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The Overlanders (1946)

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clip 'Take a gig at the sheila!'

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

Clip description

Two months into the drive, the mob passes through a canyon where they are observed by tribal Aborigines on the surrounding cliffs. Dan McAlpine (Chips Rafferty) waves his hat and receives a greeting in return. The mob then arrives at a new road leading north to Darwin. An army convoy is taking soldiers north. Mary (Daphne Campbell) rides alongside the cheering soldiers, waving and smiling. McAlpine asks for news of the war, and hears about recent victories at Kokoda and Milne Bay, in Papua.

Curator’s notes

Daphne Campbell was one of the major discoveries of the film. She was raised on an apple orchard near Orange, New South Wales, and was an accomplished horsewoman, as can be seen in this clip where she effortlessly keeps pace with the army trucks. In early 1945 she was a 21-year-old Lance Corporal in the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service. Her casting was largely by chance. She is said to have been visiting a friend at the Film House in Sydney, where Watt was in pre-production. He was impressed with her appearance and especially her riding, which he tested at Centennial Park. She had never acted before and she never appeared in another film but she makes a major impact in this one, through scenes like this, where she rides fearlessly up to the convoy, grinning and waving to the excited soldiers. She represented the kind of vitality and equality that Watt wanted to emphasise as Australian qualities. In clip two, she is filmed swimming her horse across the Roper River, surrounded by swimming cattle.

There were many fit, outdoorsy, athletic women shown in Ken G Hall’s Cinesound films of the 1930s, but none quite like Mary Parsons. Watt is careful to depict her as an integral and equal member of the droving team (even if he does show her in her undergarments at the start of this clip) and he doesn’t overdo the romantic sub-plot. Campbell eventually settled in Alice Springs, after marrying a pilot she met during the making of the film, Steve (Sam) Calder. They eloped and got married before the production finished.

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