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Written and directed by Australian-born filmmaker Ralph Smart, Bush Christmas (1947) is a delightful holiday themed adventure for the whole family. Young siblings Helen (Helen Grieve), John (Morris Unicomb) and Snow (Nicky Yardley) live in the picturesque Mara Mara valley in rural Australia. During the Christmas holidays they accidentally tell a couple of shady strangers about their family's valuable horses. When the horses are later stolen, the resourceful children team up with their friend Neza (Neza Saunders) to track down the thieves.
Bush Christmas was the first feature film released by Children's Entertainment Films (CEF). CEF was first established in 1943 by J. Arthur Rank in order to create films aimed at young people for distribution among his network of British children's cinema clubs. The cinema clubs were Saturday morning matinee gatherings throughout England where children could watch a variety of shorts and short films made especially for them.
Ralph Smart had been making film shorts for Australia's Department of Information and the Australian Air Force between 1940-45. For Bush Christmas Smart used beautiful location scenery in Australia's Blue Mountains and the Burragorang Valley. The cast was made up of mostly local Australian actors, and many amateur children performers made their film debuts.
Bush Christmas was a huge hit with the cinema club circuit. Children responded to the action-packed story and could easily relate to the young main characters.
The film was released in Australia during the Christmas holidays and ran for eight weeks at the Embassy Theatre in Sydney. According to the 1998 book Australian Film 1900-1977 by Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper, "Its popularity with children prompted numerous re-screenings in Australia and Europe as well as the serialization of the story in children's magazines and the publication of the story in book form in several languages."
Bush Christmas was remade in 1983 featuring a young and unknown Nicole Kidman in the Helen Grieve role.
Producer: Ralph Smart, J. Arthur Rank
Director: Ralph Smart
Screenplay: Ralph Smart
Cinematography: George Heath
Music: Sydney John Kay
Cast: Chips Rafferty (Long Bill), John Fernside (Jim), Helen Grieve (Helen Thompson), Nicky Yardley (Snow Thompson), Stan Tolhurst (Blue Kennedy).
by Andrea Passafiume