The Shadow of Lightning Ridge

The Shadow of Lightning Ridge is a 1920 Australian silent film starring renowned Australian sportsman Snowy Baker.[2] It has been called the most "Western"-like of the films Baker made in Australia.[3]

The Shadow of Lightning Ridge
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWilfred Lucas
Produced byE.J. Carroll
Snowy Baker
Written byBess Meredyth
StarringSnowy Baker
Agnes Vernon
CinematographyRobert Doerrer
Production
company
Carroll-Baker Australian Productions
Distributed byAywon Pictures (US)
Release date
3 April 1920 (Australia)
13 September 1921 (US)
Running time
7 reels[1]
CountryAustralia
LanguageSilent film
English intertitles

It is now considered a lost film.

Charles Chauvel had a small role as a groom.[4][5]

The success of the film prompted the formation of the Carroll-Baker Film Corporation with capital of £25,000. A studio, Palmerston, at Waverly was established.[6]

Synopsis

Travelling in a carriage is Sir Edward Marriott, a wealthy mine owner, his fiancée Dorothy Hardyn, and a bag containing the month's pay for the miners. They are travelling to Marriott's estate at Lightning Ridge. There is also a man with a hacking cough.

A conveyance with armed escort meets the train to prevent the large sum of money from a mysterious outlaw known as The Shadow. However The Shadow, the man with the hacking cough, gets the money and a necklace from the Dorothy. He jumps on to a horse and escapes.

It turns out the Shadow is actually a gentleman in disguise with a vendetta against Sir Edward because his mother has been victimised by him. He has become a The Shadow but only attacks Sir Edward's property.[7]

The Shadow rescues Dorothy from real bushrangers and they fall in love. Later he discovers he is the real heir to Sir Edward's property. Portuguese Anne, who is in love with the Shadow, becomes jealous of Dorothy and arranges for the Shadow to be arrested. However he escapes.[8][9]

Cast

Production

The script was clearly inspired by Zorro, which Bess Meredyth later adapted in The Mark of Zorro (1940). After reading the script and seeing the stunts he was required to perform, Baker reportedly went out and insured himself for £5,000.[12]

Bernice Vere was a discovery of Baker's.[13] She was signed to a 12-month contract.[14]

Shooting took place in early 1920 in the bush near Sydney, at Bulli Pass and Loddon Falls[15] and at a studio built by E.J. Carroll at Palmerston near Waverly.[16]

A highlight of the film was Snowy Baker on horseback jumping 40 metres off a cliff.[17][18]

Baker used a stuntman for some of the more dangerous scenes.[19]

Reception

Critical

The trade paper Everyone's said:

Baker as an elusive bushranger brings joy to the hearts of the Pussyfoots by entirely wrecking a bush pub. Snowy doesn’t do it on behalf of prohibition. He’s escaping from the Law and the big fight that ensues causes the damage. It was thought at first that the big scene could be done with empty bottles on the shelves, but so many were smashed that it was found that there was a sad lack of realism. So, to the horror of many actors, dozens of bottles of real whisky were deliberately wasted. Now, it is said, " The Shadow of Lightning Ridge" is certain of a tremendous success especially after 6 p.m. Thirsty folk will go along just to smell the bush pubs scene.[20]

The Bulletin praised the photography but thought the story was too American saying the "only Australian thing about" the movie "is the setting. The scenery is dinkum, but the story itself is a mixture of old melodrama and Wild West movie. Australia wants Australian films, and in spite of "Snowy" Baker's great athletic business, she will refuse to swallow "The Shadow" as the thing her soul cries for. Leading-woman Brownie Vernon, also being American, adds nothing Australian to the picture. But the photography is excellent."[21] Another article in the same magazine said the film "claims Australian patronage on account of its local production, but is in all its gun play and other effects imitation American. Heaven forbid that this sort of stuff should go out to the world as dinkum Australian !" [22]

The Lone Hand said it was the "Best Australian production to date. Station life and bush scenes well depicted, but story not original."[23]

Australian Worker said the film was "considerably better" than Man from Kangaroo.[24]

Meredyth and Lucas left for Sonoma on 11 February 1920 so were not in Australia when the film premiered.[25]

Box Office

The film was a success at the Australian box office.[26][27] Reportedly "thousands" witnessed it in its Melbourne season[28] and broke box office records in Newcastle.[29]

Dan Carroll later said his company "was encouraged to consider making further pictures" after the success of this and Man from Kangaroo. He "found, however, that small producers had entered the field, and, releasing pictures of a low duality, had made Australian films subjects for the ridicule of audiences. Lack of Australian stories suitable for dramatisation and the fact that oversea producers were releasing films more than sufficient for market needs had also forced him and his associates to abandon the production of films."[30]

The film was screened in Australian cinemas as late as 1923.[31]

