It was the 1930s and the new talkies were all the rage when the chance to make it big in Hollywood came to Dungog – or so it seemed. In June 1933 the Dungog Chronicle headline read: ‘Screen Test on Stage – At Dungog Picture Theatre’. The report went on to detail how Dr A. L. Lewis of Hollywood (the discoverer of Janet Gaynor among others), would be coming to Dungog to select individuals for ‘further qualifying tests’.
This ‘Ambassador for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’, as his large Dungog Chronicle advertisement proclaimed, was also the presenter of ‘Hollywood Personality Building Classes’. The same ads went on to say, perhaps somewhat confusingly for a Hollywood Ambassador, that any further tests a fortunate Dungog hopeful might undergo would be for British National Films.
A subsequent Dungog Chronicle reported that 10 to 12 hopefuls lined up for their ‘final screen tests’ at the Dungog Theatre (known to us today as the James Theatre) but no account of any resulting stardom occurs. Perhaps Dr Lewis was a genuine talent scout, but one can’t help but wonder if any Dungog families have an embarrassing story to tell.
(The writer would like to thank Marie Neilson for first drawing his attention to this fascinating episode in Dungog’s history.)