"The most valuable shipment of films"
The arrival of a shipment of US films in Sydney in 1916 confirmed that Hollywood had won Australian hearts. But some commentators were already concerned about the impact on Australian film production. On 16 March 1916, ‘Kinema’ of the Melbourne Argus asked, “Why should Australia be mainly dependent upon other countries” for its motion pictures? The article explored costs and marketplace realities that forced the closure of Australian film-producing companies, “one after the other”. In a conclusion that resonates even today, Kinema says, “whilst the successful Australian productions can be counted upon the fingers of the two hands, the number of those which have entailed serious financial loss is unfortunately considerable.”
In Neptune’s Daughter, an “eight-reel spectacular pictorial triumph” made by Hollywood's Universal Studio, Australian celebrity Annette Kellerman plays a mermaid who swears vengeance on the fisherman who trapped and killed her little sister in their nets. Transforming into a human, she seeks the King with the intention of killing him as his laws were responsible for the death. After being discovered, Annette makes her escape and is thrown back into the sea where she realises that she is in love with the King.
Kellerman was internationally famous for long-distance swimming and became a life-long advocate for women’s fitness. It was claimed she had the exact physical measurements of the Venus de Milo statue. Neptune’s Daughter showcases Kellerman’s aquatic skills as well as her “perfect” figure, which was shown, “in the nude—beautifully, chastely in the nude”, as Australian Theatre Magazine commented. She also pioneered changes to female swimwear, even though her close-fitting athletic bathing suit provoked a 1907 arrest for indecency in Boston, USA.
“All my mates ever got were wooden crosses”
Corporal Cyril Bassett was the only New Zealander to be awarded a Victoria Cross for the Gallipoli campaign. In this 1916 film clip he is congratulated by fellow Kiwi soldiers shortly after being presented with his medal. His modesty can be seen in his bearing – while smiling and shaking hands jovially, he still appears reserved. Throughout his life, Bassett had mixed feelings about his VC. “All my mates ever got,” he said, “were wooden crosses.”