The collaboration between Lottie Lyell (1890–1925) and Raymond Longford (1878–1959) is one of the most significant in Australian film. Although her onscreen credits don’t reflect the varied roles she played as sometimes lead actor, screenwriter, art director, producer, editor and co-director, the partnership between Lyell and Longford was truly equal. The pair collaborated on 28 films and Lyell received official credit as a screenwriter on almost half, co-director on The Blue Mountains Mystery (1921) and lead actor until ill-health forced her off screen in the early 1920s. It is one of the great tragedies of early Australian cinema that so little filmic evidence of their partnership survives. Lyell and Longford started their work together in theatre before Lyell’s breakthrough success in An Englishman’s Home in 1910. They both quickly entered the burgeoning feature-film industry, completing their first collaborations in 1911 (The Fatal Wedding and The Romantic Story or Margaret Catchpole). Lyell soon went on to become Australia’s first true film star. While it is difficult to properly assess Lyell’s overall achievements, her performances in The Woman Suffers (1918), and as Doreen in the landmark The Sentimental Bloke (1919), highlight her remarkable control as well as the subtlety of her acting style. Always struggling against the competitive advantage held by American and British film interests, Lyell and Longford’s work – including definitive screen versions of the work of C. J. Dennis and Steele Rudd’s Dad and Dave – is a proud landmark of Australian filmmaking. This program presents most of the surviving footage (including the entire The Sentimental Bloke) featuring Lyell and represents a tantalising taste of this extraordinary collaboration.
7:00pm THE SENTIMENTAL BLOKE
Raymond Longford (1919) 107 mins – G
Often claimed to be the greatest silent film Australia produced, this tale of a larrikin (Arthur Tauchert) and his fight for his sweetheart Doreen (Lyell) represents the zenith of Longford and Lyell’s artistic and romantic partnership. As well as starring, Lyell co-wrote this hugely popular adaptation of C. J. Dennis’ bestselling verse novel. The film is remarkable for its actorly naturalism, colloquial humour and location shooting in what were then the rough streets of Woolloomooloo. One of the few silent-era Australian films to have survived in its entirety.
Co-presented by the National Film and Sound Archive’s digital restoration program, NFSA restores – reviving Australian cinema icons.
9:05pm THE WOMAN SUFFERS
Raymond Longford (1918) 62 mins – G
Lyell and Longford’s 13th collaboration in seven years is a proto-feminist moral melodrama of sexual exploitation, female suffrage and revenge highlighting the unequal fate of men and women. Registering a significant maturing of Longford’s directorial capabilities and Lyell’s nuanced acting style, this controversial and full-blooded drama – of which only two-thirds survives – provides a remarkable portrait of harsh bush life.
To be followed by the surviving footage of several other Lyell-Longford collaborations including their breakthrough feature, The Romantic Story of Margaret Catchpole Raymond Longford (1911) 24 mins – Unclassified 15+.
35mm prints courtesy of the National Film and Sound Archive, Australia.