In 1947 the movie Bush Christmas was filmed in the Burragorang Valley and the nearby Blue Mountains of New South Wales. As the caption of the following photo mentions, the Valley was subsequently flooded to create Warragamba Dam. There is now a controversial plan to raise the level of the dam by 14 metres, which would further impact the environment, but reduce flooding in residential areas. I take no position on this complex issue; my story is purely about the history of the film. 😎
Surprisingly, the much loved Chips Rafferty was cast as the baddie of the story, leader of a trio of horse thieves.
Helen Grieve was the oldest of five children who pursued the rustlers and rescued the horses. On one occasion the cast were enjoying their picnic lunch when a snake crawled over Helen’s leg. Chips suddenly transformed from villain to hero and dispatched it (not something we would do these days, as they are quite rightly protected). At the end of the film the young star went home with two souvenirs; the palomino stallion she rode and the cured snake skin!
I remember being taken to see the film when I was at primary school in the 1950s. Of course we all adored it. It wasn’t as ‘Christmassy’ as the title suggests, but on Christmas Day the children talk longingly of roast turkey and Christmas cake as they struggle to eat fried snake and witchetty grubs. Only Neza, the resourceful little Aboriginal boy, was happy.
A POSITIVE REVIEW FOR BUSH CHRISTMAS
There was a rather startling reaction from London’s East End children who saw the film. They tried to ‘go bush’ themselves. The Evening News reported on some of the consequences;
Cut feet through running about in shoes made of grass.
Fractures from falling out of trees.
Burns from lighting camp fires.
Tears from being lost.
However, the general feeling was that the advantages of exercise and adventure for the little Eastenders far outweighed the mishaps, and that the children in Bush Christmas set a wonderful example. It was one of the UK’s most popular films in 1947, in company with Dickens’ Great Expectations.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH A VIDEO FROM THE FILM