US release

The film was released in the US in 1922 by William Selig. One trade paper wrote that:

"Good stunt stuff is introduced in the film, and there are a few genuine thrills such as the leap from a dashing horse on to a speeding train; a kidnapping episode and a daring rescue. In connection with some of the stunts performed by Baker it would seem that either the director has been too hasty in an effort to get action or the film has not been carefully cut. At any rate, things happen along just a little too quickly to follow comprehensively. This is particularly noticeable in the instance where Baker rescues the girl he loves."[32]

See also

References

  1. ""SHADOW OF LIGHTNING RIDGE" AT WEST'S". The Register. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 1 October 1920. p. 8. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
  2. The Lone hand, W. McLeod, 1907, retrieved 4 June 2018
  3. Vagg, Stephen (24 July 2019). "50 Meat Pie Westerns". Filmink.
  4. "TOPICS OF THE DAY". Newcastle Morning Herald And Miners' Advocate (21, 972). New South Wales, Australia. 6 March 1947. p. 2. Retrieved 14 March 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  5. "A RESOLUTE FILM MAKER". The Canberra Times. 47, (13, 523). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 25 August 1973. p. 10. Retrieved 28 July 2019 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  6. "ALL AUSTRALIAN". The Sun (897). New South Wales, Australia. 6 June 1920. p. 5. Retrieved 28 July 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  7. ""THE SHADOW OF LIGHTNING RIDGE"". Table Talk (1810). Victoria, Australia. 1 April 1920. p. 7. Retrieved 14 March 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  8. "WEST'S PICTURES." The Register (Adelaide) 28 Sep 1920: 6 accessed 18 December 2011
  9. "STRAND THEATRE". Newcastle Morning Herald And Miners' Advocate (14, 216). New South Wales, Australia. 1 June 1920. p. 6. Retrieved 28 July 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  10. "NEW AUSTRALIAN-MADE FILM". The Sunday Times (1790). New South Wales, Australia. 16 May 1920. p. 5. Retrieved 14 March 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  11. "Along Film Row". Everyone's. 22 April 1922. p. 5.
  12. "AMUSEMENTS". The Register. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 30 September 1920. p. 9. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
  13. The bulletin, John Haynes and J.F. Archibald, 1880, retrieved 14 March 2019
  14. "[?] Baptist Association". Quorn Mercury. South Australia. 10 September 1920. p. 1. Retrieved 14 March 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  15. Australian Geographical Society.; Australian National Publicity Association.; Australian National Travel Association. (1934), Walkabout, Australian National Travel Association, retrieved 14 March 2019
  16. 'Palmerston Studio: Our pioneer silent film studio' Waverly Council
  17. "AUSTRALIAN-MADE FILMS". The Register. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 25 September 1920. p. 10. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
  18. "WEST'S PICTURES". The Register. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 28 September 1920. p. 6. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
  19. "NEWS OF THE FILM WORLD". Sydney Mail. XVI, (415). New South Wales, Australia. 10 March 1920. p. 10. Retrieved 28 July 2019 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  20. Everyones, Everyones Ltd, 1920, retrieved 14 March 2019
  21. "Sundry Shows". The Bulletin. 20 May 1920. p. 36.
  22. "Poverty Point". The Bulletin. 15 April 1920. p. 44.
  23. "Film Criticism". The Lone Hand. 1 July 1920. p. 34.
  24. ""THE SHADOW OF LIGHTNING RIDGE."". The Australian Worker. 29, (11). New South Wales, Australia. 11 March 1920. p. 20. Retrieved 14 March 2019 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  25. The Lone hand, W. McLeod], 1907, retrieved 14 March 2019
  26. "AUSTRALIAN FILMS". The West Australian. Perth: National Library of Australia. 23 November 1927. p. 18. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
  27. Everyones, Everyones Ltd, 1920, retrieved 14 March 2019
  28. "CAMPERDOWN CHRONICLE PUBLISHED EVERY TUESDAY, THURSDAY. SATURDAY SATURDAY, MAY 15, 1920". Camperdown Chronicle. XLI, (4248). Victoria, Australia. 15 May 1920. p. 2. Retrieved 28 July 2019 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  29. "STRAND THEATRE". Newcastle Morning Herald And Miners' Advocate (14, 216). New South Wales, Australia. 1 June 1920. p. 6. Retrieved 28 July 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  30. "AUSTRALIAN FILMS". The West Australian. XLIII, (7, 939). Western Australia. 23 November 1927. p. 18. Retrieved 14 March 2019 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  31. "OXFORD THEATRE". Daily Advertiser. New South Wales, Australia. 23 May 1923. p. 2. Retrieved 28 July 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  32. "Footlights and Screen". The Herald (14, 295). Victoria, Australia. 7 January 1922. p. 16. Retrieved 14 March 2019 via National Library of Australia.
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