Travelling Mass-Media Circus: Frank Hurley's Synchronized Lecture Entertainments

By Dixon, Robert | Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film, June 2006 | Go to article overview

Travelling Mass-Media Circus: Frank Hurley's Synchronized Lecture Entertainments


Dixon, Robert, Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film


At the height of Sydney's summer theatre season in 1921, the Australian photographer and film maker Frank Hurley was presenting his latest entertainment, the Melanesian travelogue Pearls and Savages, to record houses at the Globe Theatre in George Street (Plate 1). On 10 December he wrote to Douglas Mawson, who in 1911 had taken Hurley as his 'camera operator' on the Australasian Antarctic Expedition. Hurley had a deal to put to him. He'd been back from 'the land of Headhunters' for a couple of months now and was bursting with ideas for a new show. 'Briefly,' he wrote, 'my project is this. To produce an Evenings "Antarctic Memories" using Shackleton & your film in conjunction.' Not given to modesty, Hurley went on, 'I would lecture with an assistant, & will have the presumption to say that there is no one will make a bigger success of the picture than myself, as I am well in with the Union Theatres & press & public.'1

Three months later, and still on tour with Pearls and Savages, Hurley was staying at the Oriental Hotel in Melbourne's Collins Street and had received a positive response from Mawson. Hurley replied, 'I will be back in Sydney in a fortnight & will have an agreement drawn up. . . . The rights I presume will include N[ew] Z[ealand]. About the rest of the world - continental, UK & US. . . .As I expect to be over there in the near future fine business could be done.'A seasoned showman, Hurley now got down to details: 'To prepare & make slides, compose lecture, arrange music etc will take me at least three months hard going & I reckon to secure the most powerful "adventure & unique film".' 'The past experience of exploiting these attractions,' he boasted, 'has shown me the best means of getting the best money.' When, he asked, would the negatives be available? The point was that Mawson still held copyright on the expedition's negatives and the show could not be produced without them: 'Slide making will take considerable time especially the colouring . . . in addition to the slides I will run off a few hundred enlargements for Window Show Cards & I was thinking of producing a high quality album of Antarctic scenes to be sold in the theatres.' 'Also,'Hurley asked, 'could you loan me sledges, tents or equipment of any description . . . for display purposes.'2 Finally, Hurley was worried that Mawson might try to take control of the project. 'It is imperative for the best results,' he warned, 'that the entire show be left entirely in my hands - I have had wide experience now in this form of synchronized lecture entertainment & of "putting it over".'3

As things turned out, Hurley never did mount a show called 'Antarctic Memories' - it was just one of many such schemes he cooked up from time to time - although in 1925 he did publish a travel book that had grown out of the idea.4 What interests me, though, about his correspondence with Mawson in the early 1920s is that it allows us to begin re-imagining the media landscape in which he was working at that time. One historian of early photography has described it as 'fluid and polyvalent,' 'complex and fragmented,' an ever-changing mix of established media and emerging,'cutting edge' technologies.5 In certain respects it forms the horizon of today's mass-media landscape and yet there is also much about Hurley's world that belongs to the more distant past, to the traditions of late nineteenth- century urban entertainment.

But what exactly were these 'shows' he had become so expert at putting on? It is common to refer to Hurley's major works by the titles of his 'films': The Home of the Blizzard, In the Grip of the Polar Pack Ice, Sir Ross Smith's Flight and Pearls and Savages. But the stage and screen practices of the early twentieth century were very different to those of our own time. Hurley did not work in just one medium. He was, as Julian Thomas argues, and old-fashioned 'showman' whose repertoire included both traditional and modern media, which he used in both old and new ways. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Travelling Mass-Media Circus: Frank Hurley's Synchronized Lecture Entertainments
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.