UPDATE 12/05/2020: For obvious reasons, this year’s Hippodrome Silent Film Festival was postponed to October. Sadly, this has also been cancelled, but I hope to be able to organise a belated centenary screening of the film in London at some point in the future.
On Friday March 20, I will be introducing a very special screening of Australia’s finest silent film, The Sentimental Bloke (1919), at the brilliant Hippodrome Silent Film Festival (HippFest) in Bo’ness, Scotland. Based on CJ Dennis’ vivid, colloquial verse about the lives and loves of working class folk, the film is the product of a brief but fruitful partnership between Raymond Longford and Lottie Lyell.
My fascination with this most fabulous Aussie silent stretches back to my MA thesis, which focused on the British release of the film (and it’s two Longford-Lyell follow-ups, the sequel, Ginger Mick, and almost-sequel The Dinkum Bloke aka A Gentleman in Mufti). This research also fed into my article ‘Wooloomooloo to Wapping: Critical responses to The Sentimental Bloke in 1920s London and the normalization of the inner-city working class’ [PDF], which was published in Studies in Australasian Cinema in 2012. Since then, I have also written about the film for World Film Locations: Sydney (Intellect, 2014), and introduced screenings for South West Silents and the Kennington Bioscope.
This HippFest screening, however, will be particularly significant as it will mark the international premiere of the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia’s sparkling new digital restoration of the film. Timed to coincide with the centenary of the film’s release, with a new soundtrack from Paul Mac, the restoration had its world premiere in February, at an open-air screening held just a stone’s throw away from many of the film’s key locations in and around Sydney’s dockside district of Wooloomooloo.
If you’re not familiar with The Sentimental Bloke, here’s what the HippFest team have to say:
A tale of romance, jealousy, temptation and redemption!
With the help of charming, rhyming vernacular intertitles we follow the story of Bill ‘The Kid’, a larrikin (Australian term meaning “uncultivated, rowdy but good-hearted person”) who cleans up his act when the beautiful Doreen enters his life. The much-loved Australian film star Lottie Lyell plays Doreen, and also holds screenplay, art direction, editing and production assistant credits.The film was a huge box office hit with audiences at the time, prized for its vivid characterisation, heartfelt and sympathetic storytelling, and the humour and realism with which it portrays the working-class setting.
The HippFest screening of this new restoration takes place at 3:30pm on Friday March 20, with live accompaniment from fellow Aussie ex-pat Meg Morley. Tickets are still available for this, and a whole range of other events taking place the Hippodrome Silent Film Festival at the Hippodrome (Bo’ness, Scotland). HippFest runs from 18-22 March 2020.