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A Festival of New Zealand Stars Abroad

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Ticket to Hollywood: A
Festival of New Zealand Stars Abroad

The New Zealand Film Archive presents Ticket to Hollywood: A Festival of New Zealand Stars Abroad. The festival samples the work of some of our Kiwi actors and actresses who had a taste of fame overseas during Hollywood’s most glamorous era - back in the days when the stars really were stellar.

The festival starts with Nola Luxford and Dale Austen, who were in Hollywood during the 1920s. It also features newsreels from the era and home movies made by Ron Tonkins, a Kiwi visiting Hollywood in the 1940s. It concludes with John Batten, who had a brief career as a supporting actor in Hollywood en route to his ticket to fame in the UK, and Inia Te Wiata, who made the Technicolor western The Seekers in the UK (with location scenes in NZ) in 1954.

The festival runs from 3 May - 21 June, in conjunction with the Alexander Turnbull Library’s The Limelight Moment; Rediscovering our World Screen Stars exhibition.

All screenings will take place at The Film Archive, 84 Taranaki St, Wellington.

- SATURDAY MAY 3, 4.30 & 7pm: Nola Luxford and the Jazz Age (tickets $8 / $6)

A documentary on Nola Luxford, Nola - Our Own New Zealand Girl (dir. Julienne Stretton, 1985, 46 min, exempt), will screen alongside a selection of newsreels and shorts shot during the Roaring Twenties in New Zealand. These include a hair bobbing competition and beauty pageants.

Programme runs 70 min.

Hunterville girl Nola Luxford had a busy career in Hollywood during the 1920s and 1930s, where she acted in more than twenty films. These included both silent and sound films, several starring roles, and an appearance in a Katherine Hepburn film. She was a diverse actress and the press lauded her elegance.

- SATURDAY MAY 24
5.30pm: Movie Star Makeovers with WELTEC Hairdressing, Beauty Therapy and Make-up Artistry (free admission) 7pm: Dale Austen in The Bush Cinderella (tickets $8 / $6)

Join us in the Film Archive cafe from 5.30-7pm, before the Dale Austen screening, to get your very own movie star makeover. Staff and students and from WELTEC’s Hairdressing, Beauty Therapy and Make-up Artistry course will transform you into the embodiment of 1920s screen glamour or suaveness (they are moustache experts) - and how! Movie stars were amongst the first to popularize the use of make-up, which had been strongly linked with prostitution up until the 1920s. Experience for yourself the illicit thrill of transforming yourself into a new character!

At 7pm there will be a screening of The Bush Cinderella (1928, dir. Rudall Hayward, 84 min, PG), with live piano accompaniment by Shan Jordan.

Back in the era when MGM had “more stars than there are in the heavens,” Dunedinite Dale Austen was one of them - albeit momentarily. When Austen was crowned Miss New Zealand in 1927, part of her prize was a golden ticket to Hollywood. While she only stayed in Hollywood for a matter of months, acting bit parts, a sparkling career in the New Zealand film industry awaited her on her return home.

The Bush Cinderella is a rural melodrama that “New Zealand’s own film star” Austen made soon after her stint in Hollywood. The film includes a dash of high seas adventure on the Waitemata Harbour and a race up Queen Street, Auckland, to the finish. Austen plays Mary, an orphan whose uncle dies leaving a will with her as the sole benefactor, provided she reaches the lawyer by a specified time. In an attempt to claim the money for himself, the uncle’s grasping secretary kidnaps Mary, and her naval officer suitor then attempts to rescue her.

- SATURDAY MAY 31, 4.30pm & 7pm: Ronald Tonkins' Home Movies of the Hollywood that Was (tickets $8 / $6)

In the 1940s, Kiwi Ron Tonkins packed his bags and took a trip to Hollywood. In these home movies (73 min, Exempt) Tonkins shows and describes the places, people and landmarks of the Hollywood he knew in 1946.

Tonkins’ home movies are part of The Film Archive’s Personal Record collection, which includes 15,000 home movies, mainly spanning from the early 1910s to the 1980s.

- SATURDAY JUNE 7, 4.30 & 7pm: John Batten - Promoting New Zealand to the World (tickets $8 / $6)

Song of the Wanganui (195-, dir. Rudall Hayward, 20 min, Exempt) will screen alongside Journey For Three (1950, dir. Michael Forlong, 40 min, Exempt) and a selection of newsreels from the 1950s.

Rotorua-born John Batten looked every inch the movie star - tall, dark and handsome. Incidentally, he was also aviator Jean Batten’s brother. Batten appeared as an extra in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1923) before being awarded supporting roles in four other films - including The Battle of the Sexes (1928) and the Norma Shearer star vehicle The Last of Mrs Cheyney (1929). He was then awarded a contract in the UK, where he became a top-billed star in films including The Great Game (1930) and Men Like These (1932).

New Zealand film makers were keen to engage their international star on visits home. Song of the Wanganui was one of the films Batten made promoting New Zealand back to the world.

In Song of the Wanganui Batten plays a Naval officer, who returns home for a holiday, and spends his leave travelling up the Wanganui River by car and then by river boat. The purpose of the film is to show the Wanganui River as it was in the past. Includes scenes of: a dinner at a local Wanganui home (roast lamb); the small settlement of Jerusalem (Hiruharama) and a brief history and the work of Mother Aubert; historic caves along the river’s cliff face; a jet boat ride from Pipiriki and spectacular scenery of the upper reaches of the river.

While Journey For Three does not include any famous film stars, this film is another example of the promotion of New Zealand to the world during Batten’s era. The dramatised documentary featurette, which was made in New Zealand and released theatrically in Britain, deals with the issue of immigration. “The adventures of three British immigrants - two girls and a man - to New Zealand. The girls settle down quite soon, one as a nurse, the other as a factory worker; the man, an engineer, finds himself out of his element, ill at ease, disliking his companions, and has almost determined to leave when he goes out on a relief party up the mountains to rescue a climber who has broken his leg at the head of a glacier. The rigours of the climb solve his personal problems - he decides he likes New Zealanders after all, in spite of their differences to Britons...” - Monthly Film Bulletin, 1950.

- SATURDAY JUNE 21, 4.30 & 7pm: Inia Te Wiata in The Seekers (Tickets $8 / $6)

Inia Te Wiata, from Otaki, was a bass-baritone who toured New Zealand with the Waita Māori Choir, before going to London to study at Trinity College. He was engaged by the Covent Garden Opera Society - there he was discovered by British filmmakers casting The Seekers - a Western set in New Zealand, which was released in the US under the title Land of Fury.

The Seekers (1954, dir. Ken Annakin, 85 min, PG) is a story of British colonisation, told in Western style and filmed in glorious Technicolor. Captured by a Māori tribe, Phillip Wayne, an English seaman, expects death or torture. Instead he is adopted as a blood brother by Hongi Tepe (Te Wiata), the noble, intelligent chief of the tribe. Shot in the UK, with location scenes filmed around Whakatane, Rotoiti and Tikitere.

ENDS

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