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

Its Ginger Meggs (1920) film, based on the C.J. Dennis character, was another early success for Southern Cross Feature Film Company, led by Adelaide businessman David Gordon (right).
mage courtesy State Library of South Australia

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 suddenly banned the showing of A Woman Suffers in Sydney. Longford believed this stemmed from pressure from “the Combine”, a powerful distribution/exhibition 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, incorporated with a value of £37,600, and 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 (1920), Rudd’s New Selection (1921) and The Blue Mountains Mystery (1921). A side issue in 1923 was the trial of a man falsely pretended to be from the company to abduct a young woman.

By 1925, the company was reporting consistent losses, partly due to not covering costs in Great Britain and the USA. Carroll was also having trouble getting international distributors. The directors decided not to take up Carroll’s idea to film C. J. Dennis’s The Rose of Spadgers at a cost of £1,000-£2,000 and the company was wound up soon afterwards.

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