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Officer 666** (Fred Niblo, 1916) J.C. Williamson Ltd; wr. W. J. Lincoln from the play by Augustin McHugh, adapted by George M. Cohan, dp Maurice Bertel; Fred Niblo, Enid Bennett, Mation Marcus Clarke, Sydney Stirling, Maurice Dudley, Henry Matsumoto, Pirie Bush, Edwin Lester, George Bryant, Matee Brown, Reine Connelly; 4 reels
Still from the film: that's very likely to be Fred Niblo putting on the policeman outfit
- apparently complete with false moustache.
In New York, a millionaire, Travers Gladwin, learns of a plot to steal his priceless collection of paintings. In order to observe the operations of the criminals, he pretends to vacate his house for a long trip, but remains in the area disguised as a police constable (number 666) The criminals arrive at his house led by the gentlemanly Alfred Wilson, who poses as Gladwin, complete with a new valet named Watkins, and a young lady as his fiancee. Gladwin, as the policeman, visits the house and with amusement watches the thieves at work packaging the paintings. When the real police arrive, both Officer 666 and the thief claim to be Gladwin and considerable confusion follows. Gladwin eventually allows the thief to escape in the constable's uniform in order to save the honour of the young girl innocently involved in the crime.
Niblo directed and starred in this comedy immediately after completing Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford, and finished it a few days before his return to America in June 1915. Three reels of the film survive today in the National Film and Sound Archive and reveal a crude production doggedly faithful to the stage and its New York setting: the camera is merely a passive observer of the stage action (complete with knowing winks of complicity between Gladwin and the audience), and the dialogues, although mute, are retained at length. It opened at the Theatre Royal, Sydney, on 1 April 1916, but like the filmed plays released before it in the J C Williamson series, it failed to attract much public attention. Another film of the same play was produced in Hollywood in 1920 by the Goldwyn Corporation. Pike & Cooper: 60-61.
Pike, Andrew & Ross Cooper 1998, Australian Film 1900-1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, OUP, Melbourne: 60-61.
Reade, Eric 1975, The Australian Screen: A Pictorial History of Australian Film-making, Lansdowne Press, Melbourne: 73 (image).
Shirley, Graham & Brian Adams 1989, Australian Cinema: The First Eighty Years, revised edition, Currency, Melbourne: 48.
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