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film icon 'Man of the hour', 1943 - asset 5

'Man of the hour', 1943 - asset 5
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library


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 shows munitions being made, and tank convoys and artillery moving through city streets, while the commentary emphasises the unwavering commitment shown by Prime Minister John Curtin in mobilising the country for war. Curtin is then shown announcing to parliament that the 'Battle of Australia has assuredly been won'.

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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 - '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 includes striking images of the nation mobilised for war - coupled with commentary emphasising that Curtin shouldered 'the greatest responsibility ever borne by a prime minister of Australia', this conveys a clear sense of the peril that Australia faced in the Second World War and of the nation's fear of invasion by the Japanese.
  • This asset refers to Curtin shouldering his responsibility 'ignoring petty critiques, caring nothing of personal popularity' - this may be an oblique reference to Curtin's successful introduction of conscription into the militia for service in a limited zone outside Australia and its Territories; throughout the first half of 1943, Curtin faced bitter attacks from anticonscriptionists, both inside and outside the Labor Party, who castigated him for opposing conscription in the First World War and introducing it in the Second.
  • This asset refers to 'consultation with General MacArthur' - US General Douglas MacArthur was appointed Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the South-West Pacific in 1942, and the consultation mentioned was a meeting held on 10 June 1943; the reference illustrates Australia's growing alliance with the USA and its dependence on it for military protection.
  • This asset contains historic footage of Curtin announcing that Australia was now secure from the threat of Japanese invasion - in the same speech he indicated that Australia would now be used as 'a base from which to launch limited and major offensives against Japan'.
  • 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'.