Melbourne City 1931

This clip begins with a panoramic view from the Morehouse Tower of St Paul's Cathedral looking south over the Yarra River to the Botanical Gardens and the War Memorial. It is followed by a tracking shot from one of the shoulder lanes on the tree-lined St Kilda Road and then views of the Princes Bridge, Collins Street buildings, the Town Hall, Parliament House and the Royal Exhibition Building in the Carlton Gardens. The clip is accompanied by voice-over from Norman Campbell and an orchestral music score.

This clip shows the city of Melbourne in 1931 and is from a black-and-white travelogue made by Frank Thring senior as part of his Cities of the Empire series. The clip begins with a panoramic view from the Morehouse Tower of St Paul's Cathedral looking south over the Yarra River, followed by a tracking shot of St Kilda Road. The clip features other architectural highlights including the Princes Bridge, Collins Street buildings, the Town Hall, Parliament House and the Exhibition Building. The narration extols the virtues of Melbourne's grand architecture.

Many of Melbourne's landmark buildings are featured in this travelogue, including examples of Victorian architecture built in the Academic Classical style (such as Parliament House) and the Second Empire style (the Royal Exhibition Building). The grand architecture of such public buildings reflects contemporary views about their importance and the enormous wealth brought in during the gold rush of the mid-19th century.

The film is probably the first 'talkie' documentary made about Melbourne - in 1931 films with sound were still relatively new in Australia. Audiences for silent films had slumped in the late 1920s during the Great Depression, and the advent of talkies in the early 1930s revived the flagging industry. Thring's company, Efftee Studios, produced talkies in genres such as travelogues, nature documentaries, variety shorts and newsreels.

Despite the footage being shot in 1931 at the height of the Great Depression the clip highlights Melbourne's grandness and opulence without any mention of financial hardship. At a time when most Melburnian's were enduring financial stress and there was high unemployment, the film dwells on the grand and opulent architecture built during Melbourne's wealthier days. This is in keeping with the film's purpose to entertain and to promote Melbourne.

The clip reflects perceptions of Australia's place within the British Empire in the 1930s, especially evident in the British-style architecture. Links to Britain are emphasised in the series title, Cities of the Empire, and in the narrator's references to the King and Queen and the Prince of Wales. Australia's allegiance to Britain was demonstrated in the First World War; however, during the Second World War Australia loosened ties with the British Empire, turning instead to the USA.

The narrator refers to the planned nature of Melbourne's streets, which he credits to the 1830s colonial surveyor Robert Hoddle. Melbourne was one of Australia's first planned cities and the area that is now the central business district was laid out in a rectangular grid. Hoddle insisted that all streets be 99 feet (30 m) wide, even arguing the case with Governor Richard Bourke. The compromise was that Bourke insisted on a series of narrow lanes, each 33 feet (10 m) wide.

The clip features the Shrine of Remembrance, a memorial to the Anzacs who served in the First World War, under construction. Despite being in the grip of the Great Depression, Victorians raised the money for the Shrine within six months of the launch of a public appeal; the balance of funds was contributed by state and local government. The Shrine opened to great public acclaim in 1934.


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Melbourne City 1931 

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