'Bitter springs', 'Robbery under arms', 'Kangaroo', 'The Sundowners' set in South Australia 1950-60

The Rank Organisation's Robbery Under Arms was filmed in South Australia in 1957.
Image courtesy Moviemem

Only four feature films were shot in South Australia between 1918 and 1968. There were two English productions – Ealing Studios’ Bitter Springs (1950) and the Rank Organisation’s Robbery Under Arms (1957) – and two American – Twentieth Century-Fox’s Kangaroo (1952) and Warner Brothers’ The Sundowners (1960) starring Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr.

Films made in Australia became a new attraction after World War II with Bitter springs, The overlanders, Smiley and Jedda, which starred two Aboriginal actors, proving popular.

Bitter springs was greeted as a major achievement with prime minister Robert Menzies attending the world premiere at Wests Theatre in Hindley Street, Adelaide, on June 23 1950. Other Australian films, although with international actors, were The Shiralee and On the beach.
The outdoor sequences of some of these films were captured at South Australia locations and the world premiere of Robbery under arms was at Port Augusta in 1957.

Neville Shute’s novel was adapted to film in 1956 as A town like Alice.  It starred Virginia McKenna and Peter Finch. It was shown in Japan under the title Malay Death March: A Town Like Alice. (In 1981 it was adapted into a popular television miniseries called A town like Alice, starring Helen Morse and Bryan Brown.)

The Alice refers to Alice Springs, named after the wife of South Australia’s postmaster general and superintendent of telegraphs, Charles Todd, who oversaw the building of the Adelaide to Darwin telegraph line, completed in 1872. South Australia administered the North Territory at that time.

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