South Australia's firm Southern Cross backs films by Raymond Longford from 1917

The Sentimental Bloke (1919), starring Lottie Lyell and Arthur Tauchert, was one of the major successes for South Australian Southern Cross Feature Film Company. 
Images courtesy National Film and Sound Archives 

In its short life, South Australia’s Southern Cross Feature Film Company made some of Australia's most famous silent films, mostly directed by Raymond Longford.

Adelaide businessman David Gordon was a prime mover in setting up the company in 1917. One hundred shares were offered at £1 a share.

Southern Cross said it would make five dramas and three comedies over the next 12 months. Another report predicted making “six or eight five reelers” over 12 months. Its first planned picture,The Black Opal, doesn’t seem to have been made.

It offered cash for Australian stories but initially employed American Walter May Plank as film director. When Plank left Australia, Raymond Longford was called in.

Longford’s first feature for Southern Cross was the successful The Woman Suffers (1918), followed by two hits in the UK and US, The Sentimental Bloke and Ginger Mick, based on the poems of South Australian-born C. J. Dennis.

In 1920, the buoyant company paid a dividend of a shilling per share. In that year, Southern Cross Picture Productions Ltd was incorporated with a value of £37,600 and directors including E.J. Carroll, Snowy Baker and David Gordon. Carroll-Baker Australian Productions made films starring Snowy Baker and had a five-twelfths interest in Southern Cross Picture Productions.

The company made The Jackeroo of Coolabong, Rudd’s New Selection and The Blue Mountains Mystery. Southern Cross financed an interstate film, Longford’s The Sentimental Bloke (1919), which became the most profitable Australian feature film to date. The company also had success with Ginger Mick, also based on a character created by South Australian-born poet C. J. Dennis.

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Southern Cross Feature Film Company shuts down in 1925 after outside factors hit home

Southern Cross Feature Film Company, incorporated in Adelaide in 1917, made some of Australia's most famous silent films before it shut down in 1925. With Adelaide businessman David Gordon as a prime mover, the company was at its peak in 1921, after the success of its first feature, The Woman Suffers (1918) followed by even bigger hits with the C. J. Dennis creations The Sentimental Bloke (1919) and Ginger Meggs (1920), all directed by Raymond Longford. A signal of challenges for the South Australian film enterprise came in 1918 when the New South Wales government chief secretary suddenly banned A Woman Suffers. Longford believed this stemmed from pressure from “the Combine”, a powerful partnership of Australasian Films and Union Theatres trying to suppress local productions in favour of American films. In 1920, Southern Cross Feature Film Company paid a dividend of a shilling per share. The company’s structure changed in that year with more interstate links when it took a five-twelfths interest in what became Southern Cross Picture Productions. David Gordon joining directors including theatre and film entrepreneur E.J. Carroll and athlete-turned-actor Snowy Baker. Southern Cross Picture Productions made The Jackeroo of Coolabong, Rudd’s New Selection and The Blue Mountains Mystery . By 1925, the company was reporting losses, partly due to costs in Great Britain and the USA. The directors decided against Carroll’s idea to film C. J. Dennis’s The Rose of Spadgers and the company was wound up soon afterwards.

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