Tag Archives: 1920s


91 Years Ago: Athletic Antics

91 years ago today, a fun time was had by all at a sporting event at Athletic Park, Wellington. This silent film footage, shot on 6 March 1926, includes scenes showing various sporting events, including: javelin, long and short distance running, hurdles, cycling races and high jump – as well as some slightly less conventional athletic feats, such as the “boys inside tyre race.”


Rose v. Hahn In Final Mile Test & Chief Events at Sports Meeting, Athletic Park 6 March 1926 (shot by Joseph Sylvanus Vinsen)


The film also features footage of Randolph Rose, one of New Zealand’s first great distance runners, defeating the American champion at Masterton two days earlier.


J S Vinsen with a motion picture camera. Tesla Studios: Negatives of Wanganui and district taken by Alfred Martin, Frank Denton and Mark Lampe. Ref: 1/1-017471-F. Alexander Turnbull Library http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22301776
J S Vinsen with a motion picture camera. Tesla Studios: Negatives of Wanganui and district taken by Alfred Martin, Frank Denton and Mark Lampe. Ref: 1/1-017471-F. Alexander Turnbull Library http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22301776


The film was produced to a high standard by Joseph Sylvanus Vinsen. The smart intertitles that introduce each event are designed in modern 1920s fonts and feature a graphic of a runner. It would have been screened locally, as a prelude to a longer film feature, allowing people who participated in the event the pleasure of seeing themselves or their friends / family members on screen.


Rose v. Hahn In Final Mile Test & Chief Events at Sports Meeting, Athletic Park 6 March 1926 ()
Intertitle from “Rose v. Hahn In Final Mile Test & Chief Events at Sports Meeting, Athletic Park 6 March 1926″ (shot by Joseph Sylvanus Vinsen)


- By Ellen Pullar (Digital Programme Developer, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)


Around the World in an Austin 7 (1928-1931)

- By Jane Paul (Community Programme Coordinator, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)

Richard B. Mathews (from Kaitaia) and Hector McQuarrie (from Auckland) came to worldwide attention by circumnavigating the globe in a baby Austin. The intrepid kiwis travelled 22,000 miles in their tiny two-seater car, dubbed “A rugged little baby” by Truth newspaper.

Their journey through Australia, New Zealand and on the ill-fated S.S. Tahiti was captured on film by Hector McQuarrie. This extraordinary film can be watched below, courtesy of the National Film & Sound Archive, Australia which holds the original nitrate film:


Around the World in an Austin Seven [Australia and New Zealand], 1928-31, courtesy of the National Film & Sound Archive


Richard (Dick) and Hector’s first adventure was the journey from Sydney to Cape York in Northern Queensland. This marathon trip covered 1,300 miles of which 700 were roadless. Austin (Sydney) supplied the “baby” and in return received paramount publicity for their car. Over three months the pair drove further than anyone had gone before. The journey was dangerous – what would happen if they ran out of water or petrol, or the car was unfixable? They navigated dense bush and steep terrain, pockets of quick sand, crocodile-infested rivers and even fled forest fires before reaching their destination. Hector estimated that they averaged 25 punctures a day. Dick was both driver and fixer of punctures, he was “very strong, 12 stone, almost 6ft and built like a Russian.” [1]

The men left Sydney in August 1928, the Austin loaded up with a tent, supplies (including benzene) a typewriter, (Hector had been commissioned by the Sydney Morning Herald to write a serial about their adventures [2]) and two books: the complete Shakespeare and Alice in Wonderland. By the time they had reached Cooktown they had abandoned most of their baggage, and slept out in the open on gum leaves, wrapped in a mosquito net. With no benzene purchasable after Cooktown, they relied on the goodwill of isolated station owners to help out. Small amounts of benzene was received – mostly from women who used it to power their irons. They reached Cape York on 31 October 1928.


After a spell at Torres Strait and New Guinea (without the baby) the men prepared to make a trip through New Zealand from furthest north to furthest south, and then leave on the next stage of their world tour. The men re-united with their car, “Emily,” in Sydney (after it was shipped down to Sydney as an exhibition in a car show).

Hector, Dick and Emily sailed on the S.S. Maunganui to Wellington. They spent two months in New Zealand and the film shows the men in Rotorua and near the Chateau on Mt Ruapehu.


While in New Zealand, Hector gave lectures and showed his film of the men’s Australian adventures. Auckland newspapers advertised this lecture at the Civic Theatre:

Hector MacQuarrie – Author, Traveller, Adventurer

Will appear in person at each of the above sessions and give an illustrated travelogue


Bristling with Wit and Humour!

Admission – Matinee Dress Circle 1s 6d, stalls 1s, Evening DC 2s

(Press, vol. LXV1, issue 19991, 28 July 1930)

In August 1930 Hector, Dick and “the baby” boarded the Tahiti in Wellington, expecting to reach San Francisco within three weeks.

