It Isn't Done

It Isn't Done is a 1937 Australian comedy film about a grazier (Cecil Kellaway) who inherits a barony in England.

It Isn't Done
Directed byKen G. Hall
Produced byKen G. Hall
Written byFrank Harvey
Carl Dudley
Based onoriginal story by Cecil Kellaway
StarringCecil Kellaway
Shirley Ann Richards
Music byHamilton Webber
CinematographyGeorge Heath
Edited byWilliam Shepherd
Distributed byBritish Empire Films (Aust)
Release date
February 1937 (Australia)
1938 (UK)
Running time
90 minutes (Australia)
77 mins (UK)[1]


Hubert Blaydon, an Australian farmer, inherits a baronial estate and moves to England with his wife and daughter Patricia to collect it. He finds it difficult to adapt to upper class customs and faces snobbishness from Lord Denvee and difficulties with his butler Jarms. Patricia falls for a writer, Peter Ashton, who is next in line for the title and the estate.

Hubert misses Australia. He eventually contrives evidence that Peter is the legal heir and bonds with Lord Denvee over the fact that both their sons died on the same day in World War I. Hubert and his wife return to Australia with Jarms while Patricia and Peter are married.




The film was based on an original story by Cecil Kellaway which he had written in between acts while performing in White Horse Inn on stage. Hall liked the basic idea but said Kellaway was unable to put it down to paper.[5]

Hall originally imported American writer Carl Dudley to adapt it into a feature film script.[6] He then had it worked on by playwright and actor Frank Harvey, who had recently joined Cinesound as a dialogue director.[7] Harvey went on to write all of Ken G. Hall's films for Cinesound. Hall says he had considerable input to the film as well.[8]

"If anything, the English will get more knocks than the Australians", said Hall at the time. "But there will be hits at both sides-nothing malicious; just a good-humoured conflict of ideas."[9] Cecil Kellaway later claimed the lead character was based on a real grazier from New South Wales:

I've enjoyed portraying this role, because I know him so thoroughly. I've stayed on his property, I've studied his mannerisms. He is the jovial, lovable person who is symbolic of the democratic carefree spirit of a sunny land.... To me, he is typical of so many of our countrymen. In many of his scenes I have endeavoured to give something that hopes for a laugh and faintly suggests a tear. I sincerely hope I have succeeded.[10]

At one stage the film was called Something in Common.[11]


The film marked the feature debut of Shirley Ann Richards who was a graduate of Cinesound's Talent School, run by Harvey and George Parker. Although she was not very experienced, she proved a natural and was enormously popular. She was signed to a long-term contract with Cinesound and went on to appear in several of their films.[12][13]


Although mostly set in England, the film was entirely shot in Australia, at Cinesound's Bondi studios and Camden. Shooting took place in October and November 1936. Hall used rear projection equipment to show English backgrounds. The backgrounds were filmed for Cinesound by British International Pictures.[14]

Sets were designed by Eric Thompson, who had returned to Australia after several years working in Hollywood.[15]


Reviews were positive[16] and the film was a big hit at the box office, being released in the US and UK.

A representative from RKO in Hollywood saw the film and offered Kellaway a long-term contract, which he accepted.[17] Kellaway did return to Australia for one more film, Mr. Chedworth Steps Out, but spent the rest of his career in America.

After completing the film, John Longden returned to England after spending four years in Australia.

In the film, Shirley Ann Richards plays a woman whose brother was killed in World War I. Richards' brother in real life died in a Japanese POW camp during World War II.[18]


  1. It isn't done. (1938, Monthly Film Bulletin, 5, 68. Retrieved from
  2. "THEATRE and SCREEN". The Age (25529). Victoria, Australia. 10 February 1937. p. 16. Retrieved 14 April 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  3. "Stage and Screen Personalities". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 12 January 1937. p. 8 Supplement: Women's Supplement. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  4. "From Day to Day in Sydney". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 23 October 1936. p. 5. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  5. Philip Taylor, 'Ken G. Hall', Cinema Papers January 1974 p 85
  6. "HOOTING at the TARS". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 3 August 1936. p. 18. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  7. "CINESOUND FILMS". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 9 October 1936. p. 5. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  8. Clip from The 1930s Golden Era of Australian Movies: A Tribute to Ken G Hall AO OBE at Australian Screen Online
  9. "NEW CINESOUND FILM". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 14 October 1936. p. 12. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  10. "A CHARACTER FROM REAL LIFE". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 2 March 1937. p. 9 Supplement: Women's Supplement. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  11. "Chatter". Variety. 21 October 1936.
  12. "Sydney Girl Enters Filmland." The Courier-Mail (Brisbane) 29 Oct 1936: 22 accessed 29 November 2011
  13. "AUSTRALIAN FILM". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 13 November 1936. p. 6. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  14. "AUSTRALIAN FILM". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 28 October 1936. p. 8. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  15. Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper, Australian Film 1900–1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998, 176-177
  16. "FILM REVIEWS". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 8 March 1937. p. 4. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  17. "CECIL KELLAWAY". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 5 June 1937. p. 14. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  18. "Intimate Jottings". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 29 June 1946. p. 21. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
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