Paulette McDonagh

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Paulette de Vere McDonagh (1901–1978), was an Australian film director, who often worked in collaboration with her sisters Phyllis and Isabella. In 1933 it was claimed she was one of only five female film directors in the world.[1]

At one stage they had offers to go to Hollywood. "Fox Films offered to send us," said Phyllis McDonagh, "But we were sensible girls. We sat down and talked and decided we would end up very small fish in a big pond. At home we had work and a reputation."[2]

Life and career[edit]

Paulette McDangh was born on 11 June 1901. She collaborated alongside her sisters Isabel and Phyllis to create and produce films. They were business partners, working together in the Australian film industry during the times of the 1920s and 1930s. Paulette, the youngest of the three sisters, was known to be the writer and director of all of their films while Phyllis acted as publisher and promoter, and Isabel thrived as the actress. Growing up in an upper-middle-class neighborhood, their home was a lavish back drop for most of their films, filled with antique furniture and rich colors.[3]

Their first silent film, Those Who Love (1926), was funded privately by their family. Paulette took over the position of directing the screenplay when creative differences with P.J. Ramster broke out. However, after this risky attempt, their work paid off as the publication, Everyone's, gave them a rave review.[4] To quote, the article stated that, "The result is a dazzling triumph and which is said to be the best Australian film that has yet graced the screen. A Sydney girl whose Histrionic ability is remarkable. Her splendid performance ranks with some of the best characterizations ever given to the screen by the world’s greatest stars." Along with Those Who Love (1926), other silent films created by the McDonagh sisters included The Far Paradise (1928), and The Cheaters (1930). (2) The following two films were able to be produced because of the success of Those Who Love. The Far Paradise was also considered a box office hit because of its enormous success and acclaimed fine art techniques. These films produced by the sisters were inspired and influenced not just by Australian film, but also Hollywood melodrama and German expressionism. The melodramatic influences allow for overacting on Isabel’s part while Phyllis and Paulette were able to create longer screen time for her to perform on her own. Isabel acted as a more interesting heroine than most films of its time. Paulette as director, had Isabel acting in different situations such as breaking and entering, cracking safes, and even in the arms of a lover. During this time period it was outside of the norm to show a woman on screen performing those acts, but this gave their silent films depth and a following of a greater and more appreciative crowd. Despite the small budget, the sisters, and especially Paulette, were able to create society melodramas or romance, sacrifice, and parental opposition.[5]

After[edit]

Isabel and Phyllis retired from the film industry for various reasons, Paulette found it difficult to continue her work alone despite her effort to stick it out. In 1934 she took a job to work on a romantic epic based on the life of a known reverend John Flynn. Many difficulties such as lacking a necessary budget and having no one to act or produce the film, Paulette was forced to drop the job. With the start of her film career ending, she continued to live with her younger siblings. Paulette died in Sydney on 30 August 1978.[6]

Select filmography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "PRIVATE VIEWS.". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 28 October 1933. p. 32. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  2. ^ "WHEN THREE DASHING SISTERS MADE A MOVIE.". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 21 April 1971. p. 4. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  3. ^ "The McDonagh Sisters – Women Film Pioneers Project". wfpp.cdrs.columbia.edu. Retrieved 2015-11-09. 
  4. ^ "The McDonagh Sisters – Women Film Pioneers Project". wfpp.cdrs.columbia.edu. Retrieved 2015-11-09. 
  5. ^ Wright, Andrée. McDonagh, Paulette de Vere (1901–1978). Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. 
  6. ^ Wright, Andrée. McDonagh, Paulette de Vere (1901–1978). Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. 

External links[edit]