Orphan of the Wilderness

Orphan of the Wilderness is a 1936 Australian feature film from director Ken G. Hall about the adventures of a boxing kangaroo. It starred Brian Abbot who disappeared at sea not long after filming completed.

Orphan of the Wilderness
Directed byKen G. Hall
Produced byKen G. Hall
Written byEdmond Seward
Based onnovel Wilderness Orphan by Dorothy Cottrell
StarringBrian Abbot
Gwen Munro
Music byHamilton Webber
CinematographyGeorge Heath
Edited byWilliam Shepherd
Distributed byBritish Empire Films (Australia)
Pathe (UK)
Release date
December 1936 (Australia)
10 November 1938 (USA)
1938 (UK)
Running time
85 minutes (Australia)
69 minutes (UK)


Chut is a kangaroo whose mother is killed by hunters. He wanders through the bush and eventually arrives at a homestead, where he is befriended by a farmer, Tom Henton. Years later, Tom puts Chut in a travelling circus run by Shorty McGee. Tom's girlfriend Margot performs in the circus and says she'll look after Chut.

McGee trains Chut as a boxing kangaroo and becomes famous around Australia. Neither Margot or Tom are aware that Shorty whips the kangaroo prior to bouts. One day Chut fights back against McGree and takes off into the bush, pursued by men with rifles and dogs. Tom and his station hands eventually ride to the rescue and Tom beats up McGee.

Chut settles down on Tom's property.


  • Brian Abbot as Tom Henton
  • Gwen Munro as Margot
  • Ethel Saker as Mrs Henton
  • Harry Abdy as Shorty McGee
  • Ronald Whelan as Mel
  • Joe Valli as Andrew McMeeker
  • Sylvia Kellaway as Jill
  • June Munro as June
  • Edna Montgomery as Nell
  • Claude Turton as Dan
  • Arthur Connell as circus watchman
  • Leo Cracknell as Otto Ambergres
  • Sid Knowles as Beller
  • Jack Souter as grocer
  • Victor Fitzherbert
  • Jack Solomon
  • Captain A.C. Stevens as Burke
  • George Scott as the strong man
  • Dick Ryan as the kid


When Ken Hall returned from Hollywood in 1935, he announced that his first three films would be Thoroughbred, Big Timber and Robbery Under Arms.[2] Stuart F. Doyle wanted Hall to make a 50-minute short to support Thoroughbred similar to the way Cinesound Varieties was used to support The Silence of Dean Maitland (1934). Hall says Edmond Seward discovered the story in Cosmopolitan magazine and was attracted to its originality and setting.[3]

Eventually as scripting progressed, Hall decided to expand the story to feature length and add a romantic subplot.

Harry Abdy owned the kangaroo who played Chut in the movie. He had travelled in Australia and the US as a boxing kangaroo.[1]

Hall cast two newcomers in the leads, Brian Abbot and Gwen Munro.

Shooting took place in May and June 1936, on location at Burragorang Valley and Camden, and at Cinesound's studios in Bondi. J Alan Kenyon created a large bushland set inside the studio, 140 feet by 70 feet.[4]

Production was difficult due to the problems of dealing with animals, who were unused to studio lights and following direction, especially kangaroos. Shooting held up for several days due to an illness of Gwen Munro.[5] Harry Abdy was injured sparring with a kangaroo.[6] Some cast and crew were injured in a car accident on the way back from location.[7] Hall says he also had trouble with his actors:

When you're asked for a low-cost second or B feature, your inclination can be to approach it as a quickie. Mine was, initially, and that was a bad mistake. On this one we used too many raw people in the cast as a sort of break-in for them. This not only slowed us down in trying to get performances from inexperienced people, but that inexperience showed up in some of them in the finished picture. But not fatally. And certainly not in Gwen Munro...or Harry Abdy.[8]

Worried about accusations of cruelty to animals on Hollywood movies, Hall arranged for representatives from the RSPCA to supervise filming. He offered free admission to people to attend the circus sequences so he did not have to pay extras.[9]


After seeing the film, Doyle decided not to release it as a second feature but instead issue on its own at Christmas time. Reviews were generally positive.[10]

The film was not a massive success at the local box office, due in part to the fact many of the tickets were bought by children at concession prices. But it was popular and sold well overseas.[11][12]

British Release

It was the first Australian movie to be sold to England before it had even been completed[13] The film was released in the US as Wild Innocence[14] and screened widely in Europe. It was banned in England for a time because it depicted cruelty to animals and did not achieve release until 1938 after several cuts had been made.[15]

In 1936 it was voted the film of the year by the newly formed Film Critics of Australia Guild.[1]

At one stage Cinesound had plans to make another animal movie from a script by Frank Hurley and Kenneth Wilkinson, but these were abandoned prior to Orphan of the Wilderness being shot.[16]


  1. Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper, Australian Film 1900–1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998, 175.
  2. "CINESOUND FILMS". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 26 October 1935. p. 21. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  3. Hall p 108
  4. "BUSH SCENE FAKED." Examiner (Launceston) 18 Sep 1936: 9 Edition: DAILY, accessed 15 December 2011
  5. "MISS GWEN MUNRO'S ILLNESS." The Sydney Morning Herald 16 Jun 1936: 3 accessed 15 December 2011
  6. "BOXING KANGAROO". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 10 June 1936. p. 14. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  7. "MEMBERS OF FILM CAST INJURED". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 25 June 1936. p. 5. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  8. Hall p 109
  9. "CIRCUS THRILLS". The Sunday Times. Perth: National Library of Australia. 2 August 1936. p. 14. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  10. "FILM REVIEWS". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 21 December 1936. p. 5. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  11. "MAY REVERT TO U.S. FILMS." The Argus (Melbourne) 2 Aug 1937: 10, accessed 15 December 2011
  12. The Home : an Australian quarterly, Art in Australia, 1920, retrieved 29 March 2019
  13. "NEW AUSTRALIAN FILM." The Courier-Mail (Brisbane) 24 Jul 1936: 17, accessed 15 December 2011
  14. New York Times review
  15. "AUSTRALIAN FILM REJECTED." The Argus (Melbourne) 17 Mar 1937: 7, accessed 15 December 2011
  16. "AUSTRALIAN FILMS". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 30 April 1936. p. 5. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  • Hall, Ken G., Directed by Ken G. Hall, Lansdowne Press, 1977
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.