Urban Cinefile
"I'd go into my trailer and concentrate on John Coffey - and when I came out, I was John Coffey "  -Michael Clarke Duncan on his role in The Green Mile
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Monday, October 23, 2017 

Search SEARCH FOR A DVD
Our Review Policy OUR REVIEW POLICY
Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE

Help/Contact

GETTING OF WISDOM, THE: DVD

SYNOPSIS:
A gifted pianist, feisty, interesting (but not too pretty) country girl Laura Tweedle Rambotham (Susannah Fowle) from Warrenega is sent to a Melbourne finishing school where at first she tries to belong. She even encourages the catty rumours of the other girls that she and the new married pastor, Rev Shepherd (John Waters) have a crush on each other. But she's found out and ostracised. Then she forms a friendship with Evelyn (Hilary Ryan), which quickly develops into something stronger, but Evelyn feels smothered and wants to leave the college, to Laura's deep regret.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The Getting of Wisdom is the film that helped lift Bruce Beresford's image in the Australian arts community after his two Barry McKenzie films, which helped lower it. Although regarded as a literary success, the book was not so populist as to be instantly commercial as a screenplay. Indeed, financing the film was tough, and it took Kerry Packer to provide the last $20,000 - except Kerry didn't deal in $20,000 so he insisted on putting in $100,000, which Phillip Adams had to wrangle into a rights deal for Kerry's Nine Network. (Watch for Adams in a walk on cameo as the maths teacher, Dr Pewson; how apt.)

Beautifully transferred, Don McAlpine's sublime cinematography works to draw us into Victorian Melbourne, aided by John Stoddart's masterful production design. As for the cast, it's an ensemble that showcases what was a greenhouse of Australian screen talent, ranging from the younger Kerry Armstrong and Sigrid Thornton to John Waters, Julia Blake and of course, Barry Humphries. Susannah Fowle as Laura makes an excellent debut in the film, but did not pursue an acting career. She embraces her character and doesn't try to make her likeable - just believable.

Also notable are the performances of Hilary Ryan as Evelyn, Alix Longman as Chinky, and Patricia Kennedy as Miss Chapman, the deputy headmistress, while Sheila Helpmann is the quintessential headmistress Mrs Gurley, an austere authoritarian.

The book, apparently autobiographical, serves as a starting point for Beresford's vision of the story of a young country girl who gains a certain kind of wisdom about herself and the world at a time when ladies didn't run. When she leaves the college, Laura celebrates with "a good run."

The thorough and thoroughly engaging feature length documentary, made for the DVD release, has a number of fascinating insights into the troubles behind the making of the film. At one point, for instance, a funding agency told Beresford that in view of the fact that the main characters were mainly women, the film should really be directed by a woman - like Gillian Armstrong. (This was 1976 or 77 ...) Beresford said that was OK, as long as the agency undertook to hand him the next film that Armstrong planned to direct with mainly male characters. Nothing more was said about it. He also reveals that Reg Grundy had promised to finance The Getting of Wisdom if Beresford made a sequel to Barry McKenzie. But that promise was never kept.

Published November 22, 2007

Email this article

CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

GETTING OF WISDOM, THE: DVD (PG)
(Aust, 1977)

CAST: Susannah Fowle, Patricia Kennedy, Sheila Helpmann, Candy Raymond, Hilary Ryan, Alix Longman, Terence Donovan, John Waters, Barry Humphries, Julia Blake, Maggie Kirkpatrick, Kerry Armstrong

PRODUCER: Phillip Adams

DIRECTOR: Bruce Beresford

SCRIPT: Eleanor Witcombe (novel by Henry Handel Richardson)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Don McAlpine

EDITOR: William Anderson

PRODUCTION DESIGN: John Stoddart

RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 17, 1978

PRESENTATION: 16:9; DD 2.0

SPECIAL FEATURES: 2 Disc Collectors Edition: Disc 1 - feature, trailers. Disc 2 - Telling Schoolgirl Tales (82 minutes) 2005/6 interviews with cast and crew; 1978 radio interviews (52 minutes); trailers and posters

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Umbrella

DVD RELEASE: March 6, 2006







Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2017