'Man of the hour', 1943 - asset 4 - (TLF R5474 v1.0.0)
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film icon 'Man of the hour', 1943 - asset 4

'Man of the hour', 1943 - asset 4
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library

Description

This is a clip taken from the second half of a black-and-white election campaign film, 'Man of the hour', produced by the Australian Labor Party in 1943. It begins with a brief scene of US General Douglas MacArthur, Commander of the Allied Forces in the South-West Pacific in the Second World War, followed by scenes of intense activity as Australian workers build infrastructure such as airfields, docks, roads and factories and make the munitions needed to fight the War. The commentator explains how the government of Prime Minister John Curtin had shown energy and commitment in putting Australia on a war footing, catching up with 'years of other men's neglect'.

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Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • This asset provides an example of election advertising during the War - 'Man of the hour' runs for about 4.5 minutes and was shown in cinemas in 1943, in the years before television brought such advertisements into Australian homes.
  • This asset focuses 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 contains striking images of the nation mobilised for war - this clip paints a picture of nearly two years' vigorous activity to get Australia on a war footing from the time Curtin became Prime Minister on 7 October 1941 until he called the election on 7 July 1943; in his campaign launch in a radio broadcast, Curtin expressed much the same message as is shown in this clip when he stated that £82 million had been spent in 18 months to build roads and airfields in northern Australia.
  • This asset shows US General Douglas MacArthur - his presence in this film illustrates Australia's growing alliance with the USA, and its dependence on the USA for military protection; at the request of the Curtin government, MacArthur was appointed Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the South-West Pacific in 1942.
  • This asset refers to Curtin catching up with 'years of other men's neglect' 'in a matter of months' - Curtin's activities present a striking contrast to the previous government's 'business as usual' approach; 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'.