Seven Keys to Baldpate
In Seven Keys to Baldpate, a silent film based on a stage farce, a struggling novelist undertakes to write a novel during 24 hours in the Baldpate Inn. He thinks he has the only key but a succession of strangers arrives.
Australian impresario J.C. Williamson had already produced several war-themed films when he turned to filming plays such as this ‘mystery farce’, his final film. The war films, with outdoor scenes and dramatic action, were apparently more successful than these filmed theatre productions with their quivering canvas sets. Ironically, being less popular may have protected them from being destroyed through repeated projection.
This two-minute clip is taken from the Australian-made 1916 silent comedy Officer 666, based on a Broadway play. The director, Fred Niblo, also stars as millionaire Travers Gladwin. To foil an art theft, Gladwin disguises himself as Police Officer 666. However, one of the thieves arrives disguised as Gladwin, and merry confusion ensues.
As war raged across Europe, and Hollywood began building cinema audiences internationally, the Australian film industry was thriving. An impressive 16 feature films were released in 1916. Officer 666 was one of four features released by theatrical company J.C. Williamson. Williamson aimed to film hit US plays before the American companies, and then import them into Australia.
Percy’s First Holiday
W.S. Percy was a favourite Australian comic opera star. This film clip shows the crowd outside Sydney’s Crystal Palace cinema for a special matinee screening of his first film, Percy’s First Holiday.