Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Maurice Murphy.
This fascinating documentary celebrates the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s Australian tour in 1954. The whole country was abuzz with excitement as the newly crowned monarch came down under for an extensive tour of Australia, the first reigning British monarch ever to set foot on our shores. School groups rehearsed elaborately choreographed dances, military units practiced their marching drills, and even the chauffeurs were put through their paces.
With the help of the conservation team of the National Museum, writer and director Maurice Murphy (Fatty Finn, The Norman Gunston Show, etc) has assembled lots of archival footage and Movietone newsreel footage to provide this comprehensive look at the royal visit. During the two month Royal Tour, the Queen and her entourage travelled through not only the capitol cities but also visited many rural areas. During her visit, the monarch made more than 100 speeches, opened eight parliaments and attended more than 90 civic receptions. It was hectic workload for the young queen, but she was also adamant that she meet lots of children along the way.
All of this happened a couple of years before television arrived in Australia, so the only record of the visit is this old footage, some of it grainy black and white, and some in gorgeous colour. This documentary represents one of the few times that much of this rare footage has been seen.
The whole thing is narrated with warmth and a boyish enthusiasm by television veteran Bert Newton. Murphy has also interviewed a number of senior citizens who, as wide eyed and enthusiastic school children in the 50s, got to see the Queen up close. One woman even recalls fainting at the sight of the Duke of Edinburgh. They talk about their memories and experiences, and what comes across clearly is their enthusiasm for seeing the monarch up close.
The film also serves as a wonderful and nostalgic look at Australia in the 1950s, when things were a lot simpler, and the nation was still finding its place on the world stage. It is suggested that the Queen’s visit temporarily brought all Australians together as one.
The Queen’s visit seems like a fairy tale. Juxtaposed with the historical footage though are scenes featuring Lorraine Bayly (from The Sullivans, etc) reading a fairy tale story about a Queen who visited a great southern land to a group of wide eyed young girls. However, I found those sequences a bit twee, unnecessary and patronising. It unnecessarily pads out this otherwise fascinating historical documentary.