The Fatal Wedding

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The Fatal Wedding
The Fatal Wedding still.jpg
Still from the film
Directed by Raymond Longford
Produced by Charles Cozens Spencer
Written by Raymond Longford
Lottie Lyell
Based on play by Theodore Kremer
novel by R. M. Clay
Starring Raymond Longford
Lottie Lyell
Cinematography Arthur Higgins
Edited by Arthur Higgins[1]
Spencer's Pictures
Distributed by Spencer's Pictures
Release date
24 April 1911[2]
Running time
3,500 feet
Country Australia
Language Silent film
English intertitles
Budget £360[3][4] or ₤600 (Longford estimate)[5] or £4,000[6]
Box office ₤18,000 (est.)[3][4][6]

The Fatal Wedding is a 1911 Australian silent film directed by Raymond Longford based on a popular American stage melodrama which he and Lottie Lyell had toured around Australia.[7]

It was Longford's debut feature as director and one of the most popular Australian movies of its day. It is considered a lost film.


An adventuress, Cora Williams is in love with Howard Wilson, even though he is happily married to Mabel, and they have small children. Cora gets a man called Curtis to pretend to be in love with Mabel and engineers a situation where Howard walks in on them and gets the wrong impression. It works, Howard divorces Mabel and gets custody of their children Jessie and Frankie. Mabel winds up abducting them.

Five years later Cora discovers Mabel living in poverty with the children. She tries to poison Mabel and frame Jessie on a charge of theft but is unsuccessful. Howard and Mabel eventually reconcile and live with their children.


  • Lottie Lyell as Mabel Wilson
  • Raymond Longford as Howard Wilson
  • Walter Vincent as Robert Curtis
  • Tom Cosgrove as Toto
  • Henry Saville as Peter Schwartz
  • George Ellis as Constable O'Reilly
  • Mr Henderson as Reverend Dr Lanceford
  • Miss Clare as Cora Williams
  • Helen Fergus as Bridget
  • Elsie Rennie as Jessie
  • Master Anson as Frankie

Original Play[edit]

The Fatal Wedding
The Fatal Wedding stage play.jpg
Poster from early Australian production of play
Written by Theodore Kremer
Date premiered 1901
Original language English
Genre melodrama

Theodore Kremer's play had appeared on Broadway in 1901 and been popular in England, the US and Australia.[8]

Mary Pickford had appeared in productions of the play early in her career.

Kremer later wrote a companion play in 1902, For Her Children's Sake.[9]

The play was the subject of an unsuccessful plagiarism action.[10]


Although Longford had appeared in several films as an actor and helped make a documentary about the BurnsJohnson fight in 1908,[11] this was his first feature as director. It was also Lottie Lyell's first movie.[12]

Longford and Lyell had acted in the play when it toured around Australia under the management of entrepreneur Philip Lytton.[13][14]

Various figures have been given for the budget - the earliest repor said it was more than £500.[15]

Shooting took place largely in an artist's studio in Bondi with a roof taken off and six foot reflectors used to improve the lighting.[5] Longford claimed it was the "first interior picture taken in Australia."[1]

Differences from the Play[edit]

According to contemporary reviews, the one departure from the stage show was the introduction of a motor car in the scene which shows little Jessie (Elsie Rennie) leaving Paradise Alley with a bodyguard of poor children.[16]

Another reviewer said the ending was changed; the play finished in the church but Longford "introduces for a finish the restoration of Mabel to her husband and family amidst the glow of glorious Australian scenery."[17]


Advertising claimed the film would "inaugurate a New Era in Motion Photography."[18] It was previewed on 21 April 1911.


The Sydney Morning Herald wrote that

The acting throughout is of a very high standard and all the great features and powerful scenes of the drama are most vividly and clearly portrayed. The film itself is unusually good the objectionable flicker being reduced to a minimum and all the figures and background standing out with great clearness and definition. The "Tin Can Band" is here wonderfully pictured, the Little Mother is all the time excellent and the adult characters are seen to great advantage throughout.[19]

The critic from the Sydney Sunday Times said that:

Although the play is American, Mr. C. Spencer is justified in presenting the [movie]... as an example of Australian art. Everything about the play in its new form is Australian. A company which was formed in Sydney acted the melodrama for Mr. Spencer's operators, and one may recognise Bondi in the outdoor scenes — notably in the episode of the cliff house and the escape of the little heroine... After a cinematograph series of 'Australian Bushrangers,' it is a relief to see bright-faced and happy-hearted children representing the better, even if the poorer, side of life in this part of the world... Jessie, the little mother' with the Tin Can Band of youngsters, made The Fatal Wedding a success when it was first played here at the Criterion Theatre. And it is the kiddies who make the success of Mr. Spencer's reproduction under the direction of Mr. R. H. Longford. In the 'children's party' scene of the third act one song is cleverly counterfeited by a child behind the screen and 'hidden noises' lend an air of realism when the juvenile band shouts with joy or rattles the tin cans. To make up for the absence of songs at this point there is a good deal more dancing than one saw in the play itself.[16]

