Chips Rafferty

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Chips Rafferty
Chips Rafferty.jpg
Chips Rafferty
Born John William Pilbean Goffage
(1909-03-26)26 March 1909
Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia
Died 27 May 1971(1971-05-27) (aged 62)
Sydney
Resting place
Cremated and his ashes cast into his favourite fishing hole in Lovett Bay, Pittwater
Occupation Film actor
Years active 1939–71

Chips Rafferty MBE (26 March 1909 – 27 May 1971) was an iconic Australian actor. Called "the living symbol of the typical Australian",[1] Rafferty's career stretched from the 1940s until his death in 1971, and during this time he performed regularly in major Australian feature films as well as appearing in British and American productions. He appeared in commercials in Britain during the late 1950s, encouraging British emigration to Australia.

Early days[edit]

He was born John William Pilbean Goffage in Broken Hill, New South Wales to John Goffage, an English-born stock agent, and Australian-born Violet Maude Joyce.[2] Gaining the nickname "Chips" as a school boy,[2] Rafferty studied at Parramatta Commercial High School before working in a variety of jobs, including opal miner, sheep shearer, drover, airman[3] and pearl diver[1] before making his film debut in Ants in His Pants in 1938. At that time he was managing a wine cellar in Bond Street, Sydney.[4]

Film career[edit]

Rafferty's onscreen image as a lanky, laconic bushman struck a chord with filmgoers and Rafferty soon became the most popular actor in Australia, appearing in such films as Forty Thousand Horsemen, The Rats of Tobruk, The Overlanders and Eureka Stockade.

Rafferty married Ellen Kathleen "Quentin" Jameson on 28 May 1941.[5] He enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force the next day and entertained troops. He was discharged on 13 February 1945, having reached the rank of Flying Officer.[6]

Hollywood also beckoned, and Rafferty appeared in American fare like The Desert Rats, opposite Richard Burton; The Sundowners, with Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr; and Mutiny on the Bounty, with Marlon Brando. The most bizarre appearance was with Elvis Presley in Double Trouble in 1967. Initially, Rafferty was marketed in the United States as the Australian version of Cary Grant before being allowed to resume playing variations of the leathery bushman role that had served him well so far.

Rafferty also produced and wrote films for a production company, Southern International, which he founded in 1953,[7] although none of these reached the same level of popularity as those he appeared in for other companies. These included producing The Phantom Stockman, producing and writing the original screenplay for King of the Coral Sea (1953), producing and providing the original story for Walk Into Paradise (1956) and producing Dust in the Sun (1958) and The Ambitious One (1959).

In addition to his film work, Rafferty also guest starred in a range of Australian and American television shows, including Gunsmoke, The Stranger, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, Tarzan, The Monkees and The Wackiest Ship in the Army (as a different character to the role that he played in the movie version). In one rather bizarre role, he played a Union soldier in The Big Valley with a noticeably Australian accent. He also participated in cinema advertisements that were part of an Australian Government campaign in 1957 called "Bring out a Briton". The campaign was launched by the government in a bid to increase the number of British migrants settling in Australia.

In 1962, the 198 cm (6'6") actor was in a London club when a fellow Australian started an argument. Unaware his antagonist was a professional wrestler, Rafferty was provoked into 'stepping outside'. He received a serious beating that brought on a heart attack. Time spent recovering from the incident may have cost him the chance of roles in two major film productions.[8][9]

Rafferty's final film role was in 1971's Wake in Fright, where he played an outback policeman. (The film was made mainly in and around Rafferty's home town of Broken Hill.) In a review of the film, a critic praised Rafferty's performance, writing that he "exudes an unnerving intensity with a deceptively menacing and disturbing performance that ranks among the best of his career".[10]

Hours before he died, Rafferty was offered a prominent role in the film The Day the Clown Cried by Jerry Lewis.[1] The film has never been completed or officially released, and is apparently unlikely ever to be.

Death[edit]

Rafferty collapsed and died of a heart attack while walking down a Sydney street at the age of 62 shortly after completing his role in Wake in Fright.[3] His wife Quentin predeceased him in 1964 and they had no children.[5]

Honours[edit]

In the 1971 New Years' Honours, Rafferty was made a Member of the Order of British Empire (MBE) by Elizabeth II for his services to the performing arts.[11] Australia Post issued a stamp in 1974 that depicted Rafferty in recognition of his work in Australian cinema, and in March 2006, Broken Hill City Council announced that the town's Entertainment Centre would be named in honour of Rafferty.

