Australian Screen

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Movietone Special: Peace: Australia Celebrates (1945)

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This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

This clip shows joyous celebrations erupting in Sydney streets at the declaration of peace after the Japanese surrender. Footage includes enormous crowds crammed shoulder to shoulder in the city. A tracking shot from a moving vehicle shows the famous image of the dancing man who does a pirouette and doffs his hat for the camera. Another man holds up the front page of the newspaper with the 'PEACE’ headline, people crowd into trams, and over shots of people going wild throwing shredded paper, the voice-over by Jack Davey urges people to 'tear up some paper, it’s the thing to do!’. There are also shots of night celebrations and the start of the victory march the following morning.

Curator’s notes

This dancing man is one of the best-known images of the celebrations at the end of the Second World War. His brief (eight second) appearance, captured on film in George Street, between King Street and Martin Place on 15 August 1945, has been replayed countless times and come to encapsulate the spontaneity of emotion throughout the nation on that day.

In the years since this newsreel was first shown, the mystery surrounding the dancer’s name has compounded the fascination with this audiovisual record. Even now, his identity remains in dispute and a number of men over the years have claimed to be the figure in the newsreel. But whatever the genesis of this scene, it illustrates how resonant icons can make historic news events timeless and, in doing so, embed themselves into the national consciousness.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This black-and-white clip from the newsreel Peace: Australia Celebrates shows spontaneous scenes of jubilation in the centre of Sydney soon after the Japanese surrender was announced on 15 August 1945. It opens with scenes of crowds celebrating in the streets. This is followed by the famous footage of 'the dancing man’. Torn paper rains down from buildings and is thrown about. These lunchtime scenes are followed by night scenes of dancing in the street at Kings Cross and shots of the victory parade the next day. The clip is narrated by a radio personality of the time, Jack Davey.

Educational value points

  • The scenes of joy and relief shown in this clip were unprecedented in Australia’s history and were repeated throughout the country as the news spread that Japan had unconditionally surrendered, finally ending the Second World War. As people were arriving at work or school in eastern Australia, newspapers and radio declared that six years of war were over. By lunchtime businesses had closed, students had abandoned classes and large crowds were on the streets.
  • Almost every Allied country involved in the War has its iconic image of the victory celebrations and 'the dancing man’ is Australia’s. His exuberant and joyful dancing typified the mood of the celebrations. Numerous men have claimed to be 'the dancing man’ but the best authenticated claim appears to be that of Frank McAlary, a law student at the time. The newsreel cameraman spotted his dancing and he was asked to repeat it in front of the camera.
  • Excitement and tension had been building as people waited for the expected surrender. News reached the Australian Government by cablegram early on the morning of 15 August and at 9 am a radio broadcast by the British prime minister was picked up. The late-morning editions of the newspapers carried the banner headline 'Peace!’ and the then Australian prime minister, Ben Chifley (1885–1951), made a radio broadcast at 9.30 am, beginning 'Fellow citizens, the War is over’.
  • As the end of the clip makes clear, Victory in the Pacific (VP) Day and the following day were not entirely about celebration. There was also occasion for remembrance and thanksgiving. In Sydney on the afternoon of 15 August a very well attended church service took place in the Domain and the following day a huge crowd watched the victory parade. Similar services and victory parades took place around the country during the two consecutive public holidays.
  • The surrender being celebrated here had been a long time coming – the Japanese had continued to fight fiercely, ignoring the Allies’ Potsdam ultimatum of July 1945. Only after the USA dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Soviet Union invaded Japanese-held Manchuria in early August, did Japan’s Emperor Hirohito accept an unconditional surrender, overruling his cabinet who wanted to fight on.
  • Much of the clip’s effect comes from its soundtrack, which features live sounds of the crowds, celebratory music and the commentary of Jack Davey (1907–59), the biggest radio star in Australia in the 1940s and the voice of Movietone newsreels. Newsreels were meant to entertain and Davey’s voice-overs were famous for their jokes and cheekiness. In one of his best lines in the narration he calls Kings Cross, known as a centre of 'vice’, 'a well-known forward operational area’.

Thanks to the generosity of the rights holders, we are able to offer Peace! from the newsreel Movietone Special: Peace: Australia Celebrates as a high quality video download.

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

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ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

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