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They’re a Weird Mob (1966)

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clip 'A dago just the same' education content clip 1, 2, 3

Original classification rating: G. This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

Nino Culotta (Walter Chiari) comes to meet Harry Kelly (Chips Rafferty), father of Kay (Clare Dunne), the woman he wants to marry. Harry is a successful building contractor, who thinks his daughter can do better.

Curator’s notes

Clever dialogue carries the rich comedy of this scene in which Nino both disarms and charms the savage potential father-in-law. The scene is late in the film, when Nino has acquired a new confidence. Note the clichés about the possibilities of life in a new country.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows Italian migrant Nino Culotta (Walter Chiari) meeting Harry Kelly (Chips Rafferty), the father of the woman Nino hopes to marry. The two men converse, with Harry questioning Nino about his intentions and Nino defending himself. By the end of the clip, Harry signals his approval by offering Nino a double whisky and calling for his wife and daughter to bring scones.

Educational value points

  • Although They’re a Weird Mob has been criticised for making Nino’s assimilation look too easy, the clip, with its casual use of the insulting term 'dago’, highlights the difficulties faced by migrants in seeking to be accepted into Australian society. From the late 1940s to 2006, more than 6 million migrants from more than 200 countries came to Australia. In the 1960s, their arrival coincided with a surge of Australian nationalism as the idea of an Australian identity, as distinctly different from that of Britain, was beginning to be acknowledged.
  • The clip depicts a humorous scene in which religion works as a unifying theme across cultures. Harry is not at all convinced that Nino is good enough for his daughter, as he is 'cocky’, without a home, and 'a dago’. This last insult is countered by Nino who points out that Harry, who is clearly a Catholic, has a picture of the Pope (also a 'dago’) in pride of place on his sitting-room wall.
  • They’re a Weird Mob is an important Australian film and was based on the best-selling book by John O’Grady, published in 1957. It was a huge local hit, earning $2 million. The first Australian film to be made in 7 years, its success meant that the Australian Government was pressed to provide money for further film funding. The film is sometimes credited with reviving the Australian film industry. These scenes demonstrate the light-hearted dialogue and humour that made the film so popular with audiences.
  • The casual patriarchy accepted as the norm in Australian society of the 1960s is depicted in the clip. Harry’s daughter, Kay, is absent from a scene in which her future is decided, but she is called on to bring the men scones at the close of their discussion. While veiled in humour, the opinion that having daughters is less desirable than having sons is shared by Nino and Harry, and serves to bond the two men.
  • The film provides an example of the work of famous British filmmaker Michael Powell (1905–90). During his career, Powell made more than 50 feature films, often in collaboration with writer Emeric Pressburger. The two films that Powell made in Australia, They’re a Weird Mob (1966) and The Age of Consent (1969) are seen as precursors to the hit Australian comedies of the late 20th century. Powell, one of the great filmmakers of the 20th century, is notable for his sharp wit and incisive social criticism, both of which are evident in They’re a Weird Mob. The films for which he is most famous include Black Narcissus (1947), The Red Shoes (1948) and A Matter of Life and Death (1946).
  • The work of Australian actor Chips Rafferty is showcased in the role of Harry Kelly. Rafferty was an Australian film and television icon, working in the industry as an actor, producer and writer. At one stage he was considered to have been the most popular actor in Australia, much admired for his roles as laconic Australians in films such as The Rats of Tobruk (1944). Rafferty also worked in Hollywood, with costars such as Marlon Brando (Mutiny on the Bounty, 1962) and Elvis Presley (Double Trouble, 1967).
  • The clip illustrates the work of Italian actor Walter Chiari in the role of Nino Culotta. Chiari was an experienced actor, having appeared in many Italian comedies as a suave leading man. His considerable charm and ingenuous receptivity to Australian life in this role are often presented as reasons for They’re a Weird Mob’s success.

Harry Kelly You seem pretty sure of yourself, don’t you?
Nino Culotta Yes.
Harry Kay seems to think a lot of ya.
Nino I think a lot of Kay.
Harry points his finger, threatening Nino.
Harry You hurt her in any way at all and I’ll break your bloody neck.
Nino If I’ll hurt her in any way, I’ll deserve it.
Harry appears taken back by this response.
Harry Well what sort of writing do you do?
Nino I wrote for an Italian paper in a town called Como.
Harry Never heard of it.
Nino Now I lay bricks. Heard of that?
Harry Mug’s game. My daughter can do better than marry a brickie.
Nino Your wife married a brickie.
Harry True. Ah, September she tells me?
Nino Yes.
Harry Got a house?
Nino No, but I have land and I am going to build housing.
Harry Not by September you won’t.
Nino No, but we will live in a tent until it is built.
Harry appears outraged.
Harry In a tent?
Nino Hm.
Harry So what are you proposing to do? Dump my daughter on a bit of land and build a house around her?
Nino Yes.
Harry Not if I can stop ya.
Harry is clearly agitated. He rises from his seat and walks across the room.
Nino You can’t.
Harry Dago, aren’t you?
Nino I’m an Italian, sir.
Harry Dago. Bit bigger than most but a dago just the same.
Nino You have one on your wall…
Nino glances up at a picture of the Pope.
Nino …in the place of honour.
Harry The Pope?
Nino If I’m a dago, so is he.
Harry Hey, do you think we’ll ever have an Australian pope?
Nino It’s possible. If Kay has a son, perhaps it will be the first.
Harry Ah, she’ll have a daughter. Get onto that.
Harry gestures at a couple of framed family photographs which feature his two daughters but no sons.
Harry Runs in the family.
Nino smiles and shows Harry a picture of nine boys standing in a line.
Nino Not in my family.
Harry is astonished as he counts the boys.
Harry You ever heard of a pope born in a tent?
Nino Christ was born in a stable.
Harry You gonna stay a brickie all your life?
Nino Perhaps. In a new country a man can be whatever he likes.
Harry You’re right about that. Think you might take up building?
Nino I might.
Harry It’s a hard game. Still, I could give you a few hints that might save you a lot of headaches.
Nino I’ll remember that, sir. Thank you.
Harry Oh now, look, there’s no need for you to call me sir, son.
Nino looks surprised and then smiles.
Harry Ah, what about a drop of whiskey? Sort of celebrate the occasion, eh?
Nino jumps to his feet.
Nino Ah, I think I’ll do with a drop of whiskey.
Harry By cripes, so could I.
Harry stands up and calls into the next room.
Harry Mother! Kay! Bring us some scones!

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