Production company: New Era Film Productions
Locations: Initially begun in Cinesound's studio St. Kilda, Melbourne, and then when the studio was deemed too small, the cast of 15 and director Harwood moved to the National Studios at Pagewood in Sydney to complete the show, on a nine week shooting schedule.
Filmed: begun late April 1938 in Melbourne, mid-May for Sydney shoot. It was announced in the Melbourne Argus on 13th July 1938 that filming in Sydney had wrapped.
Australian distributor: Atlas Films
Australian release: preview Melbourne 7th August, 1938, but thereafter wasn't given a major city release.
Rating: For general exhibition
35mm black and white
Running time: 90 mins (Oxford Australian Film), 8,000 feet
Box office: minimal.
While the Melbourne Argus announced on the 13th September 1938 that the film has been passed by the Film Advisory Board in Victoria and New South Wales as a quota film under the act - a bureaucratic certification of a certain level of quality - the film simply failed to get any useful big city theatrical bookings, and saw only a very limited suburban and regional release.
New Era Films was wound up and director Dick Harwood turned to work as a suburban cinema manager, insurance broker and real estate agent, until partially re-making the film in 1952 as Night Club, which flopped just as badly.
Not known outside the archive, and the archive contains only segments:
Comprises several interior scenes featuring Nina Bellamy (Joyce Hunt) convincing Bill (John Barrington) and Wally Winter (Jimmy McMahon) separately to make their own films. Nina suggests to Wally "Why not write and produce your own talkie", and that such a film can be made for 10,000 pounds.
Given the way nitrate film deteriorates, this is most likely now a substantially and permanently lost film. The archive listing is here.
1. Studio Shift:
The Melbourne Argus reported on 20th April 1938 that Dick Harwood had interviewed some 730 applicants for the two female leads, in the quest for a "Myrna Loy type" and a "Janet Gaynor" type. While failing to find his two leading ladies, the company had instead hired more than a hundred people as extras.
It's the kind of puffery familiar to the industry, because shortly thereafter, Harwood upped stumps, and took the production to Sydney.
It's not altogether clear why Harwood shifted the production from Melbourne to Sydney.
According to the Oxford Australian Film, it was related to the smallness of the Cinesound studio in St. Kilda, but the Sydney Morning Herald on 17th May 1938 reported there were "no technicians" in Melbourne:
Stating that it was impossible to engage film technicians in Melbourne, a New Era Pictures film company arrived in Sydney yesterday to make a film at the National Studios, Pagewood.
The director, Mr. A.R. Harwood, brought a company of 15 players with him, and they will begin production of "Show Business" today.
Leading roles will be taken by Douglas Stewart, Joyce Hunt, Fay Astor, Chick Arnold, Bert Matthews, Fred Tupper, John Barrington, and The Rhythm Boys, many of whom are well-known radio and stage personalities.
Sydney cameramen and other technicians were engaged yesterday. The cameramen will be Messrs. Arthur and Tas Higgins. Production here will occupy approximately nine weeks.
Either way, to start a production without considering the feasibility of the shoot, the size of the studio, or the availability of technicians shows a careless way with a production budget.
2. A. R. "Dick" Harwood:
Despite being granted New South Wales quota production certification - which contained a quality clause - New Era films went broke after the failure of the film and was wound up.
Harwood dropped out of production, and became a suburban cinema manager in Melbourne, also working as an insurance broker and real estate agent. He appeared occasionally in the press, predicting in April 1946 that 100 seater, turnstile-type newsreel theatres would spring up in the suburbs, following the United States example, proving that his powers of prophecy in relation to film trends was as problematic as his skills as a film-maker.
In 1952 Harwood returned to the game by making Night Club, a sort-of remake of Show Business, which also was an abject failure.
(Below: Dick Harwood on the left greeting 3AW radio star Fred Tupper at Pagewood studios before getting down to filming Show Business).
(Below: A. J. "Dick" Harwood)
3. Adding a comic commentary to a film:
The idea of adding a comic commentary to an existing film - the conceit at the heart of one strand of the Show Business plot - would endure in the Australian film industry, and it achieved minor comic success in David Parker's 1993 Australian comedy Hercules Returns, where comic dialogue was overlaid on an old Italian sword and sandal movie Ercole, Sansone, Maciste e Ursus gli invincibili.
The D-Generation gang, in The Late Show, also did it to the ABC drama Rush with a series of sketches dubbed The Olden Days, and then did it to the Crawfords cop show, Bluey, under the new name Bargearse. For what it's worth, Harwood can claim to have been a pioneer in this area.