Kooringarama’s Ambition

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Researched and written by R.L.Welsh.

Based on the relative success of “Borrowed Plumes”, Kooringarama Incorporated embarked on a bigger production. Their next movie “As Ye Sow” was a bit more ambitious than “Borrowed Plumes”, a lot more ambitious in fact and ironically the original title of the movie was “Ambition”. The scenario was based on a story written by J.(1)Not a lot of information can be found about the scenario, or the writer J.Grantley Lorrens. The only reference to Mr. Lorrens’s literary work (I have been able to find) is reference to a novel written by Grantley Lorrens titled “Dope”, which was serialized and published in the Bulletin in 1932. Reference to his story writing was reported as though he was well known to the public at the time. Grantley Lorrens.

From the information available regarding the scenario of “As Ye Sow”: The plot deals with the career of a country girl who, tempted by success in country theatricals, sought her fortune on the city stage and later became involved in a murder mystery.

“Borrowed Plumes”(BP) was shot on 3000′ of film, in seven locations (all in Eltham) and had a cast of twenty players (give or take a couple). By contrast, “As Ye Sow”(AYS) was 6000′ (six reels), shot in 57 locations and involved 70 players.

Eltham scenes predominated, interior scenes were shot at Kooringarama(2)Mrs. Boake and Eric Lyall’s home; York Street. and also Sunnybrook(3)Located in Bolton Street, Sunnybrook owned by Mr. & Mrs. Strong..

Stanley Warpole, credited with directing the movie, was an accomplished stage and film actor of several decades, in Australia and abroad. He was also associated with a Hollywood film production studio. He arrived back in Australia in February 1929, commissioned to inquire into the possibilities of establishing a studio here(4)“FRESH GROUND” The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954) 16 February 1929: 7. Web. 4 Jan 2021 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article230371679>..

Mr. Warpole (director) was assisted by N.C.D’Arcy and Eric Lyall (cameraman/editor) was assisted by Charles Donne.

 

Gwendoline Pritchard, Kooringarama’s leading lady. (Table Talk, Oct. 1930)

Members of the cast included:

Gwendoline Pritchard, Audrey Gray, John. C. Cornwall, Bennie Scott, Valda Wycliffe, Miss. Marie La Roche, Raoul Conyers (N.C.D’Arcy), Morgan Agnew, Mr. Pennefather, Mr. Gray, Ethel Carr (Mrs. Boake), Mrs. Gray.

Aeolian Company building, Melbourne.

 

There was a private screening of As Ye Sow on Saturday-25/10/1930, in the hall of the Aeolian Company building (Wentworth House) in Collins St. Melbourne (an Art Deco building which opened in 1930 and was demolished some time in the mid 1970s). It was then screened publicly a short time later (in November) at the Scots’ Hall, in Russell St.

Written into the actors agreement, drawn up at the formation of the club, prior to the production of BP, was a contribution of £? to be paid by actors and patrons, to cover expenses, any profits were to be divided up between members. One can assume that BP at least covered expenses and influenced the progression of the club onto another project. It was also stated by Lyall that “they believed they could make their productions a profitable venture”. How and if this philosophy/work model carried over into the production of AYS is unknown. Everything in BP was literally borrowed; cars, props, venues, etc. also the actors and producer were all amateur. Their product was novel and it had gained enough good publicity in the right circles to warrant support. Their association with Mr. Stanley Warpole was fortunate and timely as he would have bought a lot of experience to the production.

Filming locations, low budget, outdated equipment and progress of “the talkies” put the company behind the eight ball from the start. Their objective was to produce unusual photoplays, for which they believed there was, at least, a domestic market. The club had promoted itself as being all amateur and working on a low budget, but one has to wonder if this was the best image moving forward (The film cost £100 to produce and all acting roles were honorary). After the showing of AYS in 1930, the novelty of being amateur had worn a bit thin and the press were not so forgiving(5)“AUSTRALIAN AMATEUR FILM.” The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954) 18 October 1930: 15. Web. 4 Jan 2021 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article202236149>.. Locations, scenery and acting were acclaimed (as they were in BP), but camera work was criticized. One film scene, which took in the whole of a stage, was probably way beyond the technical capabilities of the club considering the photographic equipment they were still using (see camera in press photo). One of the selling points in press statements was the comparatively low cost of production, an interesting line in the daily newsprint, however it probably failed to draw people to the box office, where Hollywood movies shot on 35mm film (with sound) were being shown (sound for pound).

This is where probably the Kooringarama amateur films club came to an end. The co-operative model boundaries were pushed to the limit and an opportunity to get a foothold in the mainstream movie making market was lost. Borrowed Plumes passed the test; 16mm silent film with titles worked fine for showcasing local talent and the natural Australian environment (which Eltham was well known for) to a local audience, As Ye Sow missed the target. There was a market for the Australian product and possibly with some decent financial backing they may have succeeded in achieving their ambition.

As Ye links:

 

  • https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/230371679
  • https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/57763940
  • https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/242760190
  • https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/202236149
  • https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/57763769
  • https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/57762039
  • https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/244480031
  • https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/146455060

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