Australian Film Commission
This is archived information from the website of the former Australian Film Commission (AFC), now part of Screen Australia
26 October 2014
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The Sentimental Bloke restored to its former glory

Background: Written and filmed in the early 1900s
In 1915 C J Dennis published The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke, which told the story of an Aussie bloke courting and finally marrying the love of his life, Doreen. The book was an immediate success, selling over 66,000 copies in 18 months.

In January 1918 Dennis reportedly told his publisher Angus & Robertson that he had sold the picture rights for his book for "a thousand" to the Southern Cross Feature Film Company of Adelaide, on behalf of the already established filmmaking partnership of Raymond Longford and Lottie Lyell.

Raymond Longford (1878-1959) and Lottie Lyell (1890-1925) were the foremost creative partnership in the pioneering years of Australian cinema. Of more than 25 films they created together during the silent era, only five titles survive today in the National Film and Sound Archive.

Together, Longford and Lyell turned CJ Dennis's book into one of Australia's greatest films. Eschewing the usual melodramatic acting style of films, they chose a most unlikely leading man in Arthur Tauchert who was a comedian in vaudeville.

CJ Dennis himself endorsed the film saying that he "went expecting, at best, a burlesque; at worst a fiasco, I came away almost believing in miracles. The fidelity with which the written story has been converted into what may be termed a visual narrative is amazing to me."

The film opened to the public in the Melbourne Town Hall on 4 October 1919 to extremely favourable reviews
Rediscovered in the 1950s
Sadly, many of Australia's films from the silent era are now lost. Of an estimated 259 features made between 1906 and 1931, only 67 are known to survive and many of these remain incomplete.

In 1953 a fire broke out at the Commonwealth Government's News and Information Bureau which housed many of these films and only two cases of film were rescued. These were transported to Canberra where National Library staffers Larry Lake and Rod Wallace found that the cans contained the Australian classic film The Sentimental Bloke.

The film was sent to the Automatic Film Laboratories in Sydney for repair and it was here that a teenager named Tony Buckley began his lifetime association with the film. Tony's work, carefully resplicing the old nitrate print, resulted in new copies being made and a new print screened to acclaim at the 1955 Sydney Film Festival. The organisers of the festival were unaware at the time that Raymond Longford was still alive and working as a nightwatchman on the Sydney wharves.

The 15-year-old Buckley was so taken with The Bloke that he sought out director Raymond Longford in an effort to meet the man who created the masterpiece. Through this meeting and his intimate knowledge of the film, Buckley is now the strongest link and foremost authority on the film and the original vision that Longford had.
Reconstructed in the 1990s
In 1973 an Australian film archivist, Ray Edmondson, on a study tour in America went to George Eastman House in Rochester. He had heard rumours that the archive had a nitrate copy of The Sentimental Bloke. Going through the vaults he came across six cans labelled 'The Sentimental Blonde'. Thinking this was too much of a coincidence, he opened the first can, unreeled the film down to the main title and saw the credit for Raymond Longford.

Miraculously the original negative, which had been sent to America in 1921, had survived and found its way to the Film Archive at the George Eastman House (GEH) in Rochester, New York. Before the old nitrate stock disintegrated, GEH made a pristine 35mm fine grain positive copy and loaned this copy to Australia's National Film and Sound Archive.

In 1993 the Archive created a new print of the surviving Australian material of The Sentimental Bloke using new technology and food colouring dyes to restore the soft tints and tones of the original film. While this produces a superb image, the unique process cannot easily be reproduced.

This colour print was shown with accompanying live music at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival in Italy in 1993 to an enormously warm response from the expert archival audience. This audience reaction led to the revival of interest in reconstructing the film using all available footage - both nationally and internationally - and also to the collaboration of archivists from the Australia's National Film and Sound Archive and George Eastman House.

