Author Archive

The Overlanders, made in 1946, is the story of ‘one man’ – Don, played by Chips Rafferty (John William Pilbean Goffage 1909-1971) – and his small group of drovers crossing three states of Australia with more than a thousand head of cattle over 2000 miles during the Second World War. The film is set in 1943 outback Australia and is based on the true story of a cattle drive in 1942 organized by the government to vacate the land of people and supplies in the threat of a Japanese invasion. (more…)

Filming in the Flinders…. in 1906

Posted by on June 28th, 2010


From The Advertiser, Wednesday 5 September 1906


The financial year 1905-6 was the most prosperous in the history of the South Australian railways. Mr. Pendleton, in his annual report, states that the result of the year’s working was a record, the revenue being £76,444 higher than ever be- fore. The net revenue for the year was £85,380, equal to 4.30 per cent, on the total capital expenditure of £13,610,520 on miles open, compared with 3.95 in the previous year, which means that, after paying interest on the public debt for railways, £110,425 was carried to the credit of the general revenue. (more…)

John Mack footage

Posted by on July 21st, 2009

John Mack’s film footage of the World War Troop Trains was presented by John Mannion during the Film Maker in Residency 2009.

John Mack is in his nineties now,  and has been a South Australian photographer and cinematographer. As a young bloke he worked in a photographic firm in Adelaide and began working with moving images soon after that. Mack became involved in the amateur cinema movement in South Australia during the 1930s and 1950s. During the Second World War he was an army staff sergeant and was posted to the Northern Territory where he was involved with the Australian Army Education Service. It was during this time that he filmed his footage of the troop trains moving through Quorn. (more…)

‘The Mercury’ (Quorn) Thursday, September 15, 1950



An American walked into a Waymouth Street, Adelaide engineering supplies firm this week and asked for a spray for spraying trees with green paint.

The sales assistant looked cautiously at the customer who went on to explain he was from the “Kangaroo” Film Unit and the trees in the Flinders Ranges near Port Augusta, the site of the new 20th Century Fox production weren’t quite the right shade of green for shooting the film in Technicolor.

One never knows what to expect next now that film-making has really come to South Australia.

Dead-shot Moran

Posted by on July 12th, 2008

Dead-shot Moran in our midst!

an interview with Rhonda and Laurie Pumper
by local oral historian John Mannion

Rhonda and Laurie Pumper

Rhonda and Laurie Pumper

Former ‘Outback couple’ Rhonda (nee Gill) and Laurie Pumpa (above), were both born a few years apart at Miss Ward’s nursing home at Hawker, before the hospital was built in 1924. Now married for more than 62 years, the couple have lived in Orroroo since 1971 – following decades of living and working in the bush – mainly at Oraparinna sheep station between Blinman and Wilpena in the Flinders Ranges. The well-watered Oraparrina station was established in the 1850s, as were the Arkaba, Wilpena and Aroona runs. Oraparrina was sold in 1970 and is now the headquarters of the Flinders Ranges National Park.

After a ‘life of stock whip and shears’ Laurie Pumpa found it difficult to adapt to life in town and found work with the former Engineering and Water Supply Dept (E&WS) at Port Augusta – a job that took him “years to get used to”, but which took him to many parts of the north and east. Rhonda however found Orroroo to be “not a bad place to live” and soon “joined the golf club, bowls club, the hospital auxiliary and all these things”. Laurie is now retired and he and Rhonda are both members of the Orroroo Probus club – a club which they believe is the best thing that ever happened for the elderly people of the area.

In 2007 how many locals are aware that, along with a few other northerners, back in1956/57 Laurie Pumpa was a film star, with not only his face, but also his name on film screens all over the world.

John Mannion recently spoke to Laurie and Rhonda Pumpa at their home in Orroroo and the following is a transcript of part of the interview regarding Laurie’s role in one of Australia’s classic 1950s films.

What was the film you were in Laurie?

Robbery Under Arms.

Robbery Under Arms (1957)

Robbery Under Arms (1957)

How did you come to be in the film Robbery Under Arms Laurie?

