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Silent films were still a novel form of entertainment in 1913. They were screened in venues across Australia, from rural town halls – perhaps to the accompaniment of a lone pianist – to purpose-built cinemas with small orchestras in the larger cities. Outdoor screenings were popular during the warmer months.
The first, full-length feature film, Quo Vadis?, was released internationally in 1913. A love story with a religious theme set during the reign of Roman emperor Nero, the film enthralled large audiences with its spectacular special effects.
Although 1913 was a buoyant year for the Australian film industry, only one complete Australian feature film, The Sick Stockrider, survives from this time. Some screenings of the film were advertised as having ‘elocutionary accompaniment’ to make ‘the heart of every Australian … throb to the music of [Adam Lindsay] Gordon’s poem’.
Behind the scenes: the not so silent films of 1913
This behind-the-scenes video features the recording of a live piano soundtrack for Glorious Days: Australia 1913.
The music was composed and performed by Elaine Loebenstein at the National Film and Sound Archive theatre.
The music accompanies a selection of newsreel and feature film footage from 1913, on show in Glorious Days.