The Oxford Companion to Australian Film refers to Rafferty as "Australia's most prominent and significant actor of the 1940s–60s".[12]

Australian singer/songwriter Richard Davies wrote a song titled "Chips Rafferty" for his album There's Never Been A Crowd Like This.[13]

Associations[edit]

He was also a talented artist, and as "Long John Goffage" was a leading light of the Black and White Artists' Club.[4]

He was a Freemason.[14]

In popular culture[edit]

Rafferty is mentioned prominently by name in the single "Big Shot" by Canadian rock band the Pack A.D.

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1939 Come Up Smiling Man in Crowd (uncredited) Film also known as Ants in His Pants
1940 Dad Rudd, MP Fireman
Forty Thousand Horsemen Jim
1944 The Rats of Tobruk Milo Trent
1946 The Overlanders Dan McAlpine
1947 Bush Christmas Long Bill
The Loves of Joanna Godden Collard Filmed in Britain.
1949 Eureka Stockade Peter Lalor Released as Massacre Hill in the United States.
1950 Bitter Springs Wally King
1952 Kangaroo Trooper 'Len' Leonard Rafferty's first Hollywood-financed film, though shot in Australia.
1953 The Desert Rats Sgt. 'Blue' Smith Filmed in Hollywood.
The Phantom Stockman The Sundowner Rafferty also produced and helped write the script. Released in the United States as Return of the Plainsman.
King of the Coral Sea Ted King Rafferty also produced and helped write the script.
1956 Smiley Sergeant Flaxman
Walk Into Paradise Steve MacAllister Rafferty also produced. Released in the United States as Walk into Hell
1958 Smiley Gets a Gun Sergeant Flaxman
The Flaming Sword Long Tom
1960 The Sundowners Quinlan
The Wackiest Ship in the Army Patterson A comedy, with Rafferty as an Australian Coastwatcher on a secret mission, and Jack Lemmon in charge of the ship
1962 Mutiny on the Bounty Michael Byrne Rafferty was in financial difficulty after the failure of some of his producing projects, but he got out of it with all the overtime he earned during the production of this film.
1966 They're a Weird Mob Harry Kelly
1967 Adventures of the Seaspray
Double Trouble Archie Brown Filmed in Britain.
1968 Kona Coast Charlie Lightfoot
1970 Skullduggery Father 'Pop' Dillingham
1971 Wake in Fright Jock Crawford
Dead Men Running
Spyforce Leon Rielley

Unmade projects[edit]

Rafferty tried to make the following projects but was unsuccessful:

  • The Green Opal - a £60,000 film about immigration he tried to make in 1951[15]
  • Return of the Boomerang (1969) directed by Philip Leacock[16]
  • In 1961 MGM announced they would use Rafferty in How the West Was Won and Chautauqua.[17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Hooper, K. "Chips was denied comeback chance", The Age, 29 May 1971, p. 2.
  2. ^ a b Pike, A. (1996) "Goffage, John William Pilbean [Chips Rafferty] (1909–1971)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, Melbourne University Press.
  3. ^ a b "Obituary: Chips Rafferty, Australian film actor", The Times, 29 May 1971.
  4. ^ a b The Mercury (Hobart) 13 April 1946
  5. ^ a b Legge, J. (1968) Who's Who in Australia, XIX Edition, Herald and Weekly Times Limited, Melbourne.
  6. ^ "Goffage, John". World War II Nominal Roll. Retrieved 27 January 2008. 
  7. ^ Mayer, J. (2004) "Lee Robinson (1923–2003)", Screening the Past. http://www.latrobe.edu.au/screeningthepast/firstrelease/fr_16/gmfr16.html Accessed 2 January 2008.
  8. ^ The Age, "Chips Rafferty attacked by London Thugs", 10 September 1962, p. 1
  9. ^ www.australianbiography.gov.au/ Charles "Bud" Tingwell - Interview
  10. ^ Sherlock, J. "Wake in Fright". Jim's DVD Review and Selections. Retrieved 27 November 2009. 
  11. ^ "List of Awards in Full", The Times, 1 January 1971.
  12. ^ McFarlane et al., B. 2000 The Oxford Companion to Australian Film, Oxford University Press.
  13. ^ Richard Davies' ″There's Never Been A Crowd Like This at lastfm.de Retrieved 08.April 2013
  14. ^ http://www.freemasonrysaust.org.au/freemason.html#famous
  15. ^ "ACTOR CRITICISES RULING ON FILMS.". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) (NSW: National Library of Australia). 22 January 1952. p. 4. Retrieved 5 August 2012. 
  16. ^ MOVIE CALL SHEET: 'Paradise Island' Rights Bought Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 01 Nov 1968: f22.
  17. ^ Entertainment: Miss Funicello Stars With Sands Film Is 'Babes in Toyland'; Presley Sets Four for Metro Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 26 Jan 1961: B10.

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