Well, there was a bloke come up around [Oraparinna], I don’t know how … a bloke by the name of Whelan; I don’t know what his other name was; he was looking for horses for it, that’s how I come to get in it, because he got some of the horses from Oraparinna, and he offered me a bit of a role in it, so I took it.

What was your role in the film?

Oh well, a bloody fighting man I was I suppose!

You were Moran weren’t you? (Rhonda)

Yeah, ‘Dead-shot Moran’.

What were you called?

‘Dead-shot Moran’, it was only a small role in it.

Was that an interesting experience?

Well it was, but for somebody who didn’t know anything about it, they didn’t tell you anything, what you know.  You had to find everything out for yourself, what to do and if they gave you …you know told you a little bit beforehand it would have been a lot better you know, how to fall when you got shot they expected you to do it straight away, and if you don’t see films or anything …see pictures, you wouldn’t know what to do really. I got ‘shot’ and I fell a couple of times, but I used to have to do it again …and if you didn’t fall right, you fell wrong, so we had to go over it a few times you know, to get it reasonably right.

Where was the filming done; up around Oraparinna?

Yeah well, out … it was done just through the Wilpena boundary gate some of it, only about half a mile through, a bit over at a place what they call  ‘Terrible Hollow’, there’s a creek there.

Terrible Hollow?


(Rhonda) That creek by Reynolds’s …

That’s where Peter Finch got shot one morning or something; I wasn’t there then.

And did you get to meet Peter Finch?

Yes, oh yes, I met him; we stayed together for a long time. He used to stay at Wilpena and so did I.

At the Chalet?

Yeah, oh yes I got to know Peter reasonably well, he and his mates … Ronald Lewis and David McCallum, they all stayed there.

Ronald Lewis and David McCallum as brothers Dick and Jim Marston.

Ronald Lewis and David McCallum as brothers Dick and Jim Marston.

Was Bob Finlay in it; was he there too?

Well, he had something to do with the horses, he bought the horses up and …

yeah he stood in for David McCallum.

Did he?

As a stunt man, he did all the riding for McCallum.

Oh yeah.

Did it take a fair while to film?

Well I suppose about three or four weeks around there we were.

Longer than that I think. (Rhonda)

Was it? I know it was shearing time at Oraparinna when I was down there, and every time now and again I’d come home and give them a bit of a hand with the shearing like; take sheep away or something when I come home. I didn’t go out mustering but I used to give them a hand if there was a mob of sheep to be taken away and they didn’t have to go too far or something. I used to come home once now and again and give them a hand, because they were shearing at that time.

Maureen Swanson as Kate Morrison, the woman spurned by Dick Marston.

Maureen Swanson as Kate Morrison, the woman spurned by Dick Marston.

What about some of the girls who starred in it; who were they?

Well, there was no girls when I was I there!

(Rhonda) I can’t remember any …

Oh yeah, there was some girls … in the coach, but they were only there for a couple of days, I didn’t get to know them … a couple … there was one old duck and a couple of others I think.

You mentioned the coach; what was that, the mail coach?


That was all filmed up there?

Yes, some of it was yeah, some of the mail coach.

Some of it was filmed on the Willochra Plains too. (Rhonda)

Yeah, a lot was filmed on the Willochra Plains and some over in New South Wales or somewhere I think. I don’t know about Adelaide, if some was done there where the cattle were sold or something; was that in Adelaide? I think it could have been.

So was it a big deal for the north; this filming, did people used to come and watch?

Oh, a few but no, not that many really; they might have watched around Willochra perhaps, I wouldn’t know, because I wasn’t down there, I only did Oraparinna.

Did you go and have a look Rhonda when he was starring?

Yes, we did one day. (Rhonda)

Did they give you any copies of the photo’s (stills)?

No, I got nothing from them.

Didn’t you?

No, never even got invited down to the opening night when they had it down at Quorn; I had to go down and pay my own way in!

So you went and saw it?

Oh yes, I went and had a look at it.

At the opening night?

Oh yes, I went down and seen it.

So it was a good experience?

Oh yes, it was an experience, but I don’t think I’d ever take another one on really!

And did you get to have a talking role?

Yes, oh yeah, a little bit yeah!

