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Black Sunday (1926)


The ‘Black Sunday’ bushfires of Valentine’s Day 1926 swept across the Gippsland and Dandenong regions of Victoria and claimed 31 lives. This silent black-and-white footage contains scenes of the fires close up, the housing and bushland destroyed in its wake, the few souvenirs that people scrounged to keep, the lucky family who saved their house, and the survivors.

Curator’s notes

The opening intertitles from this silent footage indicate its use in connection with the bushfire relief fund. Produced by Herschells Films, it was probably used as a promotional tool for fundraising. Herschells Films was a production company in operation during the 1930s and was later incorporated into Roy Driver and Associates. Roy Driver was a cinematographer who worked for Herschells Films and later the Department of Information, and may have shot part of this footage.

The footage is quite scratched in parts, but the images are vivid enough to capture the severity of the fire, and even the ferocity of the winds which fanned it. The original nitrate print of Black Sunday is part of the collection held at the National Film and Sound Archive, and was acquired in the early 1980s from the Harry Davidson collection. Davidson was a private collector of films and related memorabilia, and an important figure in Melbourne collection and film production circles.