The 1950s - Cultural Imperialism

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New Theatre History Home | Previous: The 1950s - Injustice and Racism | Next: The 1950s - Politics

In the 1950s the New supported the Australian Culture Defence Movement (ACDM), its key founders composer Raymond Hanson, actor Leonard Teale and poet Roland Robinson. The ACDM promoted Australian cinema, music, literature and radio programs which were being displaced by imports from the USA: offensive sex-filled shoddy films, magazines, comics, “unmusical groans, grunts and howls, and juke box rubbish”.

Peggy: Listen, Superman, Henry Lawson was Australia’s greatest writer.

Bugs: Writer? That’s all out of date. It’s all in the pitchers now. Books is out of date, sister. Comics, the flicks, the juke box, that’s civilisation.

In 1952 the New sent delegates and entertainers to an ACDM conference in Sydney’s Lower Town Hall where Australian books, films, music, theatre and art were on display. In 1953 the New hosted a night for Raymond Hanson who believed that his association with the ACDM and his later involvement with the Australian-Soviet Friendship Society were detrimental to his professional career and a salaried position at the Sydney Conservatorium: “culture” was then a dirty word, “associated principally with strong left ideas and more principally with communism”. The ACDM folded under the weight of anti-communist criticism.

The revue Press the Point included "The Big Pash", Cedric Flower’s send- up of the violent decadence of Hollywood lovemaking involving a blonde and a male composite of Robert Mitchum, Alan Ladd, Humphrey Bogart, George Raft and Dick Powell.

Mona Brand’s No Strings Attached deals with US efforts to influence elections in a fictional Far East country and to sell their products ~ electrical appliances, lipstick, nail polish, Californian oranges and violent films offensive to Buddhists ~ while limited electrical power is available only in the capital city, and what the country really needs is aid for schools and hospitals.

Tourists at the airport include an Englishwoman and an American Doppeldanger (another US character is a businessman Wrexall).

Doppeldanger (banging table with fist and shouting): Say! Where’s my goddam Scotch?

Mrs Templeton (looking up from novel): Oh, hasn’t the waiter brought you your drink yet, Mr Doppeldanger?

Doppeldanger: No! And I gave that goddam coolie a half dollar. I guess I oughta known better.

Brand had first-hand experience of “The Not So Quiet American” while living in Vietnam. ASIO was especially interested in cast members Ming Ah Too, a medical student from Malaya, and his friend William Lim, a university student involved with the Chinese Youth League.

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