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Melbourne Today (1931)


The first documentary of Frank Thring’s Cities of the Empire series, this episode is about Melbourne in Victoria. It shows the city’s architectural highlights and public buildings along with its famous parks and gardens.

Curator’s notes

Melbourne Today was the first of Frank Thring’s Efftee documentaries and one of three travelogues he made (the others being about Ballarat and Sydney). It was probably the first talkie documentary made about Melbourne and is a beautifully photographed promotion for the city. The cinematographer was Arthur Higgins, whose older brother Ernest had filmed the first feature-length documentary of Melbourne, Marvellous Melbourne: Queen City of the South (c1910), for Cozens Spencer 20 years earlier. Like Marvellous Melbourne, Melbourne Today surveys the city’s architecture and captures its wide tree-lined streets and large parks. Higgins’s camera often tracks a path along riverbeds, walking tracks and roads, creating a gentle rhythm to match the pace of Norman Campbell’s 'descriptive talk’ (written by Frank Thring). The sweeping panoramas of the city are accompanied by a classical orchestral score.

The early 1930s saw a prolific output of films by Frank Thring through his newly established Efftee Studios, located in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD and named for his initials. Thring’s Efftee Film Productions pioneered locally-produced talking pictures that included feature films, travelogues, nature documentaries, variety shorts, newsreels and speeches. Travelogues have been a popular form of entertainment since the beginning of cinema, providing a window on the world for audiences. Thring was known to have repackaged some of his variety shorts for British audiences and it is possible that his travelogues were also seen outside Australia. See Provincial Cities of Australia: Ballarat, Victoria (c1932) for another of Thring’s travelogues.