Have you ever wondered what Melbourne looked like 100 years ago? The following clip comes from a silent documentary first screened on November 22, 1910. Quaintly titled Marvellous Melbourne: Queen City of the South, the film is the oldest complete documentary about Melbourne still in existence and comprises footage from a series of earlier films of Melbourne produced by Cozens Spencer and shot by Ernest Higgins. Opening with a cable tram ride over Princes Bridge towards the city, it takes us along Swanston Street, showing Flinders Street Station on the left and St Paul's Cathedral on the right. Melbourne's cable trams began running in 1885 and, by the time of filming, the network was already the fourth largest system in the world.
The producer of the film, Cozens Spencer, is one of the most significant characters in Melbourne's film history. He was passionate about bringing footage of Australian life to Australian cinemas, saying "a film showman in almost every country in the world must have at least a fair proportion of films made in the country in which he is in business. Patrons insist on it. They want to see in the pictures something of their own people and their own country. So showmen have to frame their programmes accordingly. Why should not Australian showmen have Australian films?" Like Cozens Spencer, I also think it is important to see something of ourselves in film, perhaps especially so when it comes to our history. We are inundated with historic images of Europe and America, but are too often unaware of the fascinating footage that exists of our very own Melbourne!
For more footage of Melbourne's past, see Melbourne Today (1931) (with sound).
Buckley, Anthony, 'The Man who Met Raymond Longford', Inaugural Longford Lycell Lecture, presented May 12, 2001
De Souza, Poppy, 'Marvellous Melbourne: Queen City of the South' (curator's notes), australianscreen (accessed at: http://aso.gov.au/ )