What an event this was! Lots of residents and friends turned up to see some recently-released footage of Bondi circa 1926, as well as the iconic Australian tale 'Summer of the Seventeenth Doll'. The lounge room was full of excited chatter and the wafting scent of popcorn as we settled down to an afternoon of movie magic. Beautiful Bondi is a silent movie showing aspects of Bondi and the surrounding beaches from the 1920s. The swimming costumes, hairdos and fishing suits (the full suit, hat and pipe whilst fishing caused more than a few laughs!) were wonderful, and the footage of the Astra (then the Hotel International) being built was really interesting. Amazing to see the foundations of the building we live and work in being constructed, and an artist's impression of what it would look like when it was finished!
The main event of the day was a classic movie based on the play by Ray Lawler about two sugarcane cutters who come south to visit their girlfriends in the off season each year. Roo brings with him a Kewpie Doll for Olive, which makes it her 17th doll. This summer, however, is destined to be different from the others - Olive's friend has got married and things just aren't the same. The two male characters, Roo and Barney, have also had a falling out about work.
The movie had a nice feel to it, although the plot differed from the play in places. 'Summer of the Seventeenth Doll' is a pioneering Australian play written by Ray Lawler, first performed in November 1955. The play is almost unanimously considered by scholars of literature to be the most historically significant in Australian theatre history, openly and authentically portraying distinctly Australian life and characters. It was one of the first truly naturalistic Australian theatre productions.
Great fun was had by all watching the drama unfold. In places it was very funny, and this contrasted with the serious themes of lost youth and evolving passions. I enjoyed the feel of the movie, and it was lovely to see footage of Bondi and the Sydney harbour. Some scenes were filmed at the Astra, and it was interesting to see the inside of what would have been a very grand hotel. We wrapped up our afternoon with some tea and cake, and chatted about the images we had just seen. Thanks to Aaron for finding the movie, and I hope we can have some similar events soon.