Tall Timbers (film)

Tall Timbers is a 1937 action melodrama set in the timber industry directed by Ken G. Hall and starring Frank Leighton and Shirley Ann Richards.

Tall Timbers
Directed byKen G. Hall
Produced byKen G. Hall
Written byFrank Harvey
Based onstory by Frank Hurley
StarringFrank Leighton
Shirley Ann Richards
Music byLindley Evans
CinematographyGeorge Heath
Edited byWilliam Shepherd
Distributed byBritish Empire Films (Aust)
Paramount Pictures (UK)[1]
Release date
3 August 1937 (Australia)
January 1938 (UK)
Running time
89 mins
75 mins (UK)[2]


Forestry graduate Jim Thornton saves a young woman, Joan Burbridge, from drowning at Palm Beach. He later turns up to work at her adopted father Stephen's timber company.

Burbridge is secretly being undermined by his treacherous foreman Darley and competitor Charles Blake. Blake is also engaged to Joan despite sleeping with Darley's sister Claire. Thornton eventually exposes Darley and takes his job, and organises a timber drive. The drive involves dynamiting trees at the top of a ridge, causing trees along the whole hillside to collapse in a chain reaction.

When Darley finds out Blake has been sleeping with Joan he shoots him dead, and Joan and Thornton are almost trapped amongst the falling timber trees. The trees kill Darley, but Joan and Thornton manage to survive. Thorton reveals himself to be Stephen Burbridge's long-lost son, and he and Joan are married.



Cinesound Productions had intended to make a film of the timber industry since its formation in 1932.[4] In 1935 they announced they were going to make a big screen adaptation of the William Hatfield story Big Timber as their next film after Thoroughbred (1936), starring an imported Hollywood actor.[5] However Cinesound made Orphans of the Wilderness and It Isn't Done instead.

Eventually Hall decided not to adapt Hatfield's story, which the author later turned into a novel.[6] He instead used an original story by Frank Hurley also set in the timber industry. This story was rewritten by Frank Harvey.

Hall claims the script had no connection with the 1926 Australasian Films picture Tall Timber, which he had never seen.[7]

The two stars, Shirley Ann Richards and Frank Leighton, had both appeared in other Cinesound films, and Hall supported them with a strong support cast. Aileen Britton's part was created especially for her.[8]

The special effects were done by George Kenyon, who Hall hired from J.C. Williamson Ltd and went on to do effects for all of Cinesound's subsequent features. Two attempts were made to stage a timber drive on location at Gloucester but the drives failed to work.[9][10] Kenyon then made a model of the timber slope in the studio and staged it in miniature, using cut up sponges as foliage and knocking them over with wires.[11][12]

Frank Leighton was bitten by a spider during filming, causing him to fall ill for a number of weeks.[13]


The film was one of the last made at Cinesound when it was under the stewardship of Stuart F. Doyle, who resigned from the company in June 1937.[14]

A "Tall Timbers Ball" was held to promote the film in Sydney with 1,200 attending, including Lloyd Hughes, the American star of Cinesound's next feature, Lovers and Luggers (1937).[15] The film was successfully previewed to exhibitors in July 1937 and given a wide release in Australia.[16] The world premiere was held in Brisbane at the Tivoli Theatre, where it broke a four-year-old attendance record previously held by On Our Selection.[17] The movie was then seen by over 35,191 paid admissions at the Tivoli during its season there.[18]

Hall later admitted he felt the resulting movie was "weak as hell" because of its melodramatic storyline, although he was proud of the special effects.[7] However it was popular at the box office.[3]


  1. "AUSTRALIAN FILM". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 4 December 1937. p. 12. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
  2. Tall timbers. (1938), Monthly Film Bulletin, 5, 12. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/1305796738
  3. Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper, Australian Film 1900–1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998, 179.
  4. "AUSTRALIAN FILMS". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 16 June 1932. p. 9. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
  5. "Notes on the Screen". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 6 November 1935. p. 10. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  6. ""HERALD'S" NEW SERIAL". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 22 February 1936. p. 11. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  7. Philip Taylor, 'Ken G. Hall', Cinema Papers January 1974, p 83
  8. "AUSTRALIAN FILM". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 18 January 1937. p. 5. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
  9. "TREES TO CRASH ON MOUNTAIN". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 20 January 1937. p. 13. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
  10. "TIMBER DRIVE HITCH". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 23 January 1937. p. 17. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
  11. "Electrically-Controlled Blowfly to Worry Comedian!". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 24 September 1940. p. 12 Supplement: Women's Supplement. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
  12. Clip from The 1930s Golden Era of Australian Movies: A Tribute to Ken G Hall AO OBE at Australian Screen Online
  13. "MUSIC AND DRAMA". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 13 March 1937. p. 12. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
  14. "MR. S. F. DOYLE". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 5 June 1937. p. 18. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  15. "1200 DANCERS AT TALL TIMBERS BALL". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 12 June 1937. p. 11. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
  16. "Congratulations, Cinesound!" Everyone's 28 July 1937 p 3
  17. "Timbers" Tops "Selection" Bris Record, Everyones, 18 August 1937 p 3
  18. "35,191 See "Tall Timbers" at Brisbane Tivoli", Everyones, 25 August 1937
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