Marvellous Melbourne

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