The best thing this week

For those of us back in lockdown, hope you’re doing okay.

Let me tell you about the best thing this past week. (No transport content here; if that’s what you’re after, you can skip this post.)

In 1928, Gurney Slade wrote Lovers And Luggers, a novel set in Broome amongst pearl divers. The movie rights were bought by Cinesound, and director Ken G Hall made it in 1937, changing the story slightly and setting it instead on Thursday Island. It starred accomplished American actor Lloyd Hughes.

The film was released in Australia, and internationally using the name Vengeance of the Deep. (Which is odd – it sounds like it should have a sea monster – it doesn’t.)

Most of the film was made in studios and locations in Sydney. But they sent a crew up to Thursday Island to film background shots.

Lovers And Luggers (aka Vengeance of the Deep) movie poster

My dad’s family grew up on Thursday Island, before moving south during World War 2.

Years ago Dad told me that my aunt Lynette (1924-1964) was an extra in the movie. I didn’t think much of it until this year when I began scanning her photo albums for family.

It turned out you can buy the movie cheap on eBay, which I did. But it’s a copy of the American release, drastically shortened from the original 99 minutes down to 65. There was no sign of my aunt.

Then we found the National Film & Sound Archive has the longer version. It turned out that with the copyright holders kind permission (on the basis of researching family history) we could pay a processing fee and get a copy.

It arrived a few days ago. I watched it through. It’s something of a product of its time – the non-white characters are largely caricatures – but it’s quite amusing in parts.

Just a few minutes in, when lead character Daubenny arrives on the island, they cut in some of the shots filmed on Thursday Island. And there, smiling at the camera, is a group of three kids, my then 12 or 13-year-old aunt in the middle.

Still from "Lovers and Luggers"

I wasn’t sure at first, as most of the photos I have of her are much later, and her features changed as she grew up. But comparing a family photo from around the same time, it’s a match.

It’s great to have old photos of your aunt from decades ago. It’s utterly amazing to get what is probably the only film of her that exists – and clearer and better shot than most of the photos in the family collection.

We’re not having the best time right now in Melbourne, but this has put a smile on my face all weekend.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

5 replies on “The best thing this week”

Wow. Reading this has put a smile on my face. The photo would have been taken in the thirties I guess from your description, and it’s quite a clear image, a still from the film? Whatever, very nice.

@Malcolm, I didn’t even know her. I was born after she died (far too young, aged 39).

@Andrew, the still shown from the film is off the DVD, so it’s possible that there is an even clearer image off the original film, but I’m pretty happy with what I have.

I haven’t posted the photo I compared it to, but it’s got more glare, and isn’t quite in focus, as you might imagine of a 1930s photo.

Wow! What a great story. Your persistence paid off.
You said that you needed copyright owners permission. Is that normal for a film so old?
Amazing how suburbs of Sydney can be used as back drops for Thursday Island. No CGI in those days either!

In a similiar vain there is a move filed in the 70’s called Weekend of Shadows (John Waters and even has Bill Hunter in it). Early parts of the movie were filmed at a now deceased close relatvies property that I spent a lot of time at (including the early “murder” scene). I never ever could track down the movie no matter how much I tried but there is a recently uploaded albeit very grainy perhaps VHS copy on youtube. I recognised many places – more than I thought which brought back a lot of childhood memories for me! I wasn’t aware of the national archive so if I’m after a much higher quality copy I’ll look into it. Thanks.

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