An American film company flew to Australia to produce “The Romance Of Runnibede” in 1927, and went on to lose their shirts at the box office despite drawing critical acclaim (Photo: Sam Hood)

October 9, 2019

An Australian film shot in Murgon and Cherbourg in 1927 using local residents as extras will get a rare public screening at Barambah Station next month.

“The Romance of Runnibede” is a silent movie based on a book of the same name by well-known Australian author Steele Rudd.

It was produced by an American movie company and featured Hollywood starlet Eva Novak in the lead role, supported by six Australian actors and a cast of extras.

It tells the melodramatic story of Dorothy Winchester, who finishes four years of school and returns home to North Queensland where her father has a large station.

She is kidnapped by local Aborigines who believe she is the reincarnation of a queen. Two men who love her chase after her: Tom Linton, a stockman on her father’s property, and Sub-Inspector Dale, a mounted policeman.

While the film would draw scorn today for its depiction of Indigenous people – and the bush as a wilderness just waiting for white settlers to turn it into productive land – it faithfully captures the ignorance of the 1920s.

The film was previewed favorably by the Royal Commission on the Moving Picture Industry in Australia in September 1927.

It also won high praise from the Sydney Morning Herald’s film critic, who said it deserved “unqualified praise” and was much better than most American-made films of the time.

But these positive critical reviews failed to translate into box-office success.

“The Romance Of Runnibede” opened to the public in January 1928 but closed soon afterwards, recouping barely one-sixth of its production cost.

The production company went into liquidation in May that year and Steele Rudd – who had invested in it – lost his money.

Eva Novak also returned to the USA without her £3000 salary.

The film is being screened by the Creative Country Association which is inviting local residents to attend and see if they can recognise any relatives in the film’s cast.

They will also be able to reflect on how much has changed in Australian attitudes to Indigenous people and the landscape over the past 90 years.

Guests at this semi-formal affair will be greeted on arrival with a glass of Clovely Estate sparkling wine, canapes and a tour of Barambah Homestead’s prize-winning gardens.

The film night will begin at 5:30pm on Saturday, November 9, and screening will begin after dark.

Tickets are $65 per head and are strictly limited to 80.

They can be bought at Clifton Motors in Macalister Street, Murgon or by phoning (07) 4168-1066.

Hollywood starlet Eve Novak played the lead role in “The Romance Of Runnibede” (Photo: Wikipedia)
Actors prepare to shoot a scene … many local residents from Cherbourg and Murgon were hired as extras for the movie, but a few scenes were also shot at Rushcutters Bay in Sydney (Photo: Wikipedia)
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