Chips Rafferty

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Chips Rafferty
Chips Rafferty.jpg
Chips Rafferty in 1943
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)
Resting place Remains cast into his favourite fishing hole in Lovett Bay, Pittwater
Occupation Film actor
Years active 1939–71
Spouse(s) Ellen Jameson (1941-1964; her death)

Chips Rafferty MBE (26 March 1909 – 27 May 1971) was an 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 in Forty Thousand Horsemen. This film was enormously popular and was screened throughout the world.

War service[edit]

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. During the war, Rafferty was allowed to make films on leave. He appeared in The Rats of Tobruk (1944). He was discharged on 13 February 1945, having reached the rank of Flying Officer.[6]

International fame[edit]

Rafferty's first film after the war was The Overlanders, which was a popular success. He followed this with Bush Christmas. Ealing Studios signed Rafferty to a long term contract and cast him in The Loves of Joanna Godden. While promoting the film in Hollywood he met Hedda Hopper who said Rafferty "created quite a stir. They call him the Australian Gary Cooper, but if he were cut down a bit he would be more like the late Will Rogers. I don't know how they'll get him on the screen unless they do it horizontally... He is as natural as an old shoe."[7]

Rafferty's next film had him cast as Peter Lalor in the expensive spectacle Eureka Stockade. It was a box office disappointment and Rafferty's performance much criticised. He was more happily cast in Ealing's next film in Australia, Bitter Springs, but the film was not widely popular either.[citation needed]


Rafferty decided to move into movie production and formed a partnership with Lee Robinson. They made a series of films starring Rafferty and directed by Robinson including The Phantom Stockman, King of the Coral Sea and Walk into Paradise. However the next three Rafferty Robinson movies failed to feature him as an actor and were financial disappointments.

Later career[edit]

He appeared in The Sundowners (1960), with Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr, and Mutiny on the Bounty, with Marlon Brando. The filming of Bounty dragged on – meant to take six months, it would end up taking 14. However, the money earned by Rafferty – he dubbed the film The Bounteous Mutiny – restored him to financial health after the failure of his production company; it enabled him to buy a block of flats which supported him for the rest of his life.[8]

In 1962, the 6 foot 5 inch actor was socialising with fellow expatriates in a London club when one, who unbeknownst to Rafferty was a wrestler, claimed he was being ignored and started an argument. Rafferty was eventually provoked into accepting a challenge to 'step outside', where he was badly beaten. In addition to deep grazes to his face that that may have cost him the chance of roles in two major film productions the incident brought on a heart attack.[9][10]

Another of his appearances was with Elvis Presley in Double Trouble in 1967. In addition to his film work, Rafferty also guest starred in a range of Australian and American television shows, including Gunsmoke, Daktari, 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). 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 in a bid to increase the number of British migrants settling in Australia.[citation needed]

Rafferty's final film role was in 1971's Wake in Fright, where he played an outback policeman. (The movie was filmed 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".[11]

Hours before he died, Rafferty was offered a prominent role in a film The Day the Clown Cried by Jerry Lewis which was never completed or released.[1]


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][12] His wife Quentin predeceased him in 1964 and they had no children.[5] His remains were cremated. His ashes were scattered into his favourite fishing hole in Lovett Bay.


In the 1971 New Years' Honours, Rafferty was made a Member of the Order of British Empire (MBE) by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to the performing arts.[13]

Australia Post issued a stamp in 1989 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.[citation needed]

The Oxford Companion to Australian Film refers to Rafferty as "Australia's most prominent and significant actor of the 1940s–60s".[14]

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


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.[citation needed]


Year Title Role Notes
1939 Come Up Smiling Man in Crowd Film also known as Ants in His Pants, Uncredited
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 Dead Men Running
Wake in Fright Jock Crawford
Spyforce Leon Rielley (final television appearance)

Unmade projects[edit]

Rafferty tried to make the following projects but was unsuccessful:


  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. Retrieved 2016-10-25. 
  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. ^ Hopper, Hedda, "European Filmland", Chicago Daily Tribune, 22 June 1946, p. 12
  8. ^ Thomas, Kevin (27 February 1966) "Mr. Rafferty ... a Chips Off the Old Block", Los Angeles Times. pg. B6
  9. ^ The Age, "Chips Rafferty attacked by London Thugs", 10 September 1962, pg. 1
  10. ^ "Charles "Bud" Tingwell - Interview Transcript tape 7". Retrieved 25 October 2016. 
  11. ^ Sherlock, J. "Wake in Fright". Jim's DVD Review and Selections. Retrieved 27 November 2009. 
  12. ^ "CHIPS RAFFERTY, ACTOR, 62, DEAD: Australian Film Star Had Appeared on U.S. TV", The New York Times, 29 May 1971: 26.
  13. ^ "List of Awards in Full", The Times, 1 January 1971.
  14. ^ McFarlane et al., B. 2000 The Oxford Companion to Australian Film, Oxford University Press.<!-ISSN/ISBN needed-->
  15. ^ "You've Got To Be Lucky To Do What Barry Did". Truth (3072). New South Wales, Australia. 5 December 1948. p. 2. Retrieved 14 March 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  16. ^ "Q'land Location In New Rafferty Film". Morning Bulletin (27,251). Queensland, Australia. 25 October 1948. p. 1. Retrieved 14 March 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  17. ^ "Character part for Chips in next film". The Mail (Adelaide). 37 (1902). South Australia. 13 November 1948. p. 4. Retrieved 14 March 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  18. ^ "Actor Criticises Ruling on Films". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 22 January 1952. p. 4. Retrieved 5 August 2012. 
  19. ^ Martin, Betty (1 November 1968) "Movie Call Sheet: 'Paradise Island' Rights Bought" Los Angeles Times, p. f22
  20. ^ "Entertainment: Miss Funicello Stars With Sands Film Is 'Babes in Toyland'; Presley Sets Four for Metro" Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times, 26 January 1961, p. B10

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