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After waiting many months, I saw the restored version of "The Sentimental Bloke" for the first time at the Perth International Arts Festival last night. Worth it? My oath. "I dips me lid" to the blokes and tarts wot worked on this "Aussie Icon". The story of the restoration is a tale in itself - the only existing prints were "not the best" and through a "mislabelling" it turned out that an almost pristine copy had been filed in a United States film archive as "The Sentimental Blonde", and was apparently an original negative. I'll let the reader research this story further.
C.J. Dennis ("Den") is one of Australia's best loved poets, and "(Songs of) The Sentimenal Bloke" one of his most enduring and endearing collections of the Australian Idiom ever published. (Apparently the US version of the film had "American" inter titles - WHAT the Americans would have made of it is thoroughly beyond me. I think if would have come out as completely foreign language).
In brief, this film traces the life of "The Kid" or "Bill" in his transition from street tough (read gang member) to husband to "Doreen" (his "bit of fluff") and loving father, but done with humour and tear jerking sentiment - as it should be. Schmaltz with a capital "S".
Highlight of the movie for me was a fairly thorough airing of one of Den's most popular poems, "The Play", which describes how Bill and Doreen go to see "Romeo and Juliet"
"The drama's writ be Shakespeare, many years ago, About a barmy goat called Romeo".
" .... wiv a yell, plunks Tyball through the gizzard wiv 'is sword,
'Ow I ongcored!
"Put in the boot!" I sez. "Put in the boot!"
"Ush!" sez Doreen ... "Shame! sez some silly coot."
As a bonus, the performance I attended had a live three piece "bush band" ("The Larrikins") playing a musical accompaniment, specially composed for the event.
I was slightly confused at first, since the original poem was set in Melbourne, but the film was shot in Sydney, and I found myself looking at Central Railways Station when I should have been looking at Flinders Street station. Artistic licence.
Considering the prodigious output of "Den's" pen, the movie could only skim the surface, but this was sufficient for me to be able look and see "Bill" and "Doreen" (not to mention his best cobber "Ginger Mick") made flesh and blood with a lashing of the original humour and pathos.
Whilst the film characters did not follow Hal Gye's original illustrations very closely (a wise move since Gye's little "Cherubs" all appeared "sans culottes") I had no trouble recognising them.
I think "Den" would'a been proud of it fit to bust his vest.
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