On the fourth day of their journey (300 miles from Cook Islands) they were awoken by news from the ship’s crew that:

“the tail shaft has broken, the propellors droped off, the engine room is filling with water, and the old lugger’s sinkin.”

The 128 passengers onboard knew that the vessels Penybryn and Ventura were coming to their assistance but not when they would arrive. They endured an anxious 50 hour wait at sea. The passengers were well aware that if the calm waters turned, and the wind and sea got up, the boat would sink. In the interim, the loudspeakers blasted cheerful dance music and food continued to be served.

The Auckland Star reported “Hector MacQuarrie [MacQuarrie was his chosen literary surname], the Auckland journalist, was a passenger [...] and he was able to take some excellent shots of the last moments on board, and the sinking of the ship” [4]

The footage begins with Emily being hoisted on-board at Wellington and scenes of shipboard life. Then the last spectacular images, taken on 18 October 1930, of the liner’s final plunge stern first into the ocean’s depths (taking the baby with it). Hector’s footage was taken from the safety of the rescuing ship – Ventura.


Hector and Dick returned to Auckland. The footage was sold to Fox Movietone (for inclusion in their newsreels) and a negative struck for filmmaker Rudall Hayward, who organised showings of the film in Australia and New Zealand.

By March 1931 the couple were in America, where they purchased another Austin 7 called “Emily H.” Newspaper reports from the time record their only “real mishap was when a rumrunner in Florida charged into them out of the wide and flung the car and the two tourists into the ditch.” Luckily they met an English engineer, who restored the smashed car.

After driving through America, they continued on to Britain, France, Italy, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Czechoslovakia, Jericho, Bagdad, Babylon and India. Adventures encounted included “being fired at by a Turkish soldier and charged at by an infuriated camel.”

So, where is this footage of these other journeys?

We know Hector didn’t lose his camera on the Tahiti, so he is likely to have continued filming along the way. Is it housed in other film archives? Or do Austin clubs around the world have it? We’d love to hear from you if you have information on these films made in Europe, Middle East and other places (contact: janepaul@ngataonga.org.nz)

Copies of Around the World in an Austin 7 are held in Australia, by the National Film and Sound Archive, and in New Zealand, by Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision was recently in touch with the Austin Seven Clubs’ Association, UK about the film. Chris Garner, a member of the Austin Seven Clubs’ Archive Team, added:

“We here in the UK are delighted to hear that this particular film has been discovered, remastered and made available to all. Our congratulations to all involved.

This piece of Austin Seven history is very important to us all, especially as material of this nature is rare and brings to life what McQuarrie and his companion’s exploits were like at the time.

In conjunction with what our archive team is doing here in the UK with our collation and digitisation project, the film is yet another piece of the rich jigsaw of Seven material that exists. We know many enthusiasts here will look forward to viewing it.”


  1. We & The Baby. Angus Robertson: Australia, 1929.
  2. This was later released in a book titled We and The Baby, Press, vol. LXVII, issue 20317, 17 August 1931, p. 11.
  3.  Press, vol. LXV1, issue 19991, 28 July 1930.
  4. Auckland Star, vol. LXI, issue 212, 8 September 1930, p. 9.

Hector MacQuarrie published a number of additional books:

  • How to Live at the Front
  • Tahiti Days
  • Roving New Zealanders
  • Round the World in a Baby Car
Mansfield feature

Happy Birthday Katherine Mansfield

Today marks the birthday of Katherine Mansfield, who was born on 14 October 1888.

In celebration of the influential and innovative author’s life we’d like to share a recording from the sound collection of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision with you.

Listen below to the 1962 radio documentary, The Sisters of Kezia: Katherine Mansfield Remembered. In this programme, commissioned for the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation archives, Mansfield’s three sisters reflect on her life and memories of their shared Wellington childhood.


The Sisters of Kezia: Katherine Mansfield Remembered (New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, 1962)


Image: Archives New Zealand,  https://flickr.com/photos/35759981@N08/15356040674 (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license)
Portrait of Katherine Mansfield. Image: Archives New Zealand, https://flickr.com/photos/35759981@N08/15356040674 (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license)


Rights information for audiovisual items.


Hawke’s Bay on Film 1913 – 1985

- By Jane Paul (Community Programme Coordinator, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)

Recently Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision and Historic Places Hawke’s Bay showed a compilation of films focused on Hawke’s Bay history in MTG’s beautiful theatre in Napier.

MTG Theatre.
MTG Theatre.

People started arriving an hour early, and soon the foyer was crammed with people ranging in age from 2 months to 95 years!

Fifteen-year-old Bonnie Allen – who provided musical accompaniment for the silent films – set herself up at the grand piano, and people streamed into the cinema.

