The Australian Outback's Largest Cattle Stations

Dad and Dave 'On Our Selection' Film

Three films have been made based on the writing of Steele Rudd, pen-name of Arthur Hoey Davis. The most recent film, titled 'On Our Selection', was produced in 1995. Director George Whaley also wrote the screenplay.

The Actors and the Characters They Play in 'On Our Selection'

Leo McKern - Dad (Joseph Rudd)

Geoffrey Rush - Dave Rudd (the hardworking son who is taken for granted and not paid)

Joan Sutherland - Mother (Ellen Rudd - the stalwart)

David Field - Dan Rudd (the ne'er do well son who makes a short-lived prodigal son-like return)

Noah Taylor - (Joe Rudd, the younger son who stutters)

Ray Barrett - (Dwyer. Also in the 'Australia' film)

Barry Otto - J.P. Riley (the Rudd's arrogant, snobby squatter neighbour. Also in the 'Australia' film)

Nicholas Eadie - Cyril Riley (old man Riley's sleazy son)

Essie Davis - Kate Rudd (who marries Sandy. Also in the 'Australia' film)

Murray Bartlett - Sandy Tayler

Robert Menzies - Cranky Jack (Schizophrenic odd-jobs bloke)

Cathy Campbell - Lily White (who marries Dave)

Pat Bishop - Maude White (Lily's outspoken, emancipist mother)

Celia Ireland - Sarah Rudd

John Gaden - Rev McFarlane

Comment on the Film

Leo McKern's part is fabulously well played. But all the actors were ideal for their characters, and did an excellent job, from Robert Menzies to Geoffrey Rush. It's no co-incidence that several of these actors in the 1995 version of 'On Our Selection' also appeared in Baz Luhrmann's 'Australia' in 2008. No doubt 'On Our Selection' was one of the many film references Baz referred to when he produced 'Australia'.

George Whaley's production has been very well made, threading together happenings from a number of Steele Rudd's books - from the initial selection of their bare block of land, to the marriage of Kate to Sandy and Dan to Lily; and Dad's election as a Queensland State Member of Parliament. This film is a great reminder that most settlers started life on the land with little or no resources, and built up valuable family businesses simply through unrelenting hard work and thriftiness.

The Film Score

John Williamson's songs are the ideal accompaniment because he sings straight from the heart and knows what he's writing and singing about, having grown up in Victoria's Malley Region. (By contrast - while Elton John does a great job singing 'The Drover' song at the conclusion of the film 'Australia', I just cannot reconcile someone as quintessentially urbane as Elton John, singing about someone at the complete opposite end of the spectrum of human existence. It simply can't be done with integrity, and clearly Elton John was picked simply to help raise the profile of the film internationally. By contrast, 'On Our Selection' has been made for Australians foremost, so no similar compromise was made.)

The DVD of 'On Our Selection'

The DVD of 'On Our Selection' includes excellent interviews with the main actors and the director. These interviews are well worth watching as they bring home the passionate enthusiasm for the project by all involved.

Publicity for 'On Our Selection'

Unfortunately it is obvious those involved in publicising 'On Our Selection' were capital city dwellers completely incapable of understanding the sensitivity of Steele Rudd's writing, or George Whaley's intentions and result. The film shorts used to publicise 'On Our Selection' gave the distinct impression of a patronising 'ocker' comedy about uneducated peasants, harking back to the hideously corny and insulting radio plays written by others, featuring half-wit straw-chewing country bumpkin stereotypes, based vaguely on characters Rudd had created. Rudd actually had nothing to do with creating these abysmal productions, and he apparently detested them. (These days, the original creator of the characters and stories would sue and win compensation for plagiarism, damage to reputation, etc.) The 'On Our Selection' publicity was so appalling that I didn't see the film myself until 14 years after it was made (when I started viewing it with immense trepidation, to be then amazed at the difference between the dreadful publicity and the good quality, sensitively produced reality. The integrity of Rudd's writing really does shine through in this film.)

The DVD cover blurb is outstandingly hideous: "A host of outstanding Aussie actors star in this loud, proud, fair dinkum yarn about the original 'great Aussie battlers', the Rudds, an unconventional farming family of charming half-wits who survive on boiled pumpkin and parrot stew and half-baked get-rich schemes."

This appalling rubbish-filled spiel has numerous flaws: ugly over-use of 'dinkum Aussie language' that clearly doesn't sit well with the writer; and the Rudds certainly were not 'unconventional' - in fact their immediate popularity with readers stemmed from the fact that so many Australians could relate to the Rudd stories, as can most rural Australians today, especially the older generations who grew up with working horses. There were a few characters in Rudd's books, and a couple in the film, who weren't the brightest lights in the street. However this is the approximate percentage found in society generally, and the whole Rudd family certainly could not be accurately described as presenting as 'half-wits'. And there certainly wasn't a single 'half-baked get-rich-quick scheme' in the whole film (unless the fool that wrote this spiel thinks growing a crop of corn is a 'half-baked get-rich-quick' scheme; in which case all farming enterprises would be thus described.) I'm left wondering if the 'sophisticated' idiot that wrote this patronising, anti-rural blurb had even watched the film they've written about. If they did, they certainly didn't understand it.

About the Other Films Featuring Dad & Dave Rudd and Family

The Australian National Film & Sound Archive has information on the 1920 'On Our Selection' silent film directed by Raymond Longford, and the 1932 'On Our Selection' talking film directed by Ken G Hall. Apparently Longford had very deliberately aimed at a truer representation of Rudd's writing, while Hall wandered away from Rudd's actual writing, for example including a murder scene that appeared in the popular 1912 stage comedy (this play is probably when the slapstick/hayseed tarnishing of Rudd-created characters began). However Hall's 'On Our Selection' is credited as being the first successful Australian 'talkie', apparently rescuing our languishing film industry during The Great Depression. It cost 6,000 pounds to make and returned 70,000 pounds to the distributor - so could only be described as being amazingly financially successful.

For Further Information

To go to the heart of Rudd's writing, refer to his books, and ditch all preconceived ideas gathered from patronising film publicity and corny radio plays written by others. For more information on Steele Rudd's books, visit Bush Biographies.

© Copyright Fiona Lake

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