New South Wales 80 Years Ago

Australian_Iron_and_Steel,_Port_Kembla-_26th_November_1937_(18894130203)Aerial view of Australian Iron and Steel factory in Port Kembla

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This aerial photograph, dated the 26th of November, 1937, shows the industrial region of Port Kembla, in New South Wales, Australia. The Australian Iron and Steel factory (opened 1928) can be seen.

Today, Port Kembla is part of the coastal city of Wollongong.

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On this day: Ireland legalises divorce

Anti-divorce protest in Ireland By the time Ireland voted on divorce in 1995, it was the only country in Europe where divorce was banned.

On the 24th of November, 1995, Ireland became the last country in Europe to legalise divorce. This occurred because of a referendum to change the constitution – not the first attempt to achieve this.

Ireland 1986. Anti-divorce posters at the Father Mathew Hall on polling day for the Divorce Referendum on 26 June.

Opposition in the failed 1986 referendum. X

Divorce had been specifically forbidden in the 1937 Irish constitution. A heavily Catholic country, there was very strong opposition to the legal breakup of a marriage, just as there was when it came to the legalisation of contraception, which was only made available in the 1980s.

Irish campaign against the Divorce Referendum.

The success of the 1995 referendum was a close thing; the results were just over 50% in favour and 49.79% opposed.

On this day: the demolition of the Old Melbourne Gaol

Australia’s Old Melbourne Gaol photographed while being taken apart on the 19th of April, 1937.

The gaol is most famous for being the place of the execution of bushranger (highwayman) Ned Kelly in 1880.

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Victoria the Great – for fans of anything Victorian

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I commented on the new television series, Victoria, and how horrified I was by the deliberate changes to history (such as making a teenage girl’s ageing mentor her love interest!).

Recently a different version of Queen Victoria’s life was on television: Victoria the Great, released in 1937 on the centenary of the real queen’s ascension to the throne.

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Victoria being woken early to be informed she is now queen.

The movie version and a 19th century depiction of the moment.

Now, I don’t usually expect much of films from the 1930s (though Gone with the Wind has some spectacular crowd scenes that hold up today).

So how surprised I was to realise this old movie was the best interpretation of Queen Victoria’s life I’ve seen!

Actual, recorded historical moments are recreated beautifully, and accurately. I even learnt a few things – yes, I checked that they were true.

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The queen’s (played by Anna Neagle), and Prince Albert’s (played by Anton Walbrook, all the way down to his dorky hair) costumes and hairstyles are spot-on. In an era where historical licence was practically expected, the people working on this film have all but recreated the costumes from official portraits.

The sets and filming locations are spectacular, even in black and white. Unlike so many “historical” movies today, the dances are accurate for the period (Anna Karenina, I’m looking at you!), and the women have their hair pinned up! The forms of transport they use (such as the early train they depart London on) look accurate to me.

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I usually sit and nit-pick when watching historical dramas, but I couldn’t find much to complain about here.

I never liked The Young Victoria. For all the praise heaped on it, neither Emily Blunt or Rupert Friend suited their roles, and the less said about the horrific rewriting of history in the more recent Victoria, the better.

So far, this eighty-year-old film is my favourite version of the life of Britain’s most famous queen. I’m not sure how easy it is to track down these days, but it’s worth a watch.

In its time, Victoria the Great was so successful a second film was immediately made.