Audience members gathered for “Hawke’s Bay on Film.”

The programme began with a look at the fishing industry in 1913 –  a fascinating glimpse of life on the trawlers and the use of carrier pigeons to convey information about the catch back to the mainland. Sunny Napier – The Brighton of New Zealand (1929) kept the audience enthralled with scenes of old, pre-earthquake Napier.

Interestingly, Alec Douglas Lambourne’s film of the great earthquake in Hastings drew the most applause. Continue reading


“We Must Rely on Dramatic Speech and Sounds Entirely”

By Gareth Watkins (Radio Collection Developer, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision recently acquired a wonderful set of cast photographs from the RNZ drama department (#292798). Dating back to the 1990s, the publicity photographs document some of the country’s top actors performing in a wide variety of radio plays.

One such play – Danger, by Richard Hughes – was performed live on the radio and in front of a studio audience in November 1996, in the now demolished Studio 1 of Broadcasting House. The performance marked the 75th anniversary of radio broadcasting in New Zealand. Not only was all of the dialogue performed live, but so to were the musical moments and the sound effects.

(16/055/41) Foley expert Michael Wilson generating live sound effects of a flooding coal-mine “the old-fashioned way”. Producer Steve Danby notes: the small grey-topped stool was a crucial piece of gear in the drama studio: if you leaned on it, it squeaked, and it simulated everything from “creaking rigging on a ship” to “scary doors”. ‘Danger’ - November 1996 production, Radio New Zealand, Studio 1 - Broadcasting House, Wellington.
Foley artist Michael Wilson generating live sound effects of a flooding coal-mine “the old-fashioned way.” Producer Steve Danby notes: the small grey-topped stool was a crucial piece of gear in the drama studio – if you leaned on it, it squeaked, and it simulated everything from “creaking rigging on a ship” to “scary doors.” “Danger” – November 1996 production, Radio New Zealand, Studio 1 – Broadcasting House, Wellington (16/055/41).

The play itself has had a distinguished history. It was the first play ever written for radio, premiering on the BBC on 15 January 1924:

“To my mind, one of the best plays ever broadcast (and I do not say this because I had the pleasure of producing it) was Danger by Mr. Richard Hughes. Here was something that was written for wireless only; the scene was in a coal mine, and was meant to be heard and not seen. If this play had been produced in a legitimate theatre the stage would have been in total darkness; the players and the action would remain unseen.” – Nigel Playfair, Popular Wireless, 9 March 1929 Continue reading


The Majestic Theatre Bronze Plaque

This week Documentation Archivist Mishelle Muagututi’a had the opportunity to appreciate the detail on a bronze plaque that once decorated Wellington’s Majestic Theatre while cleaning it as part of her preservation work. This photograph shows Mishelle cleaning the plaque with a HEPA Filter Vacuum. The HEPA is an archival vacuum cleaner, designed to clean delicately. It comes with a selection of customised heads suited for navigating the forms and crevasses of a range of different types of objects and materials, without causing damage to the item.

Mishelle cleaning the plaque with a HEPA filter vacuum.
Mishelle cleaning the plaque with a HEPA filter vacuum.

This bronze plaque was part of the lavish decoration of the Majestic Theatre, Wellington, for nearly 60 years. Shortly after the theatre was demolished in 1987 the plaque was deposited to the care of the New Zealand Film Archive (as Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision was then known). In cleaning the plaque, Mishelle’s curiosity was piqued and she carried out some further research into the history behind this item. Some of the things she discovered follow.

The display label on the plaque notes that:

‘The plaque was designed in Florence and erected at the opening of the Majestic Theatre on 13 May 1929. It depicts the introduction by Apollo of the new art of Cinema to the older arts of the Dance, Drama and Music.”

The plaque is now housed in the Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision collection.
The plaque is now housed at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.

The Majestic Theatre bronze plaque is something of a “curiosity” in our collection, as we hold little information about this heavy neo-classical artefact. I came across an article (thank you Papers Past) in the Evening Post, dated 10 May 1929, relating to the plaque. A reporter’s commentary of that era, the writer casually sweeps across the new building:

“… The entrance hall leads into a spacious foyer, beautifully carpeted, finished and lighted, in which stand the booking-offices for the reserved seats. Immediately facing the patrons as they enter the foyer is a bronze plaque, 5 feet by 3 feet, of classical design, representing the new art, the cinema, being introduced to the sister’s arts – the drama, dancing, music etc.”

The Majestic Theatre, from its opening day on 13 May 1929, was a state of the art venue and certainly lived up to its name. The neo-classical interior of the building started with the double sets of doors to keep Wellington’s notorious breeze from floating through the foyer. The Evening Post writer described the building as “handsome,” and “arisen phoenix-like as it were from the ‘ashes.’” The foyer was of a substantial size, encompassing: the booking stalls, ladies and gentlemen’s cloakrooms, entrance to the tea rooms (which catered for 500 people), and the well-lit passages and stairway up to the picture theatre.

