South Australian Film Corporation's Lottie Lyell Award 100 years after 'Woman Suffers'

Australia's first female film star Lottie Lyell  took and lead role and helped write the Adelaide-made and produced film The Woman Suffers in 1918.

The South Australian Film Corporation launched an award in 2018 to commemorate Lottie Lyell’s trail-blazing impact on the Australia screen industry and to give significant financial support to a female-driven screen project.

The annual $20,000 Lottie Lyell Award will be for a female film practitioner, based in South Australia, to develop or deliver a work – feature film, TV series, documentary, script or game – that’s bold, ambitious and full of promise.

The award marked a century since Lottie Lyell starred in Australia’s first feminist film The Woman Suffers, also the first feature made by Southern Cross Feature Film Co, the first production company founded in South Australia. Screen pioneer Lyell was a writer, producer, director, editor and art director, and an accomplished horsewoman who did all her own stunts.

Together with her partner in work and life Ray Longford, she made 28 films. They had been working together since 1909 as actors in a touring theatre company. Longford directed her in the film of The Fatal Wedding in 1911. Their second film, The Romantic Story of Margaret Catchpole, made the same year, established her as Australia’s first female film star.

Lyell became Longford’s partner in the making of their films, as well as in their private life (he was already married and unable to obtain a divorce).

The Woman Suffers, filmed in Adelaide when Lyell was 27, was their 13th film together since 1911. The following year they made The Sentimental Bloke, the most successful Australian film of its day.

She appeared in all of Longford’s films as director up until On Our Selection, made in 1920 (on which she is credited as co-writer). Lyell died of tuberculosis in 1925, aged 35. 

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