in The Hero Of The Dardanelles was the landing of the Anzacs at Gaba Tepe, which was restaged at Tamarama Bay near Sydney just weeks after the actual event. The story presents, as in the earlier film, the careers of two brothers, one who has already enlisted, and another, William, who soon follows his example. The film shows Will being trained and, while on his final leave, persuading his pals in the pub to enlist. His patriotism and enthusiasm for the war is simple and unquestioning, and he is the pride of his wealthy family and sweetheart. They hold a farewell banquet in his honour and he is clearly established as an upper-class hero who will doubtless be good officer material in the army. Once his boat leaves for Egypt, the progress of his story is unknown, for the remainder of the film does not exist today.
The surviving scenes from the early part of the film show a fluent narrative style, with a free use of close-ups for dramatic effect. The missing scenes, re-creating the fighting in the Dardanelles, were based closely on reports by Ashmead-Bartlett and drawings and photographs of the landing. Hundreds of troops from the army training camp at Liverpool, NSW, were used, and the army also supplied the appropriate explosions and battle effects. Footage depicting the Anzac landing used in later films such as The Spirit Of Gallipoli (1928) was almost certainly derived from this 1915 production, and if so, reveals an astute choice of location and a skilful management of mass action.
Made at a time of intense public enthusiasm for the war, the film seemed to express for many people the romantic heroism of Australia's role in the war. After its premiere at the Majestic Theatre, Melbourne on 17 July 1915, it screened widely, accompanied by vigorous applause from the press and endorsement from many political figures. Pike & Cooper: 53-54.

References and links

Pike, Andrew & Ross Cooper 1998, Australian Film 1900-1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, OUP, Melbourne: 53-54.

Reade, Eric 1975, The Australian Screen: A Pictorial History of Australian Film-making, Lansdowne Press, Melbourne: 70, 71, 72.

Shirley, Graham & Brian Adams 1989, Australian Cinema: The First Eighty Years, revised edition, Currency, Melbourne: 36, 40, 46.

Garry Gillard | New: 23 October, 2018 | Now: 26 November, 2019