The plaque’s depiction of Apollo introducing the new art of cinema to the sisters who represent dance, drama and music was significant at a time when Wellington was a mecca for film distributors. Throughout the 1920s cinema was on the rise, with “talkies” introduced at the end of the decade, coinciding with the Fuller Hayward chain’s opening of the Majestic, their 69th theatre in 1929. Situated at 100 Willis Street, the Majestic Theatre was built at a cost of 175,000 pounds, and was the second largest cinema in New Zealand (behind Auckland’s Civic Theatre).  

Continue reading

Ice Cream and the Great Kiwi Summer

 - By Ellen Pullar, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Communications Advisor

It has been a cracker of a summer so far! If you’re anything like us you’ll have been flocking to the corner dairy or soft serve truck for icy treats to stay cool (conveniently there are two dairies and a gelato stall on Taranaki St, on the same block as Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Wellington, but I digress…). Ice cream has been a quintessential part of the kiwi summer for generations — it’s up there with jandals and stubbies. And, did you know, according to the wise and wonderful Aunt Daisy, it’s good for your health?

A few items from the Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision collections that document our nation’s longstanding adoration of ice cream follow.

A Sporting Topical (1928) 


This newsreel was made by Lawrie Inkster. The Greymouth-based Lawrie Inkster and his wife Hilda were prolific makers of home movies and newsreels. Their films document family and social life, leisure activities and public events in the region during the 1920s through the 1940s, with much warmth and energy. Here we see a group of young women, smartly dressed in the flapper style then current (including cloche hats and stylish headbands) perched on a sand dune, enjoying their ice creams. Continue reading


Beachside 1925

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision staff have been admiring beachside fashion circa 1925, in anticipation of summer. This footage depicts a Motion Picture Bathing Beauty Contest held in Auckland.

The film was shot by Frank Stewart and produced by pioneer film maker Rudall Hayward.

“The first of the ‘bathing beauty’ contestants depicted appears to be Nola Casselli, who was chosen to play the role of Cecily Wake in Rewi’s Last Stand (1925). Might this contest have been a form of screen test?” – Clive Sowry. Read more, and watch the film here.






Wouldn’t it be great if swimming hats came back into fashion?



Continue reading


Showing Show People

- By Diane Pivac (Head of Audience, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)

Working at the Film Archive, and now Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, people have often said “wow, how cool you must get to watch movies all day!” “I wish” is my most common reply.

But there are days when we do get to watch movies, and this morning was one of them. I was lucky enough to have to pop down to the Paramount to look at a test of Show People on the big screen.

Show People (King Vidor, 1928)
Show People (King Vidor, 1928)

Continue reading

“Ticket to Hollywood” Screen Test Competition

Are you ready for your close-up? Film a silent movie screen test of yourself enacting one to four of the common silent film emotions in the list below, post the video to YouTube, and email the link to us at marketing@nzfa.org.nz (or post the link to The Film Archive’s Facebook or Twitter page) for an chance to win fame and fortune, as well as great prizes. Remember to send us your name (or your movie star alter ego’s name) and the name of the emotion(s) you are expressing, along with your entry.

This competition runs alongside our Ticket to Hollywood: A Festival of New Zealand Stars Abroad series, which runs 3 May – 21 June in Wellington (but those of you who don’t live in Wellington can still enter the comp!)

Film your screen tests at home, or on location at the Movie Star Makeovers with WELTEC Fashion Make-up Artistry evening on 24 May – where you will be able to film your starring moment after your movie star makeover.

The top three screen tests, as voted by audiences online here, will be shown on the big screen – so the public can see their star quality – at the final screening in the Ticket to Hollywood festival, 7pm Saturday 21 June.

Prizes include our New Zealand Film: An Illustrated History book, DVDs of classic kiwi films, and free movie tickets.

Venus of the South Seas (1924).
Venus of the South Seas (1924).


Screen test instructions:

Select between one to four of the emotions in the list below. How would you express this emotion (or emotions) in your acting if you were a silent movie star? Record a short screen test (please keep your screen tests under a minute – and shorter than this is fine). Remember this is a silent movie, so you’ll need to use your facial expressions and gestures to express your character. If you like, you could get into the spirit of the era by applying a sepia filter to your film!


  • Discovery
  • Bliss
  • Terror
  • Lovesickness
  • Determination
  • Playfulness
  • Remorse
  • Expectation
  • Laziness
  • Vulnerability
  • Contempt
  • Good humour
  • Haughtiness
  • Infatuation
  • Greed
  • Repentance
  • Other common silent movie emotions you can think of… Continue reading