In 1997 George Eastman House generously agreed to loan a top quality print taken from the negative to the NFSA. This was visually superior to the print held in Australia, but represented a different version - some scenes were missing, others shortened and there were scenes probably never seen since the film's release in 1919.

From these two copies, the major task of reconstructing an Australian film classic began.

The Sentimental Bloke is one of the most important films in the Archive's collection and, as the jewel of Australia's surviving silent cinema, secures Australia's place in the history of silent film. The National Film and Sound Archive gratefully acknowledges the generous assistance and contribution of George Eastman House, Atlab Australia and Kodak Australasia.
January 2005 update
A Canberra Parliamentary screening was held on 9 February at Parliament House, with pre-screening drinks for invited guests of Minister Rod Kemp. The Minister launched the screening at 8.15pm. A screening for guests of the National Film and Sound Archive was held at the Electric Shadows Cinema on 10 February and a free public screening was held at Electric Shadows on 11 February at 6.30pm. A free panel discussion on the reconstruction of the film was held in the theatre of the National Film and Sound Archive on 11 February at 3.30pm.November UpdateThe tour of The Sentimental Bloke continued with a screening in Melbourne on 26 October at the RMIT Capitol Theatre, followed by a reception for invited guests in Swanston Hall at Melbourne Town Hall. The screening was organised by ICD and presented as part of a two-week screen culture event, Melbourne On Screen, co-ordinated by Film Victoria. The screening was introduced by AFC Chair Maureen Barron, Archive Director Paolo Cherchi Usai, and the President of Film Victoria John Howie with Jen Anderson providing a live accompaniment. The screening sold out and was considered a great success. Following the election and the return of the Australian Government, a new date for the Federal Parliamentary Screening of the film has been set for 9 February 2005.
October Update
The Sentimental Bloke screened in Melbourne on Tuesday 26 October at the RMIT Capitol Theatre, followed by a reception for invited guests in Swanston Hall at Melbourne Town Hall. The screening was presented as part of a two-week screen culture event, Melbourne On Screen, co-ordinated by Film Victoria. The screening was introduced by AFC Chair Maureen Barron, Archive Director Paolo Cherchi Usai, and the President of Film Victoria John Howie.
August Update
On Friday 6 August Brisbane was treated to a gala screening of the reconstructed The Sentimental Bloke as part of the Brisbane International Film Festival. The Bloke screened to a sold out crowd of 1500 people.

The screening was introduced by AFC Chair Maureen Barron, the Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman, and - on behalf of Minister Kemp - Gary Hardgrave, Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, and Acting Director of the Archive Pam Saunders.

The screening was an enormous success, Jen Anderson's music evocative as and the crowd highly appreciative of the event. The Bloke was due to appear in Canberra in September and Melbourne in October, with plans for screenings in Perth, Adelaide and Tasmania in the future.
July Update
The recently restored classic The Sentimental Bloke, Australia's finest film from the silent era, had its world premiere screening at the Sydney Film Festival on 15 June 2004. Senator the Hon Rod Kemp, Minister for Arts and Sport, launched the film, which screened with a live musical accompaniment of a score created especially for the film, performed by its composer Jen Anderson, and the Larrikins.

Following the outstanding success of the world premier screening, where it won the audience award for most popular feature film at the State Theatre, the AFC has received funding from DCITA to tour the film to Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne.

The Sentimental Bloke will screen in Brisbane on 6 August at Brisbane City Town Hall as part of the Brisbane International Film Festival and Melbourne audiences will be able to see the film on 26 October at the Capitol Theatre as part of the Melbourne OnScreen festival of screen events in the lead up to the AFI Awards.

Screenings are also being organised in Canberra, Perth and Adelaide. The film is also being screened to regional audiences with NSW screenings already taking place in Bathurst and Ulladulla as part of the Big Screen 2004 touring film festival program.

Other Site of Interest:

National Film and Sound Archive

The Sentimental Bloke


The Sentimental Bloke