Raymond Longford and Lottie Lyell

The Romantic Story of Margaret Catchpole
R: Raymond Longford. K: Arthur Higgins. D: Lottie Lyell, Raymond Longford, Augustus Neville. P: Spencer’s Pictures. AUS 1911
Print: National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA)

“Although only a few of his films are extant, Raymond Longford is recognized as the leading director of the early Australian cinema. For most of his career, he worked in partnership with actress Lottie Lyell. So closely were their lives and careers intertwined that any serious attempt to evaluate their separate contributions must first take into account their work as a creative team. Their common dedication to cinematic naturalism had a profound effect on filmmaking in Australia. (…)
Film production was booming in Australia in 1911 when Longford acted in three films for Spencer’s Pictures in Sydney. He soon graduated to director with The Fatal Wedding (1911). Adapted by Longford from a popular stage melodrama in which he had toured with Lyell the year before, it was filmed in a local artist’s studio with the roof removed to allow light from the sun. Lyell recreated her stage role, and Arthur Higgins served as cinematographer (and would continue to do so for the majority of Longford’s productions).
Longford’s next film was one of the most popular Australian films of the period, The Romantic Story of Margaret Catchpole (1911). Dramatizing the true story of an Englishwoman who was transported to Australia for horse stealing in 1801, the film gave Lyell in the title role an excellent opportunity to demonstrate her athleticism, especially the riding skills for which she would become famous. Longford followed up this success with a number of other films displaying Lyell’s ability as an equestrienne. Often, she portrayed that distinctively Australian heroine, the girl of the bush who was a man’s equal in courage and resourcefulness.”
William M. Drew
Gilda Tabarez