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film icon 'Man of the hour', 1943 - asset 6

'Man of the hour', 1943 - asset 6
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library


This is a clip taken from the end of a black-and-white election campaign film, 'Man of the hour', produced by the Australian Labor Party in 1943. It shows a scene in Federal parliament. Prime Minister John Curtin is addressing the House of Representatives, while the commentator points out why his government is worthy of voter support. Curtin then speaks directly to the camera, asking voters to return his government. The clip concludes with the Australian flag flying and 'Advance Australia fair' playing.

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Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • This asset is an example of election advertising in the years of the Second World War - the Labor Party, as the party in government in 1943, is appealing to the voters' need for security in a time of war, asking them to continue to support the Curtin government's programs and not risk change; this short film of about 4.5 minutes 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; 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 shows Curtin speaking plainly in a strong Australian accent, while sitting in a very simple room - this presents the Prime Minister as a man without pretensions, as well as a strong, assured leader of the nation.
  • This asset gives some evidence of Curtin's speaking abilities - Curtin was a famous public speaker, having honed his skills on the soapbox in Melbourne from a relatively young age; the final sentences of his personal message indicate an ability to deliver a succinct but powerful statement.
  • This asset shows the slight cast in Curtin's left eye - the knowledge that this would be seen by viewers caused Curtin some embarrassment when being filmed and led to his discomfort before a camera.
  • This asset includes some bars from 'Advance Australia fair' - at the time, 'God save the King' was Australia's national anthem, with 'Advance Australia fair' not being adopted as the national anthem until 1984; as early as 1916, however, the 'Sydney Morning Herald' had commented that it 'has come to be recognised as something in the nature of an Australian National Anthem'; its use in this film is a clear indication of the Labor Party's nationalism.
  • 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'.