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Today's quote:

Friday, October 2, 2020

It's a play about growing up and growing old and failing to grow up


Summer of the Seventeenth Doll" is as "fair dinkum" Australian as the Diggers, the Blue Mountains or Vegemite. It had unmistakably Australian characters in a familiar setting, speaking with their own accents, and telling their own stories.

Set in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton in the summer of 1953, the story marks the 17th year of an annual tradition in the lives of the characters, wherein two masculine sugarcane cutters, Arthur "Barney" Ibbot and Reuben "Roo" Webber, travel south to Melbourne for five months of frivolity and celebration with two city women, Olive Leech and Nancy, with Roo bringing with him as a gift for Olive a kewpie doll, hence the name of the play.

Unfortunately, the film adaptation departs from the original play in that it is set in Sydney and shows the characters enjoying themselves against the glamorous backdrop of Bondi Beach and Luna Park Sydney rather than within the confines of the then working-class Melbourne suburb of Carlton. Also, the "Americanization" of the text, in particular the casting of American actor Borgnine, who played his character (Roo) with an American accent, and the drastic changes to key plot points, in particular the alternate, "happy", ending, changed what was a very successful play which openly and authentically portrayed distinctly Australian life and characters, into a far less successful film.

Still, it's a treat to listen to the actors' (other than Borgnine's) "fair dinkum" Australian accent which was so prevalent at the time of my arrival in this country.

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