Urban Views: Perth and Melbourne

Street Scenes in Perth, Western Australia
R, K and P: Leonard Corrick. AUS 1907
This film is part of the Corrick Collection of films made and screened by the Marvellous Corricks during their touring career, 1901-14. Donated to the NFSA by John Corrick. (NFSA)

“One of the first films the Corricks made after acquiring their motion picture camera was set on Perth’s Hay, Barrack and William streets. They placed a special notice in the Friday, 8 March 1907 edition of ‘The West Australian’ newspaper announcing that the next morning they would be filming at St George’s Terrace near the post office, and two different downtown intersections (Hay and William, and Hay and Barrack streets). The resulting film would be shown during their concert that night and every night during the coming week. On Saturday evening, the Queen’s Hall was crowded with locals who came to see themselves on screen, alongside footage of the Prince and Princess of Wales during their visit to Mandalay; views of Venice, Vesuvius, and Rome; and a selection of comedic and trick films, including La Fée aux fleurs and Dream of a Rarebit Fiend. While the length of the original film is unknown, what remains is a sequence of four shots featuring downtown Perth and its inhabitants. Over the next month, the family made two other films in the region: The Day-Postle Match at Boulder, Western Australia (1907), documenting a series of races between Australian sprinting champion Arthur Postle and Irishman RB Day, and The Bashful Mr Brown (1907), a chase-comedy starring the Corricks themselves, which they filmed in some of the same locations seen in Street Scenes in Perth.”
Leslie Lewis
National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA)

Marvellous Melbourne – Queen City of the South 
R: Charles Cozens Spencer. K: Ernest Higgins. P: Charles Cozens Spencer. AUS 1910

“In the days of early film production ‘scenics’ or ‘gazettes’ were seminal in establishing urban film-going as ‘big business’. Most popular between 1903 and 1912, they coincided with the development of city film exhibition, which ‘The Bulletin’ in March 1908 reported to include over a dozen Melbourne cinemas either in the form of auditoriums permanently built for film watching or existing buildings renovated for ‘special film events’. Although local dramas such as The Story of the Kelly Gang (Charles Tait, 1906) were popular in Melbourne, the city documentaries caused the largest sensation because they allowed audiences to see their life and city as represented. Cozen Spencer’s Marvellous Melbourne: Queen City of the South (1910) surveyed how Melburnians took advantage of expanded leisure time and a reduced working week. (…)
Considering that Cozens Spencer was a Londoner and Ernest Higgins was Tasmanian, and both lived in Sydney, Marvellous Melbourne could only ever offer a touristic ‘imagination’ of the city. This quality certainly validates the filmmakers’ decision to shoot the film as a travelogue. Yet, as much as the film creates a glossed portrait of the city, its grand and theatrical style sets it apart from the typical ‘ethnographic’ films of its day, mostly shot by inexperienced film practitioners. It is also different from other Australian scenics, such as Buffalo Mountains (1909) and Australia at Work (1911), which fetishise the ‘workingman’ ethos of Australian legend. Marvellous Melbourne highlights a civilised social order in which women, children and men join together to enjoy local sport (such as a rugged game of Australian Rules football at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.) (…)
Marvellous Melbourne is an interesting, nascent example of how the city has been repeatedly introduced and re-imagined throughout the history of Melbourne filmmaking. Yet crucially, it provides a sense of identity and focus not only for Melburnians but a wider cinema audience. Spencer’s film was often included in England (in 1911) on the same programme as Charles Urban’s enduring and resilient Living London (1903), a work that was still popular eight years after its production. In addition to working as a topographic document that illustrates the design and architecture of a now historical city, Marvellous Melbourne demonstrates the way in which Spencer introduced and represented the city as a cultural hub of festivity and modernity.”
Stephen Gaunson
senses of cinema


>>> The Story of the Kelly Gang on this website: Early Cinema in Australia – 1