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The Flying Doctor

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Flying Doctor
The Flying Doctor.jpg
Directed byMiles Mander
Written byJ.O.C. Orton
Miles Mander
Based onnovel by Robert Waldron
StarringCharles Farrell
Mary Maguire
Music byWilly Redsone
Alf. J. Lawrence
CinematographyDerick Williams
Edited byJ.O.C. Orton
R. Maslyn Williams
Edna Turner
National Productions
Gaumont-British Pictures
Distributed by20th Century-Fox (Aust)
Release date
23 September 1936 (Aust)
Sept 1937 (UK)
Running time
92 min. (Aust)
67 min. (UK)

The Flying Doctor is a 1936 Australian-British drama film directed by Miles Mander and starring Charles Farrell, Mary Maguire and James Raglan.[2] The Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia operate in the Australian Outback. [N 1] Noted as Australia's first "sound" feature film, The Flying Doctor was also the country's first feature-length film based on aviation.[4]


On his wedding night, Sandy Nelson (Charles Farrell) decides to abandon his young bride, Jenny (Mary Maguire) to go work in Sydney as a painter on the Harbour Bridge. He befriends a doctor, John Vaughan (James Raglan), who is in love with a married woman. Vaughan decided to acquire his flying license in order to accept a job as flying doctor in the outback.

Sandy gets in a brawl at a cricket match, serves time in prison, then heads for the outback and discovers gold. He is shot in a barroom fight and loses his eyesight. He then discovers Vaughan has fallen in love with Jenny, his former bride. When he realises Jenny loves Vaughan, Sandy decides to commit suicide, leaving his fortune to the Flying Doctors.


Mary Maguire returning to Brisbane after filming The Flying Doctor (1936)
Mary Maguire returning to Brisbane after filming The Flying Doctor (1936)


National Productions

The Flying Doctor was the first and only production from National Productions, a new Australian film production company which was formed in the 1930s under the management of Frederick Daniell, a promoter involved with radio and newspaper companies in Sydney. Amongst its directors were Sir Hugh Denison, Sir Samuel Walder and Sir James Murdoch.[5]

The company was closely associated with National Studios Ltd, which built a large studio complex in Pagewood, Sydney.[6] It was incorporated in September 1935 with capital of £50,000.[7]


National Productions had links to the British company, Gaumont British, which had been interested in making a film in Australia for a long time, with Robert Flaherty intending to shoot one.[8] Gaumont provided technical and financial support for the company.

Gaumont British provided several personnel for the film, including the director, writer, cinematographer, unit manager and sound recordist.[9] National Productions also hired Englishman Errol Hinds to be head of the camera department for two years.[10]

The British unit arrived in November 1935.[11][12] In December, American star Charles Farrell was signed to play the lead.[13] He did not arrive until late January 1936.[14]


Shooting began in 1936 with bad weather helping the budget increase. The film was shot at National Studio's Pagewood facility. Director Miles Mander left for Hollywood in March 1936, leaving J.O.C. Orton to finish the film.[6]


Mary Maguire lived in Brisbane, so it was decided to hold the film's international premiere there.[15] 20th Century-Fox agreed to distribute the film free of charge.[16] Box office receipts were poor but the release of the film led to a flood of donations to the flying doctors.[17] Reviews were patchy.[18] Aviation film historian Stephen Pendo in Aviation in the Cinema (1985), described The Flying Doctor as "lackluster."[19]

Gaumont British decided not to distribute the film in the UK and it was done by General Film Distributors. The Flying Doctor was never released in the USA.[20]

National Productions had prior to shooting announced intention to make three more films but none of these were made.[21]

