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Charles Chauvel

1897 – 1959

Charles Chauvel (1897-1959), actor and film-maker, worked on the sets of Snowy Baker films as a young man, and followed the great action hero to Hollywood in 1921. Chauvel stayed for a little over two years, picking up odd jobs including small acting roles and working as a personal assistant to Douglas Fairbanks. On his return to Australia he directed two silent films, Moth of the Moonbi (1925) and Greenhide (1926). In 1928, accompanied by his wife and collaborator Elsa, he spent another year in Hollywood trying to find a distributor for his films - but learnt that the advent of sound had killed the demand for silents. Back in Australia he directed his first talkie, In The Wake of the Bounty (1933), starring the then-unknown Errol Flynn. Chauvel's next film, Heritage (1935), unearthed another future Hollywood star, 16-year-old Peggy (later Mary) Maguire. Chauvel's best-known film is probably Forty Thousand Horsemen (1940) a tribute to the Light Horse, set in the sands of Palestine and shot in the sands of Cronulla. During the 1940s Chauvel was again in Hollywood as an observer, but his interest in American film was strictly technical, and he remained a staunch advocate of a distinctively Australian cinema. 'The only way we can give an Australian film an international appeal,' he said, 'is to make it Australian.' His later films included Jedda (1955), Australia's first colour feature.

Updated 2018