Original classification rating: G.
This clip chosen to be G
Nino Culotta (Walter Chiari) gets a lesson in the language of drinking from a friendly Australian (Jack Allen) at the Marble Bar, a legendary Sydney watering hole. The barmaid (Anne Haddy) looks bemused.
Mutual misunderstanding is the dominant theme in this pioneering comedy. The Italian migrant may not know the language of beer, but the Australian doesn’t realise the rest of the world doesn’t speak 'Strine’. Still, the two men soon find an accommodation.
The scene is interesting for the way it depicts the 'innocent’ Australian character, a man of generous, open spirit. This contrasts with others Nino meets later. It’s of historical interest too – it shows the Marble Bar before it was relocated to become part of the Sydney Hilton Hotel.
This clip shows Italian migrant Nino Culotta (Walter Chiari), who has just arrived from Italy, walking down a busy Sydney street. He enters a crowded bar to buy a drink, but encounters problems when the barmaid uses unfamiliar terms such as 'schooner’ and 'middy’. An Australian man (Jack Allen) at the bar assists him and buys him a drink, teaching him about the custom of the 'shout’, and engaging him in conversation that includes Australian slang. Misunderstandings ensue, but are ultimately sorted out, and the clip ends with the two men sharing a second beer together.
Educational value points
- In the character played by Jack Allen, the clip presents an Australian stereotype of the convivial man at the bar, eager to buy a mate a drink, friendly, open and warm-hearted. The message the film affirms is that if you are ready to return a shout, you will be accepted with the best of them. This is one of the film’s more positive portrayals of what is thought of as the Australian national character.
- The characters in the bar are portrayed as showing no understanding of migrants’ rights to maintain the culture of their country of origin. The barmaid, for example, shows no empathy with Nino’s obvious struggle with the language, only looking on approvingly as he surrenders willingly to the customs of the dominant local culture.
- The clip illustrates the assimilationist policies of the Australian Government throughout the middle and second half of the 20th century, whereby migrants were expected to give up any customs that set them apart from mainstream Australian society. Migrants’ rights to maintain their own culture and language were only recognised in the 1970s, with the advent of multiculturalism.
- Although They’re a Weird Mob has been criticised for making Nino’s assimilation look too easy, the clip 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 scene is set in a famous Sydney bar, the Marble Bar, built in 1893 and originally located in the Tattersalls building. The entire Bar was moved to the Hilton, Sydney, in 1973 and was maintained when the Hilton was recently rebuilt. The Bar is now Heritage-listed and recognised as a national monument. Its design was influenced by the Italian Renaissance, and its fittings, made from 35 varieties of marble, were sourced from a number of countries, including Italy and Belgium.
- 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. They’re a Weird Mob is sometimes credited with reviving the Australian film industry.
- 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. His most famous films include Black Narcissus (1947), The Red Shoes (1948) and A Matter of Life and Death (1946).
- The work of Italian actor Walter Chiari is showcased 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.
This clip starts approximately 15 minutes into the feature.
Nino enters the Marble Bar which is noisy and full of people. He makes his way through the crowd to the bar.
Barmaid What’ll it be?
Nino Culotta If you please, I wish to drink some beer.
Barmaid A schooner or a middy?
Nino looks confused and hesitates.
Nino If you please, I wish to drink some beer.
Barmaid (in a louder voice) A schooner or a middy?
Man How long you been in Australia, mate?
Nino Oh, I just arrived today, sir.
Man Oh, that explains it. These big glasses are called schooners and the small ones are middies.
Nino Oh, thank you.
Barmaid Schooner or middy?
Nino Uh, I wish to have a middy.
Man Have one with me. Two schooners, thanks Jean.
Nino Thank you. I would be extremely delighted to accept your kind invitation.
Man Where do you come from?
Nino I am Italian.
Man Are ya? Big bloke like you? You don’t look it.
Nino Please, what means ‘big bloke’?
Man Ah, well, everyone’s a bloke. You’re a bloke, I’m a bloke. We’re all blokes. Cheers.
The men raise their glasses and drink.
Man Tasted Australian beer before?
Nino No, this is the first time.
Man Best beer in the world. Puts a gut on you, though. What do you do for a crust?
Nino I’m sorry, sir, but I didn’t understand you.
Man How do you earn your living?
Nino Oh, I’m a writer.
Man In Italian?
Nino Yes, in Italian.
Man Well, your turn.
Nino Please, what means my turn?
Man Your turn to shout.
Nino Why I should shout?
Man Because I shouted you.
Nino I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you shout me.
Man When a bloke buys you a beer it’s called a ‘shout’, see? Now I shouted you. Now it’s your turn to shout for me.
Nino Oh. I’m sorry but I think I do not wish to drink another beer.
Man Now listen, in this country if you want to keep out of trouble, you always return a shout, see?
Nino Oh, is it a custom?
Man Bloody oath, it’s the custom. Your shout!
Nino Alright. Excuse me, sir. It would be offensive for your susceptibility if I buy a drink for you and I don’t buy another drink for me?
Man That’s the worst insult you can give a man. Jean…
Nino I wish to shout.
The men receive their beers and chink glasses, smiling at each other.
Nino What do you do for your crust?
Man Me? I do shipwork down the … hey, did you hear what he said? Cheers.
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