Have you got a copy of the film?

They made another one afterwards, but it’s not the same, the other one’s bloody … it’s not Peter Finch in it; what the hell was his name?

(Sam Neil starred in an 1985 version).

So how long since you’ve seen it [1957 version]?

It’s years ago since I’ve seen it. It has been on telly a couple of times, a fair while ago; a few years ago.

David McCallum as Jim Marston being ‘persuaded’ to talk in Robbery Under Arms.

Many GLG readers, particularly older readers, will be familiar with the Italian, or so-called ‘spaghetti Westerns’ of the 1960s and 70s. Some were remarkably good, many were somewhat odd, and a handful were embarrassingly bad.  These readers may also recall the several ‘British-Australian Westerns’ that were filmed in the Flinders Ranges in the late 1940s and 1950s too (and later). For those with an interest in Australian social history (or who couldn’t sleep), ABC Television screened Robbery Under Arms back on Tuesday, 11 Dec 2007) at12:35 am.

Set in an Australia of 100 years earlier, the 1956/57 film Robbery under Arms – one of several feature film versions – is a well-made straightforward drama – the story based on an 1850s cattle-rustling, or duffing coup; the biggest in Australian history.

The Australian film classic is based on an 1880s Victorian novel by Rolf Boldrewood and was produced by Britain’s J Arthur Rank Organisation at the Pinewood Studios in the UK back in 1956, and many British actors and technicians travelled half-way across the world to film – ‘A Story of Life and Adventure in the Bush and in the Goldfields of Australia’ – an outdoor film that recreates the rip-roaring pioneer days when life was lived close to nature, and even closer to danger, with a touch of romance. In a superb cast, Peter Finch gave one of his strongest performances as Captain Starlight, ‘The Outlaw Who Seared His Brand On the Land’ and the notorious robber whose most potent weapons were a polite phrase and a disarming smile. Who really knows what the real Starlight was like, the one who actually roamed and robbed the areas around southern Queensland and northern New South Wales?

The story is simple and straightforward. Two brothers, Dick and Jim Marston, get caught up in cattle rustling with Captain Starlight (Peter Finch) who gets caught eventually, while the brothers escape to go off to the Bendigo gold fields to make what they hope is honest money. Sadly for them, they get caught up in a bank robbery staged by Starlight and his gang and, once again, are on the run, one and all.

That sets up the final action sequence whereby a large body of troopers attacks the mountain hideout of Starlight’s gang, with inevitable results. That shootout is still described as one of the finest ever put to film: realistic and beautifully photographed from many camera angles, providing the viewer a box seat of what such a battle must be like.

The rest of the cast is adequate to very good, with Maureen Swanson the standout performer as Kate Morrison, the woman spurned by Dick Marston (Ron Lewis); not a woman to be tossed aside, as he finds out. David McCallum, in his fifth movie, plays the other brother, Jim Marston who gets involved with Kate’s sister, Jean (Jill Ireland).

As a piece of Australiana, it’s worth the time to see. As a story about the bush ranging days of early Australia, it has its moments, particularly the final shootout. The production too fills the screen with sweeping camerawork, suggesting the vastness of the Australian canvas.

From the film’s credit list we have:

David McCallum – Jim Marston

Ronald Lewis – Dick Marston

Peter Finch – Captain Starlight

Laurence Naismith – Ben Marston

Jill Ireland – Jean Morrison

Ursula Finley– Grace Storefield

Maureen Swanson – Kate Morrison Mullockson

Vincent Ball – George Storefield

Jean Anderson – Ma Marston

Dudy Nimmo – Eileen Marston

Max Wagner – Sergeant Goring

Billy Pepper – Goring’s Tracker-Interpreter

John Cadell –  Warrigal, black rustler

Laurie Pumpa – the bad bushranger Dan Moran

Rita Ponsford – Lady in Coach

Whilst on northerners and films set in the Flinders Ranges; back in 1974 another Australian classic, Sunday Too Far Away was being filmed in the Quorn area.

