For the Term of His Natural Life (1908 film)

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For the Term of His Natural Life
For the Term of His Natural Life 1908.jpg
Directed by Charles MacMahon
Based ona stage adaptation of the novel by Marcus Clarke
Produced by Charles MacMahon
E. J. Carroll
Starring Martyn Keith
CinematographyC. Byers Coates
Release date
8 August 1908
Running time
2,000 feet (45 – 60 mins) [1]
Languages Silent film
English intertitles
Budget£7,000 [2] or £1,000 [3]

For the Term of His Natural Life is a 1908 Australian silent film based on the 1874 novel by the same name by Marcus Clarke. The film is an adaptation of MacMahon's stage adaptation of the novel.


It was the fourth Australian feature ever made and is considered a lost film.

The 1908 film was the first screen adaptation of Clarke's novel, which was also later filmed in 1911, as a silent film known as "The Life of Rufus Dawes", 1927, again as a silent film (the most expensive produced in Australia to that time) and 1983, as a television mini-series.


The film's plot was a collection of highlights from the novel, such as

The movie kept the tragic ending of the novel, with Rufus Dawes and Sylvia perishing in a storm after Reverend North had helped Dawes escape. [4] [5]



The MacMahon brothers, James and Charles MacMahon, had enjoyed success producing a version of the novel on stage, [6] and allocated a considerable budget for the movie, including a shooting schedule of eight weeks [7] and location work in Port Arthur. The scene involving the burning of a sailing ship was staged with a model ship in a tank. [2]


Based on a popular stage adaptation of the novel, the movie was a big success at the box office, running for eight weeks in Sydney at Queens Hall in 1908. [8] [9] It played in cinemas on and off until World War I. [10] [11] Screenings were usually accompanied by an actor, who would provide descriptive commentary to what was on screen. [12]

See also

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  1. "DRAMA BY ANIMATED PICTURES." The Register (Adelaide) 6 July 1908: 3, retrieved 26 November 2011
  2. 1 2 Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper, Australian Film 1900–1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998, 9
  3. "Advertising". Williamstown Chronicle . Vic.: National Library of Australia. 12 April 1913. p. 4. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  4. "FOR THE TERM OF HIS NATURAL LIFE." The Examiner (Launceston), 10 November 1909: 6, accessed Web. 26 November 2011
  5. "WONDERLAND PICTURES". The Mildura Cultivator . Vic.: National Library of Australia. 21 May 1913. p. 9. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  6. "AMUSEMENTS". The Daily News . Perth: National Library of Australia. 4 January 1900. p. 3. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  7. ""FOR THE TERM OF HIS NATURAL LIFE."". The Examiner . Launceston, Tas.: National Library of Australia. 10 November 1909. p. 6 Edition: DAILY. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  8. Margaret Williams, 'MacMahon, Charles (1861–1917)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, retrieved 4 December 2012.
  9. "Advertising". The Sydney Morning Herald . National Library of Australia. 12 October 1908. p. 2. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  10. "MacMahon and Carroll's Picture Drama" The Examiner (Launceston, Tas) 12 November 1909: 3, accessed Web. 26 November 2011
  11. Graham Shirley and Brian Adams, Australian Cinema: The First Eighty Years, Currency Press, 1989 p 26.
  12. "His Natural Life" by Biograph" The Brisbane Courier 24 December 1909: 2, retrieved 26 November 2011