Helen Twelvetrees during filming of Thoroughbred
|Directed by||Ken G. Hall|
|Produced by||Ken G. Hall|
|Written by||Edmond Seward|
|Starring|| Helen Twelvetrees |
|Music by||Hamilton Webber|
|Edited by||William Shepherd|
|Distributed by||British Empire Films|
|May 1936 (Australia)|
July 1936 (UK)
|Budget||£25,000 or £21,000|
Thoroughbred is a 1936 Australian race-horse drama film directed by Ken G. Hall, partly based on the life and career of Phar Lap. Hollywood star Helen Twelvetrees was imported to Australian to appear in the film. The film also stars Frank Leighton and John Longden.
A Canadian horse trainer, Joan, is the adopted daughter of horse trainer and breeder Ma Dawson. She buys an unwanted thoroughbred colt named Stormalong. Joan nurses the horse back to health with the help of Ma's son Tommy, and Stormalong starts to win races. He becomes the favourite to win the Melbourne Cup which attracts the interest of a gambling syndicate who try to dope the horse and kill it in a stable fire. They then kidnap Tommy prior to the race.
Stormalong manages to participate in the Cup, and although is mortally wounded by a sniper, lives long enough to come first place. Tommy escapes and helps the police capture the gangsters.
The film was the first made by Cinesound after the studio ceased production in 1935 enabling Hall to visit Hollywood for a number of months. While in Hollywood there he signed contracts with American star Helen Twelvetrees and writer Edmond Seward to work on the film. (Sally Blane and Norman Foster had been originally considered).
He also purchased a rear-projection unit which was used extensively in the film.The budget was originally announced as £25,000.
Twelvetrees was paid £1,000 a week, reportedly the highest salary ever paid by the Australian film industry to an actor.(Another source said £200 a week. )
Her co-stars would be Australian leading man Frank Leighton and English actor John Longden who was having an extended stay in Australia. According to Ken G. Hall, Twelvetrees and Leighton had an affair during filming, despite the actress having been accompanied to Australia by her husband and baby. Her husband found out and threatened to kill Leighton. Hall told Stuart F. Doyle who arranged for some detective friends to force Twelvetrees' husband to leave Australia.
This was the first movie with Cinesound for actor Ron Whelan, who joined the company as assistant director and also worked as an actor in several films.
Australia's Prime Minister Joseph Lyons visited the set during filming.
The horses races were shot in part by a camera man being towed on a sled.
The climax is similar to the 1934 Frank Capra film, Broadway Bill . Hall claimed he was unaware of this and blamed it on Seward.
The film was popularalthough reviews were mixed, with some criticism of the script.
The film received a release in the UK, but was subject to cuts from the censor on the grounds of scenes depicting cruelty to animals, in particular the stable fire.The movie was not a success at the English box office.
A novelised version of the screenplay sold out within three days, at a rate of 1,000 copies a day.
Kenneth George Hall, AO, OBE, better known as Ken G. Hall, was an Australian film producer and director, considered one of the most important figures in the history of the Australian film industry. He was the first Australian to win an Academy Award.
Cinesound Productions Pty Ltd was an Australian feature film production company, established in June 1931, Cinesound developed out of a group of companies centred on Greater Union Theatres, that covered all facets of the film process, from production, to distribution and exhibition.
John Longden was a West Indian-born English film actor. He appeared in 84 films between 1926 and 1964, including five films directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
Mr. Chedworth Steps Out is a 1939 Australian comedy film directed by Ken G. Hall starring Cecil Kellaway. Kellaway returned to Australia from Hollywood to make the film, which features an early screen appearance by Peter Finch.
The Broken Melody is a 1938 Australian drama film directed by Ken G. Hall and starring Lloyd Hughes, based on a best-selling novel by F. J. Thwaites.
Edmond Seward was a Hollywood screenwriter who had originally attended Northwestern University and worked as a journalist, before doing some writing for Disney.
The Squatter's Daughter is a 1933 Australian melodrama directed by Ken G. Hall and starring Jocelyn Howarth. One of the most popular Australian films of the 1930s, it is based on a 1907 play by Bert Bailey and Edmund Duggan which had been previously adapted to the screen in 1910.
The Silence of Dean Maitland is a 1934 Australian film directed by Ken G. Hall, and based on Maxwell Gray's novel of the same name. It was one of the most popular Australian films of the 1930s.
Strike Me Lucky is a 1934 Australian comedy musical film starring popular stage comic Roy Rene in his first and only film. It was the fourth feature film from Cinesound Productions but proved a box office disappointment; director Ken G. Hall says it was the only one of his features not to go into profit within a few years of release, although he says it eventually went into the black.
Grandad Rudd is a 1935 comedy featuring the Dad and Dave characters created by Steele Rudd and based on a play by Rudd. It was a sequel to On Our Selection, and was later followed by Dad and Dave Come to Town and Dad Rudd, MP.
Orphan of the Wilderness is a 1936 Australian feature film from director Ken G. Hall about the adventures of a boxing kangaroo. It starred Brian Abbot who disappeared at sea not long after filming completed.
It Isn't Done is a 1937 Australian comedy film about a grazier who inherits a barony in England.
Lovers and Luggers is a 1937 Australian film directed by Ken G. Hall. It is an adventure melodrama about a pianist who goes to Thursday Island to retrieve a valuable pearl.
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.
Gone to the Dogs is a 1939 musical comedy vehicle starring George Wallace. It was the second of two films he made for director Ken G. Hall, the first being Let George Do It (1938).
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Come Up Smiling is a 1939 Australian comedy starring popular US stage comedian Will Mahoney and his wife Evie Hayes. It was the only feature from Cinesound Productions not directed by Ken G. Hall.
Frank Leighton (1908–1962) was an Australian actor best known for two leading roles in films for Ken G. Hall, Thoroughbred (1936) and Tall Timbers (1937).
Pagewood Studios was a film studio in Sydney, Australia, that was used to make Australian, British and Hollywood films for twenty years.
John Fleeting, real name Claude Stuart Fleeting, was an Australian actor best known for his film appearances for Ken G. Hall.
Hall, Ken G. Directed by Ken G. Hall: Autobiography of an Australian Filmmaker, Lansdowne Press, 1977
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