The Perth Sunday Times said that " The lady who plays the she-villain... is without doubt the woodenest dolt that ever spoilt good celluloid."[20]

Box Office[edit]

The Fatal Wedding was a big success at the box office in Sydney – the Governor General even attended a screening.[21] It then played Melbourne and the rest of Australia and was very popular, launching the cinema careers of Longford and Lyell, as well as enabling producer Charles Cozens Spencer to establish a film studio at Rushcutter's Bay in Sydney.[6] It was still screening in cinemas in 1914.[22]

Historical Significance[edit]

Longford later claimed the movie was the first domestic drama picture using interiors made in Australia.[23]

Some have also argued this film was the first to introduce the close up.[24] Arthur Higgins backed this claim in the 1960s, saying it was he who suggested it. He said he was taking the usual long shot when he mentioned to Longford, "Ray, I think we'll move in closer for this shot."[25]

Other Versions[edit]

The play was filmed in 1914 by Biograph Studios in the US.[26]

In 1933 Cinesound Productions announced plans to make a sound version of the play but this did not eventuate.[27]


  1. ^ a b "Raymond Longford", Cinema Papers, January 1974 p51
  2. ^ "Advertising.". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 24 April 1911. p. 2. Retrieved 20 September 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "AUSTRALIAN FILMS.". The Daily News. Perth: National Library of Australia. 18 December 1931. p. 11 Edition: HOME (FINAL) EDITION. Retrieved 25 July 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "THE RESEARCH BUREAU HOLDS AN AUTOPSY.". Sunday Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 17 February 1952. p. 11. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper, Australian Film 1900–1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998, 18.
  6. ^ a b c Graham Shirley and Brian Adams, Australian Cinema: The First Eighty Years, Currency Press, 1989, p31
  7. ^ Raymond Longford at Australian Dictionary of Biography
  8. ^ The Fatal Wedding 1901 production at IBDB
  9. ^ For Her Children's Sake poster accessed 17 September 2013
  10. ^ "THE FATAL WEDDING.". Kalgoorlie Miner. WA: National Library of Australia. 18 June 1907. p. 5. Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  11. ^ Boxing 1908: Johnson vs Burns at Australian Screen Online
  12. ^ Lottie Lyell at Australian Dictionary of Biography
  13. ^ Contemporary review from Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton) Tuesday 6 September 1910 p6
  14. ^ ""The Fatal Wedding".". Kapunda Herald (SA : 1878–1951). SA: National Library of Australia. 4 November 1910. p. 5. Retrieved 1 September 2013. 
  15. ^ "THE LYCEUM.". Truth (Sydney, NSW : 1894 - 1954). Sydney, NSW: National Library of Australia. 23 April 1911. p. 2. Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  16. ^ a b "THE THEATRES.". The Sunday Times. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 23 April 1911. p. 2. Retrieved 20 September 2013. 
  17. ^ "THE LYCEUM.". Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW : 1900 - 1954). Surry Hills, NSW: National Library of Australia. 3 May 1911. p. 5. Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  18. ^ "Advertising.". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 21 April 1911. p. 2. Retrieved 20 September 2013. 
  19. ^ "FATAL WEDDING.". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 22 April 1911. p. 13. Retrieved 20 September 2013. 
  20. ^ "THE BUSKER.". Sunday Times. Perth: National Library of Australia. 23 July 1911. p. 21. Retrieved 20 September 2013. 
  21. ^ ""THE FATAL WEDDING.".". The Evening News. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 29 April 1911. p. 10. Retrieved 20 September 2013. 
  22. ^ "Advertising.". The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate. NSW: National Library of Australia. 6 March 1914. p. 5. Retrieved 1 September 2013. 
  23. ^ 'AUSTRALIAN FILMS. "KILLED GOOD AND HARD."' Sydney, 10 June, The Advertiser (Adelaide), Friday 17 June 1927 p 14
  24. ^ 'AUSTRALIA PIONEERED "FEATURE" FILMS Some Were Bad, But They Introduced Devices Which Were Copied by Producers Abroad', The Argus (Melbourne), Saturday 21 October 1939 Supplement: The Argus Weekend magazine p 2
  25. ^ "Worth Reporting.". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 27 June 1962. p. 12. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  26. ^ The Fatal Wedding (1914) at IMDB
  27. ^ "AUSTRALIAN PRODUCTIONS.". The West Australian. Perth: National Library of Australia. 14 July 1933. p. 2. Retrieved 21 May 2012. 

External links[edit]