Curtin (TV Movie 2007) Poster

(2007 TV Movie)

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Dim light on a dark hour in Oz history
Philby-322 April 2007
I'd like to be able to say that this was a terrific re-creation of a pivotal moment in Australian history (which by and large is not very exciting) but alas the financiers determined that the producers would get only 90 minutes on the ABC instead of the 4x90 mini-series they had in mind. Thus the story of Australia's reaction to Japan entering the war in December 1941 and the rude awakening that mother Britain had used and abandoned us has been truncated into a series of vignettes rather than a coherent drama. William McInnes as Curtin carries the show; his support cast are not much more than props, though William Zappa as Chief of Staff General Sturdee (one of the unsung heroes of the war) puts in a strong performance. Australia's moment of truth then becomes Curtin's personal battle against self-doubt, though it will be observed that the war cabinet unanimously backed his (and General Sturdee's) proposal to recall the two Australian Divisions from the Middle East. Even Anglophile Menzies (Bille Brown unfortunately miscast) was in favour. It was a gamble, but it paid off, and those two Divisions were instrumental in driving the Japanese out of New Guinea later in the war (but that's another recent movie, "Kokoda").

I didn't know much about Curtin before I saw this film other than that he was a former journalist and reformed alcoholic who became prime minister at the darkest point of the war for Australia, October 1941, and made a fair fist of it, but killing himself through worry and overwork in the process. McInnes portrays him as a diffident family man who had greatness thrust upon him, but this does not quite convince – anyone who has kept a fractious and divided opposition together for five years (and goes on to win a handsome electoral victory in 1943) is an accomplished politician. In fact historians credit Curtin with rehabilitating the Australian Labor party after the splits of the early thirties, drawing the Lang-ites from NSW (Eddie Ward and Stabber Jack Beasley for example, depicted in this film as opponents) back into the party.

It was interesting that Curtin was friendly with the Japanese Ambassador prior to Japan bombing Pearl Harbour and was warned by him about the Japanese military intentions. It was not clear however whether this intelligence was of much use. Early on, General Sturdee points out forcefully that nothing can stop the Japanese war machine dominating the South Pacific – except of course the Americans. I suppose we were very lucky Pearl Harbour was bombed. Relations with the UK are very sketchily outlined, those with the Americans are hardly described at all.

What we have left then is a sombre, well crafted *hagiography of a rather elusive figure from Australian political history, well acted and shot with that real dim, grim 1940s feel. It's the kind of show the ABC should be doing – at much greater length.

* Hagiography: writings about the lives of saints
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A great opportunity missed
john-40614 May 2007
I could not watch Curtin when it aired on ABC TV a few weeks back, so recorded it onto DVD; and watched it last night. As an Australian political history buff, a WWII watcher, member of the ALP and fan of William McInnis, I was looking forward to it. To say I was disappointed is an understatement.

I now understand that it was originally intended to be a six hour mini-series in four arts, cut to 90 minutes by the ABC. Its original format would not only have truly told the Curtin story, but would have made clear some things that must of confused people if they were not fully aware of the history.

For example, the following were never explained.

Why the ALP was desperate to unseat Menzies from office (because he agreed with Churchill that the Nazis must be defeated before worrying about Australa).

Why some members of Curtin's Cabinet were hostile (because of the disastrous split within the ALP only 10 years previously).

It could also have concentrated on the years in opposition, his longer term health and the relationship built with the USA during the war, that continues today.

Having said that, the portrayal of the people and the times was excellent.

Just would have liked the full story, that's all.
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What inspired performances!
brustep22 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Australian Prime Minister, John Curtin, was a very important historic and brave leader during Japanese march towards his country during World War 2. He had the 'temeridity' to insist from Churchill that battle-hardened Australian troops be returned from fighting Britain's war against Hitler to repel advancing Japanese forces towards Australia. Regrettably, his personaility would not allow him to rest until the troops had arrived home safely. They were then sent mainly to what is now Papua New Guinea, just north of Australia, to help defend against the advancing Japanese forces. Unfortunately, to profound sadness of most Australians at the time, John Curtin's inability to separate his emotional attachment to the suffering of the ordinary Aussie Digger (soldier) from the consequences of his decisions, caused his death just weeks before the Japanese surrender. If William McIness fails to win several awards for his performance as the flawed personality of John Curtin, then such awards can be justifiably ignored.
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More about Australian History
reyes_a28 April 2007
I saw "Curtin" the other night on the ABC, and I loved it. It gave me a good look on why Australia is what it is nowadays. It is important to say that I am originally from Venezuela, and that I've lived in Australia for 6 years now. I work for the Australian Film Industry and it has become to my attention how little the government spends on it, and I tell you it is very disappointing. Especially when you hear that the Howard Government wants to make people like me, who want to become Australian Citizens, take a test. And on the other hand they do not promote the creation of programs like this, which not only entertain but also teach a little about Australia. I found this show to do both, it gave an inside look on the formation of the country where I have chosen to live my life and start a family. It is a know fact that Television, Films, Newspapers and the Internet are the grand communicators and for better or worse these are also educators. In my opinion it is a little hypocritical to make people that legitimate want to become Australians take a test, some of this people like me, freely chose to live here, and I repeat "chose" we were not born here, we were not brought over as kids, we chose to be here because we identified with this country, and whether we know who Donald Bradman was, or what a Billabong is? Should be irrelevant. The point is that we need to see more of these types of shows; I am really looking forward to seeing "Bastard Boys" about the waterfront war involving Patrick Stevedoring and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA). And not only people from overseas should see this, Australians too should see this types of shows, we all should read about this on papers and the internet, discuss it with family and friends, create a dialogue to form our own opinion, teach each other. And to the person in charge we should say " NO TEST, MORE CONTENT".
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