Preservation status

The Flying Doctor was thought to have been lost until workmen clearing a building site in the Sydney suburb of Fig Tree uncovered a film vault. They cut through the steel door using an oxy torch – somehow avoiding igniting the highly flammable nitrate film inside – and loaded a truck with the contents to take away for disposal.[22] An office worker saw the truck drive by, loaded with film cans, gave chase in his car, and rescued the film, which included the first eight of nine reels of The Flying Doctor.[22] Two years later, the BFI National Film Archive in London found a copy of the shortened, re-edited British release of the film, also eight reels long, in the possession of a large film company.[22] Despite this print having been "totally rearranged", the last reel was found to take up exactly where the Australian one left off.[22]



  1. ^ Australian cricketer Don Bradman appears as himself in a cameo during the film.[3]


  1. ^ "Advertising." Brisbane, Australia: The Courier-Mail, 19 August 1936, p. 3 via National Library of Australia. Retrieved: 12 August 2012.
  2. ^ "Film details: 'The Flying Doctor'." Retrieved> 21 May 2019.
  3. ^ "Don Bradman." The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 January 1936, p. 12 via National Library of Australia. Retrieved: 12 August 2012.
  4. ^ Beck 2016, p. 101.
  5. ^ "Film industry." The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 September 1935, p. 2 via National Library of Australia. Retrieved: 12 August 2012.
  6. ^ a b Pike and Cooper 1998, p. 172.
  7. ^ "Company news." The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 September 1935, p. 13 via National Library of Australia. Retrieved: 12 August 2012.
  8. ^ "Making films in Australia." Adelaide, Australia: The Mail, 7 September 1935, p. 3 via National Library of Australia. Retrieved: 19 February 2012.
  9. ^ "National Studios." The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 September 1935, p. 7 via National Library of Australia, Retrieved: 12 August 2012.
  10. ^ "Australian films." Perth, Australia: The West Australian, 9 September 1935, p. 15 via National Library of Australia. Retrieved: 12 August 2012.
  11. ^ "National films." Perth, Australia: The West Australian, 5 November 1935, p. 17 via National Library of Australia. Retrieved: 19 February 2012.
  12. ^ " Film experts." The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 November 1935, p. 9 via National Library of Australia. Retrieved: 19 February 2012.
  13. ^ "Charles Farrell's part in Australian film." Adelaide, Australia: The Advertiser, 4 January 1936, p. 24 via National Library of Australia. Retrieved: 12 August 2012.
  14. ^ "Charles Farrell." The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 January 1936, p. 10 via National Library of Australia. Retrieved: 12 August 2012.
  15. ^ "'The Flying Doctor'." Brisbane, Australia: The Courier-Mail, 14 August 1936, p. 5 via National Library of Australia. Retrieved: 12 August 2012.
  16. ^ "Flying Doctor" film." The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 September 1936, p. 18 via National Library of Australia. Retrieved: 12 August 2012.
  17. ^ "John Flynn timeline."Flying Doctors History, 29 February 2012.
  18. ^ "Film reviews." The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 September 1936, p. 4 via National Library of Australia. Retrieved: 12 August 2012.
  19. ^ Pendo 1985, p. 122.
  20. ^ Paris 1995, p. 76.
  21. ^ "Picture Films." The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 January 1936, p. 12 via National Library of Australia. Retrieved: 12 August 2012.
  22. ^ a b c d Edmondson and Pike 1982, p. 38.


  • Beck, Simon D. The Aircraft-Spotter's Film and Television Companion. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2016. ISBN 9-781476-663494.
  • Edmondson, Ray and Pike, Andrew. Australia's Lost Films (PDF). Parkes, Australia: National Library of Australia, 1982.
  • Paris, Michael. From the Wright Brothers to Top Gun: Aviation, Nationalism, and Popular Cinema. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1995. ISBN 978-0-7190-4074-0.
  • Pendo, Stephen. Aviation in the Cinema. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1985. ISBN 0-8-1081-746-2.
  • Pike, Andrew and Ross Cooper. Australian Film 1900–1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 978-0-1955-0784-3.

External links

This page was last edited on 17 July 2020, at 20:00
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