The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1911 film)

The Mystery of the Hansom Cab is an Australian feature-length film directed by W. J. Lincoln based on the popular novel, which had also been adapted into a play.[6]

The Mystery of the Hansom Cab
Directed byW. J. Lincoln
Produced byWilliam Gibson
Millard Johnson
John Tait
Nevin Tait
Written byW. J. Lincoln
Based onthe novel The Mystery of the Hansom Cab by Fergus Hume
Starring"A selected metropolitan company"[1]
Walter Dalgeish[2]
CinematographyOrrie Perry
Distributed bySawyer Pictures (USA)
Release date
4 March 1911 (Melbourne)[1][3]
August 1914 (USA)[4]
Running time
4,000 feet (est. over an hour)
LanguageSilent film
English intertitles

It was the first Australian feature film to have a predominantly urban setting.[7]


A Melbourne playboy, Oliver White, is murdered as he is driven home one night in a hansom cab. Investigating the crime encompasses all aspects of Melbourne society. The scenes featured in the movie were:

  1. The meeting of Mark Frettleby and Rosanna Moore.
  2. Reems Street, East Melbourne. The Courtship.
  3. Frettleby's Station. Divided Lives. (Rosanna grows bored with station life and eventually leaves with their baby daughter.)
  4. Frettleby's New Love. Frettleby's Rooms.
  5. The News of Rosanna's Death. (Mark Frettleby receives a letter from England telling him this.)
  6. Room at Myrtle Orange. I love you.
  7. Twenty years later.
  8. Frettleby's Mansion, St Kilda. (Frettleby is a pillar of society, widowed with a daughter, Madge.)
  9. The Ghost of the East.
  10. Possum Villa. Grey Street. St Kilda.
  11. Two Men at War. (Two men wish to marry Madge, the dissolute Oliver Whyte and the squatter Brian Fitzgerald.)
  12. The Orient Hotel, Bourke Street.
  13. The Melbourne Club, Collins street.
  14. Brian receives a Message.
  15. The Cabstand. Scots Church.


  1. Austral Hotel, Bourke Street.
  2. Sal Rawlins shows the way.
  3. Mother Guttersnipe's, Bourke Street.
  4. Death of Rosanna Moore.
  5. The Fatal Drive.
  6. Collins street. Princes, Bridge.
  7. St. Kllda Road.

THE MURDER IN THE CAB – Opposite Church of England Grammar School.

  1. Who is the Man? Esplanade, St, Kilda.
  2. The Discovery of the Crime.
  3. Possum Villa. On the Track.
  4. The Arrest of Brian Fitzgerald.
  5. Carlton's Office, Chancery Lane.
  6. A Woman to the Rescue. The Melbourne Gaol.
  7. Brian Refuses to Streak. Calton's Office.
  8. The Reward for Sal. Rawlins. Mother Guttersnipe's, Bourke Street.
  9. No News. The Law Courts,
  10. Law Court. The Cabman's Story.
  11. Menzie's Hotel. Return of Sal. Rawlins.
  12. Acquittal of Brian Fitzgerald
  13. Mother Guttersnipe's. The Last Call.
  14. Mark Frettleby's Home. The Confession.
  15. On the Lawn. Who is the Man?
  16. Frettleby's Study. Blackmail.

You Killed Oliver Whyte – Death of Mark Frettleby – End of the Astounding Mystery[8][9]


With the exception of one scene in the countryside, shooting took place in Melbourne, with extensive featuring of local landmarks such as the Melbourne Club, Scot's Church, Collins Street, the Orient Hotel, the Esplanade at St Kilda and Melbourne Gaol.[10] The murder sequence, although set at night time, was shot in the afternoon for better lighting.[11]

A newspaper report on 25 March 1911 said the film was to be "produced" in Sydney but this may be a reference to the release of the film.[12]

In 1924 "Nero" wrote to The Bulletin to say "the interiors... were taken in one day at a little back-yard studio in St. Kilda, and the exteriors at odd moments during the rest of the week. About a fortnight later the completed effort was shown at the Glaciarium, where it ran for three weeks."[5]


The Melbourne Argus wrote that:

Cab is almost as familiar to Australian readers as Robbery Under Arms or The Term of His Natural Life. Its thrilling incidents provide splendid material for a moving picture drama, and in obtaining the desired film the cinematograph experts have secured an excellent presentation of the features of the novel... The audience took over an hour to throw on the screen, but the keen interest of the audience was held throughout.[10]

The film was usually accompanied by a lecturer.

The movie was a popular success at the box office, particularly in Melbourne.

"Nero" wrote "The photography was only fair, and the acting might have been improved upon, but the local “bits,” such as the Town Hall clock, the Orient Hotel, the Melbourne Club, the cab going over Prince’s Bridge, the murder on St. Kilda-road and the old Esplanade Hotel at St. Kilda, were considered enthralling. I had rather a surfeit of the picture myself, because I not only played in it, but lectured on it, and it was rather trying to watch oneself doing the wrong thing night after night for three weeks."[5]

USA Release

The film was released in the USA in August 1914 by Sawyer Pictures.[4]

Later Versions

According to W. J. Lincoln an overseas film adaptation soon followed.[13] There was also another version in 1925.[14]


  1. "Advertising". The Argus. Melbourne. 4 March 1911. p. 23. Retrieved 20 June 2015 via National Library of Australia.
  2. "He Pioneered Pictures". The West Australian. Perth. 29 August 1953. p. 17. Retrieved 29 June 2015 via National Library of Australia.
  3. Mary Bateman, 'W. J. Lincoln', Cinema Papers, June–July 1980 p 214
  5. The bulletin, John Haynes and J.F. Archibald, 1880, retrieved 14 March 2019
  6. ""MYSTERY OF A HANSOM CAB."". Bendigo Advertiser. Vic. 19 May 1911. p. 7. Retrieved 18 June 2015 via National Library of Australia.
  7. Graham Shirley and Brian Adams, Australian Cinema: The First Eighty Years, Currency Press 1989 p 41
  8. "Advertising". The Sydney Morning Herald. 31 March 1911. p. 2. Retrieved 28 January 2012 via National Library of Australia.
  9. "AMUSEMENTS. "MYSTERY OF A HANSOM CAB."". The Barrier Miner. Broken Hill, NSW. 10 July 1911. p. 3. Retrieved 28 January 2012 via National Library of Australia.
  10. "PICTURE DRAMA". The Argus. Melbourne. 6 March 1911. p. 9. Retrieved 28 January 2012 via National Library of Australia.
  11. Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper, Australian Film 1900–1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998, p14
  12. "Oven the Tea Cups". The Prahran Telegraph. Vic. 25 March 1911. p. 3. Retrieved 18 June 2015 via National Library of Australia.
  13. "PICTURE PROFILES IN THE OLDEN DAYS". Winner. Melbourne. 9 February 1916. p. 11. Retrieved 19 June 2015 via National Library of Australia.
  14. Graham Shirley and Brian Adams, Australian Cinema: The First Eighty Years, Currency Press, 1989, p42
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