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A group of young adults in bathing costumes in the 1920s.
  • Flappers and film fanciers

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    Posted on: 09/07/2015

    Visitors to our Mediatheque can venture into the opulent world of Melbourne in the 1920s with this newly curated package of film delights!

    Looking to escape the Winter cold? Enjoy some episodes of the ABC TV series Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries as well as a program of historic works from the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

    It’s wonderful seeing surviving film from the 1920s. The NFSA have preserved and made accessible some absolute gems of the era and characters in feature length films can seem ‘other worldly’ because of the passage of time and the generally over-the-top earnest acting.

    Flappers And Fanciers Blog The Far Paradise Film

    Characters from the fabulous silent feature film The Far Paradise (1928)

    Upon seeing surviving documentary films of the era, however, this brings a whole new perspective on the lives those represented were actually living. It’s easy to think of the people shown in historic documentary film as ‘old’ or ‘relics’ but they were the contemporaries of their time.

    They didn’t have to worry about Wi-Fi connections but work and family life for city dwellers in the 1920s presented similar issues for today’s city folk. Forming relationships, seeking out gainful employment and recreational pursuits were all just as essential as drivers of story and they played out in a number of ways: seeing a movie or going to a show, street parades, footy matches, keeping up with the latest fashions and of course celebrities and gossip.

    In the short documentary film Beautiful Bondi we see young men and women resting and playing on the beach – kicking back and having fun.

    Flappers And Fanciers Blog Beautiful Bondi Film

    Beautiful Bondi (1926)

    Celebrity fandom is clearly evident in this short work as frantic crowds are desperate to catch a glimpse of Bert Hinkler, an Australian solo aviator and inventor, and welcome home the country’s hero.

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    Bert Hinkler Arrives in Tasmania (1928)

    Footy crowds and their brash enthusiasm as barrackers hasn’t changed much either as apparent in the VFL films of the era.

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    Victorian Football League StKilda Defeat Collingwood (c.a. 1920)

    An amusement park’s big wooden slide provided hours of fun for young and old.

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    Some of the Attractions at the StKilda Fair (c.a. 1923)

    Women’s fashion was also revolutionised with the abandonment of the restrictive corsetry of the past. Dresses were shorter and looser, hats were smaller and more form fitting and women smoked, owned and drove cars and flew airplanes – they also already had the right to vote but in 1923 women also had the right to stand for the Victorian Parliament. As is now a well-established tradition, women turned out in the latest finery at the Melbourne Cup.

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    The Melbourne Cup 1927 (1927)

    The successful television show Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries has relived some of this fine attire through wonderful set and costume design. Shot in Melbourne and set in the 1920s, the protagonist - private detective Miss Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) - captures the joie de vive of the era and its beautiful fashions.

    The series focuses on the personal and professional life of the PI as we're cast into the dark web of city life. Murder and crime are not exclusively contemporary themes either as Miss Fisher finds herself involved in both the glamour and the urban underbelly.

    Premiering on 24 February 2012 with the pilot episode Cocaine Blues, its popularity has seen a third series produced and screened this year.

    Flappers And Fanciers Blog Miss Fisher Murder Mystery

    To coincide with an exhibition of costumes from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Series Three (presented by Every Cloud Productions and Marion Boyce Costume Design) four complete episodes from the first two series and 'behind the scenes' shorts are available to view in our comfy Mediatheque. In conjunction with the National Trust, a costume exhibition will be on display at Ripon Lea House & Gardens until 30 September 2015.

    This Australian television mystery drama is based on Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher Murder Mystery novels and was created by Deb Cox and Fiona Eagger.

    For a limited time, visitors to ACMI can also marvel at one of the costumes on display just outside the Mediatheque.

    - Lynda Bernard, Collections & Access Team Leader

    These and other historic films from the 1920s can be seen at the Australian Mediatheque.

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