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film icon 'Man of the hour', 1943 - asset 1

'Man of the hour', 1943 - asset 1
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library


This is a clip taken from the beginning of a black-and-white election campaign film, 'Man of the hour', produced by the Australian Labor Party in 1943. It begins with a trumpet fanfare introducing and accompanying two title screens. The first reads, 'THE MAN / OF THE HOUR / SCENARIO - P. COGGER / AUTHORISED BY D. MCNAMARA / TRADES HALL, MELBOURNE. / PRODUCED BY THE AUSTRALIAN LABOUR PARTY', and the second, 'JOHN / CURTIN / PRODUCED BY THE AUSTRALIAN LABOUR PARTY'. Two scenes follow of John Curtin in parliament, while the commentary highlights him as the man Australia needs in its hour of crisis.

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Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • This asset provides an example of election advertising during the Second World War - this film of about 4.5 minutes in length would have been shown in cinemas in 1943, in the years before television brought such advertisements into Australian homes; in this clip the Labor Party, as the party in government, is reminding voters of the grim wartime situation Australia faced when Labor came to power in 1941, and of the 'leader of real judgement, courage and inflexible purpose' it had found in Curtin.
  • This asset focuses entirely on John Curtin (1885-1945), Australia's fourteenth prime minister - Curtin was born in Victoria of Irish immigrant parents; he became a political activist even before he was old enough to vote; he rose to prominence within the Socialist and Labor parties and within the trade union movement, and was an outspoken opponent of conscription in 1916-17; Curtin edited the Perth-based 'Westralian Worker' newspaper over the years 1917-28; he won the federal parliamentary seat of Fremantle in 1928 and served in the Scullin Labor government; he lost his seat in 1931 but regained it in 1934, holding it for the remainder of his career; Curtin was elected leader of the parliamentary Labor Party in 1935; he became Prime Minister on 7 October 1941 and died in office on 5 July 1945.
  • This asset includes a scene of Curtin speaking in the House of Representatives - it is evident that this footage dates from between 1935 and 1941 when Curtin was Leader of the Opposition, as he is shown standing at the Table of the House on the left-hand side of the Speaker, in the place where the leader of the party not in office traditionally sits.
  • This asset shows Curtin rocking on his heels - although this was a common oratorical mannerism of the time that allowed speakers to pause and collect their thoughts, it does not look good on camera.
  • This asset includes historically significant footage of Curtin on 16 December 1941 - Curtin is shown about to rise to move formally that the declaration of war on Japan be approved; the motion in the House of Representatives in fact took place eight days after the actual declaration of war was made; news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Sunday 7 December 1941 broke in Australia early on Monday 8 December, when parliament was in recess; a meeting of the War Cabinet was held in Melbourne, and Governor-General Lord Gowrie and Curtin signed the proclamation of war in the War Cabinet room that day; parliament was recalled to discuss the crisis.
  • This asset refers to Australia's lack of preparedness for a war with Japan - war in the Pacific had been predicted for years, and as Leader of the Opposition Curtin had often attacked the inadequacy of defence planning and preparation; on 8 December 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor, the Prime Minister of eight weeks was informed that Australia could not be defended against a Japanese invasion; rifles, machine-guns and antitank guns were in such short supply that only some of the militia regiments then being called up could be equipped to half-strength, tanks were non-existent, and there were no capable fighter and bomber aircraft.
  • This asset is from a film that was part of a highly successful election strategy - the Curtin government was returned with an overwhelming majority, winning 49 seats to the 24 won by opposing parties and one Independent in the House of Representatives; the Labor Party also won all 19 Senate seats contested; the leader of one of the opposing parties described it as like 'being struck by a cyclone'.