Bitter Springs (film)

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Bitter Springs
Directed by Ralph Smart
Produced by Michael Balcon
Leslie Norman (assoc)
Written by Monja Danischewsky
W. P. Lipscomb
Based on a story by Ralph Smart
Starring Tommy Trinder
Chips Rafferty
Gordon Jackson
Music by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Cinematography George Heath
Edited by Bernard Gribble
Production
company
Release dates
  • 24 June 1950 (1950-06-24) (Australia)
  • 6 July 1950 (1950-07-06) (UK)
Country Australia
United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £100,000[1]

Bitter Springs is an AustralianBritish film directed by Ralph Smart and released in 1950. An Australian pioneer family buys a piece of land from the government in the Australian outback in 1900 and hire two inexperienced British men as drovers. Problems with local Aboriginal people arise over the possession of a waterhole. Much of the film was shot on location in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia[2]

Plot[edit]

In the early 1900s, Wally King travels 600 miles to outback South Australia to occupy land he has bought from the government. He is accompanied by his wife Ma, children Emma and John, and friends Tommy and Mac. Despite warnings from a local trooper, the bigoted King clashes with an Aboriginal tribe who depend on water located on what has become the family's property.

Relations with the local Aboriginal people deteriorate to the point where John King is speared. The Kings are in danger of being killed by a raiding party but they are rescued by the trooper and his men. A compromise is reached where the Kings agree to work with the Aboriginal people running a sheep station.[3]

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The film was the idea of Ralph Smart and roughly based on an apparent true story.[4] This was the third movie Ealing Studios made in Australia following the success of The Overlanders (1946). It was originally announced as a comedy starring Rafferty and Trinder, and was meant to be followed by a version of Robbery Under Arms.[5]

Tommy Trinder's part was created especially for him to ensure the movie had some comic relief.[6] Nick Yardley had previously appeared in Ralph Smart's Bush Christmas.[7] Nonie Piefer was a 19 year old model.[8]

The original script ended with the massacre of Aboriginal people at the hands of the white settlers, but this was changed at the insistence of Ealing Studios.[9]

Ralph Smart scouted around Australia for locations and at one stage it seemed that the film would be made in Murgon, Queensland[10] but eventually it was decided to make it in South Australia.[11]

Filming started in May 1949.[12][13] Location shooting was completed in November, nearly two months behind schedule due to rain delays, and was followed by two weeks at Pagewood Studios in Sydney.

130 Aboriginal people were used as extras.[14] They had no where to stay when they arrived due to an administrative oversight[15] and their treatment on set was criticised.[16] Ealing wanted to pay Aboriginal actor Henry Murdoch the same as white actors but the Department of Native Affairs refused, only granting him a regular allowance.[17]

During filming a man went around Adelaide pretending to be a talent scout for the film offering women the chance to appear in it.[18]

Release[edit]

The film had its world premiere in Adelaide, which was attended by Don Bradman.[19] Although reviews were generally respectful[20][21] the film was a box office disappointment on release and Ealing abandoned its plans to make further movies in Australia. It sold off Pagewood Studios in 1952.[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "TRINDER FOR SA FILM.". The Argus (Melbourne: National Library of Australia). 7 April 1949. p. 3. Retrieved 23 August 2012. 
  2. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042253/locations accessed 25 September 2011
  3. ^ "Premiere of "Bitter Springs".". The Australian Women's Weekly (National Library of Australia). 1 July 1950. p. 44. Retrieved 23 August 2012. 
  4. ^ "Those Hitter Springs.". The Sunday Herald (Sydney: National Library of Australia). 20 November 1949. p. 4 Supplement: Features. Retrieved 23 August 2012. 
  5. ^ "AUSTRALIAN COMEDY FILM TO BE MADE.". The Argus (Melbourne: National Library of Australia). 13 August 1948. p. 3. Retrieved 14 February 2012. 
  6. ^ ""Bitter Springs" is beginning of new era.". The Argus (Melbourne: National Library of Australia). 24 June 1950. p. 8. Retrieved 23 August 2012. 
  7. ^ "Young Actors In "Blue Bird".". The Sunday Herald (Sydney: National Library of Australia). 27 March 1949. p. 3 Supplement: Playtime. Retrieved 23 August 2012. 
  8. ^ "SYDNEY ACTRESS TO STAR IN NEW FILM.". The Advertiser (Adelaide: National Library of Australia). 3 May 1949. p. 1. Retrieved 23 August 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Philip Kemp, 'On the Slide: Harry Watt and Ealing's Australian Adventure', Second Take: Australian Filmmakers Talk, Ed Geoff Burton and Raffaele Caputo, Allen & Unwin 1999 p 145-164
  10. ^ "Likes Murgon for film.". The Courier-Mail (Brisbane: National Library of Australia). 20 January 1949. p. 3. Retrieved 19 March 2012. 
  11. ^ "Mr. Playford "Sells" S.A. Film Sites.". The Advertiser (Adelaide: National Library of Australia). 2 April 1949. p. 1. Retrieved 19 March 2012. 
  12. ^ "Principals Of "Bitter Springs Arrive.". The Advertiser (Adelaide: National Library of Australia). 18 May 1949. p. 1. Retrieved 19 March 2012. 
  13. ^ "Natives Help Workmen Build Camp.". The Advertiser (Adelaide: National Library of Australia). 20 May 1949. p. 3. Retrieved 19 March 2012. 
  14. ^ "Film News And Features 130 Aboriginal Tribesmen Steal Show In New Picture.". The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 24 August 1950. p. 13. Retrieved 23 August 2012. 
  15. ^ "No Camp For Film Natives.". The Advertiser (Adelaide: National Library of Australia). 19 May 1949. p. 3. Retrieved 23 August 2012. 
  16. ^ "Natives For Film Herded Like Cattle.". The Daily News (Perth: National Library of Australia). 19 May 1949. p. 3 Edition: FINAL. Retrieved 23 August 2012. 
  17. ^ "Aborigine actor's bad deal.". The Argus (Melbourne: National Library of Australia). 15 April 1950. p. 6. Retrieved 23 August 2012. 
  18. ^ "FILM HOAX ON GIRL FAILS.". The Mail (Adelaide: National Library of Australia). 21 May 1949. p. 1. Retrieved 23 August 2012. 
  19. ^ "Guests At "Bitter Springs" Premiere.". The Advertiser (Adelaide: National Library of Australia). 24 June 1950. p. 3. Retrieved 23 August 2012. 
  20. ^ ""Bitter Springs".". The Sunday Herald (Sydney: National Library of Australia). 27 August 1950. p. 5 Supplement: Sunday Herald Features. Retrieved 23 August 2012. 
  21. ^ "AUSTRALIAN FILM HAS PREMIERE 'Bitter Springs' is triumph for aborigines.". The Argus (Melbourne: National Library of Australia). 26 June 1950. p. 12. Retrieved 23 August 2012. 

External links[edit]