Dad and Dave Come to Town

Dad and Dave Come to Town is a 1938 Australian comedy film directed by Ken G. Hall, the third in the 'Dad and Dave' comedy series starring Bert Bailey. It was the feature film debut of Peter Finch.

Dad and Dave Come to Town
Directed byKen G. Hall
Produced byKen G. Hall
Written byBert Bailey
Frank Harvey
Based onstory by Ken G. Hall
characters created by Steele Rudd
StarringBert Bailey
Fred MacDonald
Shirley Ann Richards
Music byHamilton Webber
CinematographyGeorge Heath
Edited byWilliam Shepherd
Distributed byBritish Empire Films (Aust)
Release date
30 September 1938 (Aust)
1939 (UK)
1943 (USA)
Running time
97 minutes (Aust)
78 mins (UK)
Budget£12,000[1] or £23,000[2]
Box office£40,000 (Australia)[1]
£35,000 (UK)[3]


Life is busy on the Rudd farm: Dave keeps inventing things, Joe has a tooth ache, Billy Ryan wants to marry Sarah Rudd but Dad is feuding with Billy's father, Old Man Ryan, who wants to buy Dad's bottom paddock.

Dad receives news that his brother, Alfred, whom he has not seen for 20 years, has died and left Dad a house in the city, Bellavista, along with a shop that sells women's clothes called Cecille's. Dad moves to the city with Dave, Mum and daughter Jill. He discovers that the store is struggling, and is unaware that the store's manager, Rawlins, is secretly in league with a rival shop owner, Pierre, who wants to take over Cecille's.

Dad puts Jill in charge and she starts rejuvenating the store, impressing the effeminate floorwalker, Entwistle. She discovers Rawlins' treachery and forces him to resign, replacing him with Entwistle as manager. She hires a young press agent, Jim Bradley, who used to work for Pierre, to promote the store. Jill and Jim begin a romance. Dave falls for a store model called Myrtle and Mum is hounded out of the kitchen at Bellavista by the housekeeper, Miss Quince. Jill and Jim want to renovate Cecille's and put on a giant fashion show. Dad agrees and borrows money against his farm to finance it.

The show looks as though it is going to be a big success when Pierre reveals he lent Dad's brother £1,000 and calls in the debt the night before. Dad is inspired to keep going by some inspiring words from Mum, who fires Miss Quince. Pierre orders bailiffs to repossess Cecille's during the show, but Dave, Myrtle and Entwistle manage to stop them by getting Myrtle to lure them into a room and Dave knocking them out. Pierre then arrives with the police, but Dad is bailed out by Old Man Ryan, who pays the £1,000. The show is a big success, and Dad returns to the country, leaving Jill in charge of Cecille's, with a new appreciation for people who live in the city.




Hall made the movie because Cinesound Productions needed a guaranteed box office success. There had recently been a ruling that Australian films were no longer eligible as British under the local quotas in England, which hurt their ability to sell overseas. Hall needed to make a film which was appealed to local audiences and On Our Selection (1932) had just enjoyed a fifth run in Sydney, indicating the market was still strong for Dad and Dave movies.

"I'm fully prepared for verbal onslaughts from a certain section of the public that considers we are ruining Australia's prestige overseas", said Hall before filming. "In fact, it's the English markets that vitally concern us. But as our pictures have been subjected to certain restrictions there, we have cut our cloth to suit our pocket. Cinesound's next picture will be made for Australian audiences."[4]

Unlike the first two Dad and Dave films, this was not based on a play by Bailey but an original story by Ken G. Hall. Hall claims he asked his regular writer Frank Harvey to develop a premise, but Harvey could not do it, and indeed threatened to resign prior to the scripting of the film because he felt he couldn't write comedy. However, Hall came up with a story and Harvey stayed on the film, ending up with a writing credit. Uncredited work was done on the script by Hall's "comedy team" of Jim Bancks, Hal Carleton and Bill Maloney.[5] The humour was considerably more risque than normal for a Cinesound film.[6]

The character of Pierre, the villain, was described in the shooting script as "presumably a Frenchman, but in forgetful moments dropping into Jewish idiom".[7] Entwistle was described as "a very gracious young man, effeminate without being revolting"[8]


Bert Bailey and Fred MacDonald repeated their roles as Dad and Dave from the earlier films in the series, but the rest of the cast were newcomers. Ingenue Shirley Ann Richards, who was under long-term contract to Cinesound Productions was cast as Jill. Billy Rayes and Leila Steppe were both Americans touring on the Tivoli vaudeville circuit.[9]

Peter Finch plays a young man in love with Dad Rudd's daughter Sarah (Valerie Scanlan). Finch had appeared in a short film, The Magic Shoes (1935), but this was his first feature. He was recommended to Hall by George Cross, Cinesound's casting director, and so impressed the director he was cast in the role.

