Robbery Under Arms (1920 film)

Robbery Under Arms is a 1920 Australian film directed by Kenneth Brampton and financed by mining magnate Pearson Tewksbury.[4] It is an early example of the "Meat pie Western".[5]

Robbery Under Arms
Directed byKenneth Brampton
Produced byPearson Tewksbury
Written byKenneth Brampton
Based onnovel by Rolf Boldrewood
StarringKenneth Brampton
S.A. Fitzgerald
CinematographyLacey Percival
Pacific Photo Plays[1][2]
Distributed byUnion Theatres
Release date
2 October 1920
Running time
53 min
Box office£16,000[3]


Two brothers, Dick and Jim Marsden, become involved with the bushranger, Captain Starlight. They romance two girls, work on the goldfields, and are captured by the police after Starlight is shot dead.[6]


  • Kenneth Brampton as Captain Starlight
  • S. A. Fitzgerald as Ben Marsden
  • Roland Conway as Dick Marsden
  • Cliff Pyatt as Jim Marsden
  • Roy Redgrave as Dan Moran
  • William Pearson as Sir Frederick Moranger
  • Stuart MacRae as Inspector Goring
  • Jackie Anderson as Warrigal
  • Vera Archer as Jennie Morrison
  • Betty Crook as Miss Falkland
  • Hilda Dorrington as Kate Morrison
  • Tien Hogue as Aileen Marsden
  • Austral Nichol as Mrs. Knightley
  • Wilton Power as George Storefield
  • Phyllis Ruthven as Grace Storefield
  • Sybil Shirley
  • Nan Taylor as Mrs. Marsden
  • H. D. Wise as Mr. Knightley
  • Charles Chauvel


There had been several attempts to make films based on the Rolfe Boldrewood novel since the bushranging ban by the New South Wales government in 1912. In particular there were attempts by Stanley Crick in 1916 and Alfred Rolfe in 1918. However Kenneth Brampton managed to secure permission for this 1920 version, mostly likely because it stressed the moral lessons of the story.[7]

Kenneth Brampton and actress Tien Hogue managed to persuade the mining magnate Pearson Tewksbury to raise the budget and act as producer.[3]

Brampton was acting in the play Lightnin' which he left to make the film.[8]

The film was shot on location at Braidwood and in the Araluen Valley near Canberra. The bushrangers the Clarke brothers reportedly worked in this region.[9][10]

Renowned horseman "Top" Hassall doubled for Brampton on the horse riding scenes.[11]

Future director Charles Chauvel was working around the Sydney studios and attending to horses on the film. He has a bit part.

The film was the final acting role for Roy Redgrave who died in 1922.


The movie was reportedly successful at the box office[7] and grossed up to £16,000. However returns were so slow and the distributor and exhibitor took so much that Pearson Tewksbury was dissuaded from further film production.[3]

Variety said the film was "of only fair quality, the picture just gets by."[12]

Preservation status

A "copy comprising about three quarters of the film" was found and combined with already known footage to produce a near-complete version.[13] A five-minute sequence is still missing.[13]


  1. "DID YOU KNOW?". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 10 January 1947. p. 2. Retrieved 26 July 2012.
  2. "Robbery Under Arms". The Sunday Times. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 31 October 1920. p. 22. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
  3. Graham Shirley & Brian Adams, Australian Cinema: The First Eighty Years, Angus & Robertson, 1989 p 70-71
  4. Pearson Tewksbury at Australian Dictionary of Biography
  5. Lennon, Troy (21 January 2018). "Australian 'meat pie' westerns have been around for more than a century". Daily Telegraph. Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  6. "Advertising". Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser. Qld.: National Library of Australia. 3 February 1921. p. 5. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  7. Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper, Australian Film 1900–1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998, 101.
  8. "GOSSIP OF THE THEATRES". The Sydney Mail. National Library of Australia. 3 March 1920. p. 10. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  9. "EARL'S COURT". The Morning Bulletin. Rockhampton, Qld.: National Library of Australia. 15 January 1921. p. 10. Retrieved 26 July 2012.
  10. ""ROBBERY UNDER ARMS."". Goulburn Evening Penny Post. NSW: National Library of Australia. 27 March 1920. p. 1 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  11. "Sydney's Talking About". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 3 April 1947. p. 16. Retrieved 26 July 2012.
  13. Edmondson, Ray; Pike, Andrew (1982). "Australia's Lost Films" (PDF). National Library of Australia. Retrieved 13 March 2013.

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