Borrowed Plumes

Researched and written by R.L.Welsh.

Borrowed plumes was filmed in Eltham, using local talent, props and scenery (including three horses). Records of filming dates and locations indicate the first scene was shot at the bridge on Main Road, near Wingrove Park, on 12/11/1927, the final scene was shot 27/12/1927, according to notes kept by D.Mather. News reports of the day state that the film took five months to produce, which contradicts Mather’s notes, but the five months may be from early October 1927 (first meeting) to February 1928 (first showing). More information about this film is available than is for any of their other productions, but unfortunately no known copies of the film.

A brief summary of the scenario is as follows:

The story is of a travelling salesman (Harvey Bates) who, whilst on his way to deliver radio equipment, to some rich clients (The Langdons), is tricked and ambushed by Murray Blair and Floyd Gray (dressed as a woman). The villains assume his identity with the intention of robbing the rich clients. He meets up with a group of pretty girls, one of whom is the daughter of the rich client (Rae Langdon), who take him to the garden party where the thieves are. At the party there just happens to be a bathing suit contest. Long story short; Harvey saves the day and he and Rae fall in love. The End.

Eric.C.Lyall was an amateur enthusiast camera operator and Donald.H.Mather, an amateur actor, film-maker, radio-writer and author. Eric Lyall was credited as Photographer Editor and Donald Mather; Producer of their first (photoplay) movie “Borrowed Plumes”, which was originally titled “The Rolling Stone”. The scenario was based on a three episode radio play written by Mather. “Kooringarama Films Inc. present, A Stromberg-Carlson comedy”. 

How Lyall(1)A search of births, deaths and marriages suggests Eric.C.Lyall was born in 1904, married in 1930 and died in 1944 at the age of 40. He lived most of his life in Eltham. and Mather were known to each other is not known, possibly a social network or study. Saved in a collection of manuscripts, belonging to Mather (held at the National Library) is a cutout news article with a  handwritten date 5/11/27, which outlines the formation and objectives of a “Melbourne film club”. Mather’s postal address is referred to within his manuscripts as Ivanhoe and Hampton(2)A search of births, deaths and marriages suggests Donald.H.Mather was born in Perth, W.A., married in 1931, had one child and died in 1967 (Hampton) at the age of 66.. Another member of the club whose name is associated with technical aspects of production is N.C.D’Arcy, who is mentioned as being (along with Lyall) “an old resident of the district, who has an intimate knowledge of local conditions“. He was also credited with writing and photographing the titles for Borrowed Plumes, which suggests he was involved in the editing process. Not a lot of information can be found on the internet about Norman D’Arcy(3)A family search suggests he is Norman Carden D’Arcy, born 1895 and died 1942, aged 46., particularly with regards to his residence in Eltham.

Other members of the club included the caste of Borrowed Plumes, listed below:

 

 

  • Mr & Mrs Boake (Ethel Carr) – > Mr & Mrs Henry Langdon (A wealthy business man & his wife).
  • Beatrice (Bippie) Chennery – > Rae Langdon (their daughter)
  • Clifford Cumming – > Harvey Bates (A commercial traveler)
  • Raoul Conyers (N.C.Darcy)- > Murray Blair (A clever rogue)
  • Norman Mayes – > Floyd Gray (His confederate)

Also:

  • Marie Bucknall -> Valda Ashcroft (girlfriend of Rae)
  • Elizabeth Tippetts -> Marjorie Power (girlfriend of Rae)
  • Rene’ Dudfield -> Joan Wingrove
  • Grace Loukes -> Muira/Moira’ (Jean?) Meredith
  • Claire Lynewood -> Mrs Mainwaring (an elderley lady of means)
  • Dave Lyon – > The chauffeur (Henry)
  • Jack Cornwall -> The Parson (Rev. John Bottomley) – (pastor of the parish)

 

Other players included:

  • Bathing girls
  • Garden Party, guests, waiters and waitresses
  • Mr & Mrs Watkins ? Road scene ?

There was approximately seven local (Eltham) scenes; some of which are  recognised in photos and notes, with a degree of certainty:

  • The bridge on Main Road, near Lower Eltham park.
  • The road to Mr. Rutter’s ?
  • The Yarra river at a place referred to as “pinnacle rock”?
  • Lower Eltham park (possibly) (pic #)
  • Three houses were used in the film: Kooringarama House, Rutter’s house & Miss Garner’s house?

 

Two vehicles were used in the production: the single seater driven by Harvey Bates (Clifford Cumming) pictured above. The same vehicle was also used for trucking shots (refered to as “truck shots” in Mather’s notes)(4)Several scenes were shot using a technique that was acknowledged as “innovative” at the time. It involved using a vehicle to achieve unbroken scenes: moving from long shots to close ups & vice versa. Movie Makers 1928..

 

 

There was also a two-seater (tourer), driven (and probably supplied) by David Lyon(5)? (Henry the chauffeur), seen parked at Kooringarama (or possibly Yarra Braes) and also shown in group photo.

 

 

 

 

The film was first shown at the Eltham public hall on sat 25/02/28 and soon after at the Queens Hall Collins St. on the 7th and 8th of March. The public hall screening also showed the fire brigade movie and was followed by dancing (see program).

 

It was very well received and gained positive reviews(6)ELTHAM. (1928, March 2). Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Vic. : 1922 – 1939), p. 2, particularly with regards to capturing the local scenery. The scenario was not held in particularly high regard.

It was heralded as a truly local film production and the local community held Kooringarama Films in very high esteem.

Timing of the film documenting “The Eltham Fire brigade in action” is uncertain; it was shown in Febuary 1928, along with B.P., the production of which was not completed before the end of 1927. Its’ production would not have been as intensive as Borrowed Plumes.

“Australian Triumph” Movie Makers (Jun-Dec 1928)

Original photographs held at the National Library of Australia.

A word about film stills.

<< Kooringarama Films (previous)  ¦  (next) Kooringaram’s Ambition >>

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[…] Update December, 2020 See also:  Borrowed Plumes […]