"He was almost painfully thin in his early days, with high, prominent cheekbones, and his looks gave no real promise of the handsome, world-class screen star he matured into overseas", wrote Hall in his memoirs. "But from the beginning he was a really first-class actor."[10] Indeed, Hall later cast Finch in a larger role in Mr. Chedworth Steps Out (1939).

Valerie Scanlan was an 18-year-old Sydney actor who had come to the attention of George Cross in an amateur production of Men Without Wives. It was her first film role.

Muriel Flood was a former vaudeville actor who was a well known radio personality "Susie" on 2GB.[11]


The film was shot in mid 1938 at Cinesound's Bondi studio and on location in Camden. In contrast with On Our Selection, an estimated 75% of which was shot on location, only 20% of Dad and Dave Come to Town was filmed outside the studio.[12]

The fashion show involved 45 dresses designed by Mavis Ripper worth £2,000 worn by 18 different girls.[13]


Reviews were extremely positive.[14] The film was a success at the box office, Ken G. Hall later calling it a "very substantial hit",[15] which matched the earnings of On Our Selection in Australia and exceeded them in New Zealand.[16] Variety said "it broke records everywhere".[17]

It led to a fourth (and final) entry in the series, Dad Rudd, MP (1940), in which many of the cast of this film reprised their roles.

The film was released in England as The Rudd Family Goes to Town, and was the first Australian movie to screen in a cinema on the West End.[18] According to Hall, it earned over £35,000 in Britain.[3] It was released in the US as The Farmer Goes to Town.


In one scene, Jill (Shirley Ann Richards) says to Jim Bradley (Billy Rayes), "Don't call me girlie". This line was used as the title for a 1985 documentary about women in the Australian film industry.[19]

The character of Entwistle (Alec Kellaway), the effeminate floorwalker who works at the fashion store, is a rare gay character in early Australian cinema. Although a stereotype, he is depicted as a loyal friend of the hero – the "first upfront camp male character to be treated in a positive fashion"[20] and was so popular with audiences he returned in Dad Rudd, MP (1940).[21]


  1. "Bert Bailey Started In Melodrama And Made A Fortune From A Beard". The Sunday Herald. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 5 April 1953. p. 12. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  2. Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper, Australian Film 1900–1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998, 183.
  3. "THE RESEARCH BUREAU HOLDS AN AUTOPSY". Sunday Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 17 February 1952. p. 11. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  4. "NEW "DAD AND DAVE" COMEDY". The West Australian. Perth: National Library of Australia. 17 June 1938. p. 9. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  5. Philip Taylor, 'Ken G. Hall', Cinema Papers January 1974 p 85
  6. Paul Byrne, 'Curator's Notes' on Dad and Dave Come to Town Clip 2 at Australian Screen Online
  7. Frank Harvey, Dad and Dave Come to Town shooting script 4 August 1938 p23-24 at National Archives of Australia
  8. Shooting script p 27 at National Archives of Australia
  9. "Show Girls Marry Millionaires". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 14 June 1938. p. 6 Supplement: Women's Supplement. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  10. Hall p 149
  11. 'DAD & DAVE Come to Town', The Mercury (Hobart), Saturday 3 September 1938 p 5
  12. "MACDONALDS CHARACTER STUDY OF "DAVE."". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 18 August 1938. p. 29. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  13. "FORTY-FIVE FROCKS MADE IN A FORTNIGHT". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 16 June 1938. p. 25. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  14. ""DAD AND DAVE COME TO TOWN"". The Advertiser. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 16 January 1939. p. 22. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  15. Hall p 147
  16. ""Dad Rudd, MP."". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 12 October 1939. p. 25. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  18. "A Film Critic's Diary Every Wednesday DAD, DAVE, AND MUM ON LONDON SCREEN". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 23 August 1939. p. 15. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  19. Don't Call Me Girlie at IMDb
  20. Philippa Hawker, 'There's nought so queer as folk',, The Age, 10 March 2004
  21. "Deb Verhoeven, 'The sexual terrain of the Australian feature film – Putting the Outback into the Ocker' in The Bent Lens (ed) Claire Jackson. Melbourne: Australian Catalogue Company, pp. 25-32" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 August 2011. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  • Hall, Ken G. Directed by Ken G. Hall, Lansdowne Press, 1977
  • Murray, Scott, ed. (1994). Australian Cinema. St.Leonards, NSW.: Allen & Unwin/AFC. p. 23. ISBN 1-86373-311-6.
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