A story from the Sunday Mail, April 28, 1974 – ‘Filming in outback – SA outback alive to sound of cameras’ focused not only on Sunday Too Far Away, but other films from the area. The story said that some Quorn locals were grumbling that while Quorn was the base for filming of Sunday Too Far Away, Port Augusta was getting the financial benefit.

Local farmer, the now late John Finlay disagreed with that viewpoint: “The film-making is good for the town, I’d like to see them continue coming here.” John’s then 36 year-old brother Bob, who recently turned 70 and is known to many Orroroo and district residents, was one of many locals, like Laurie Pumpa, to appear in, as extras or stand-ins, in previous films. Bob Finlay then a19 year-old did all the riding for David McCallum in ‘Robbery’. “McCallum and Peter Finch couldn’t ride. They would just sit on the horse for some scenes but they didn’t do any riding.” John Finlay recalled one morning when McCallum and Finch were put aboard horses for some tutoring. “The horses walked across the yard and when they came to a gutter either Finch or McCallum fell off, I forget which it was” John said.

The inability of the ‘stars’ to ride bought Bob Finlay several pounds/day for three months. “Finch was a good bloke,” Bob said. “A great man for his beer and he would eat gallons of ice cream.” This story has been verified by another local film extra, John ‘Buck’ Everett.

Film Stars arrive in Port Augusta

Posted by on July 8th, 2008

“Quorn Mercury” Thursday December 8, 1950






At midnight on Friday two cars and a bus turned off at a dusty track a little more than a mile from Port Augusta and drove to an almost deserted settlement, known locally as Hollywood Park, a hundred yards or so further on- the journey’s end for leaders of the 20th Century Fox Film Unit.

There were no bobby soxers there and stars Maureen O’Hara and Peter Lawford climbed out of a car without having to worry about the whims of fans. After Sydney and Adelaide they found this a welcome change.


“Quorn Mercury” 31 August 1950



Colour Film Site Chosen


Final arrangements have been made for the location of the Technicolor film ‘Kangaroo’ on Mrs E, V. Farrell’s property, 12 miles east of Port Augusta at the foot of the Flinders Ranges. Messrs Saul Wertzel and Colin Hall executives of 20th Century-Fox with Mr W. R. Johnston of the SA Lands Board returned to Adelaide from Port Augusta on Thursday night.

The executives stated that Mrs Farrell had agreed to make available the 7,000 acre portion of her property on the western side of the Flinders Ranges. The homestead, Broadview, is several miles distant on the other side of the range, in the picturesque Mt Brown district.


Star keen on trip to Australia

Posted by on July 7th, 2008

“The Mercury” (Quorn) Thursday Sept. 7, 1950

Star Keen on Trip to Australia


Film actor Peter Lawford said in New York on Monday that he was looking to ‘one of the best times of his life’ on his forthcoming trip to Australia to star with Maureen O’Hara in the 20th Century Fox Production, “Kangaroo” to be made in the foothills of the Flinders Ranges, about 12 miles from Port Augusta.

The 26-years old British born actor said that one reason why he was relishing the visit was that he had lived in Sydney for almost a year when a boy, and had kept in touch with many of the friends he had made at that time.

Lawford, according to present plans will leave for Australia about October 1 by air. He has planned a holiday in Australia for a month after completion of the film and will return to Hollywood by way of India and Europe.

Film critics think that “Kangaroo” may mark the turning point in Lawford’s career. He has had nearly a dozen good roles, but none offered the acting opportunities of this one.

Traveller Trinder

Posted by on July 3rd, 2008

The Commercial Traveller – relic of a bygone era, obviously very important back in the 1950s – more important than a film star!

“Quorn Mercury” August 3, 1950



A city traveller called at a hotel in the Quorn district where the movie, “Bitter Springs” was made, asked if Tommy Trinder – star of the film – had called in there at all.

“Tommy Trinder” said the man running the hotel. “I don’t think so. Who does he travel for?”

Quorn Mercury” 14 September, 1950

Director Who Made Lordly Clifton Webb



Director Lewis Milestone, who is expected in Port Augusta in the near future to make 20th Century Fox’s new color film, “Kangaroo”, among other achievements, unearthed that princely Clifton Webb and set him on the path to stardom.