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Mr Movies - Bill Collins OAM
, 2009

by Evert Ploeg

oil on linen (support: 132.0 cm x 183.0 cm)

Bill Collins OAM (1934-2019), television movie host and critic, was a high school English teacher and lecturer at teachers’ college before beginning a record 55-year stint on Australian television. In 1963 he became a presenter and producer on the ABC program Roundabout, talking about films. He proceeded to work at Nine, Seven and was seen nationally on TEN before joining Foxtel at the time of its launch in 1995. During the last 23-year phase of his career he presented Golden Years of Hollywood on the cable channel FOX Classics, telling prospective viewers about conditions on set, interesting cameos, rising stars and what to look out for in key scenes. Enormously popular, and a household name from the 1970s to the 1990s, genial Collins had a great deal more serious film knowledge, and, indeed, general knowledge, than might have been supposed by many of his viewers (at the University of Sydney he took honours in Latin, and a master’s degree in education). Besides meeting many of his ‘Golden Age’ idols, he amassed an enormous personal library of books, magazines, biographies and memorabilia, a resource for his innumerable film reviews, essays and lectures in film studies at the University of Sydney. He said in 2009 ‘In those days there were no esoteric magazines on film. Most people didn’t take film seriously. I did. I investigated film. I read a lot. I filled in and amplified my knowledge with books. The only thing many people read about a film is from a women’s magazine.’ Collins was inducted into the Logies Hall of Fame in 2009 and received the inaugural ASTRA lifetime achievement award in 2013. He retired in 2018.

Artist Evert Ploeg writes

Like most people, I have grown up watching Bill Collins on the small screen so it was a true thrill to meet such an icon of Australian broadcasting. Meeting up with him in his home, he was very accommodating about my vision for this portrait. The focus naturally needed to be Bill’s face and those trademark square spectacles. I had an idea to use an image synonymous with Bill’s passion and with classic film… a black and white film leader provided a very appropriate narrative. Using the film leader also allowed me to introduce motion – a sense of movement into the composition. I wanted the viewer not only to see Bill, but also to hear the crackling and see the flickering… to imagine a film is about to begin. As film director George Miller said when Bill was presented with his induction into the Logie Hall of Fame, ‘When I was starting out as a kid and I was interested in cinema – it was Bill who basically taught us. There was no other place you could find this stuff in Australia except by watching Bill Collins presentations and that’s the way we made the connection to that great era of film making, so that makes him very special and unique to us culturally.’

The work was highly commended in Perth’s Black Swan prize for portraiture in 2009.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Bill and Joan Collins and The Todd-Wilson family
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2019.24