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Hollywood That Was


Thu 12 Mar 2009, 7:00pm–8:15pm
Fri 13 Mar 2009, 7:00pm–8:15pm

Where: Nga Taonga Sound & Vision, National Library Building, 70 Molesworth Street, Thorndon, Wellington

Restrictions: All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Admission: Free

Possibly New Zealand's first paparazzi!!

In 1946 New Zealander Ron Tonkins spent six months working on Hollywood studio lots as a photographer. While there he shot many candid Super 8 reels of stars such as Marlene Dietrich, Gregory Peck and Cecil B. DeMille which he later edited into this film, complete with his own narration.

At first the film appears as though it could have been been shot by any tourist, but Tonkins soon reveals his remarkable behind the scenes access to the Hollywood stars and film sets.

On the set of the Western Hopalong Cassidy he films cast and crew discussing various takes and shooting scenes of cowboys storming into a Western town on horseback. He films an abandoned set from the Betty Grable musical Mother Wore Tights and travels around various Hollywood studios where he captures a roll call of the stars relaxing between takes, including Rita Hayworth, Hedy la Marr and Roy Rogers. Some of the stars happily ‘mug’ for Ron’s camera - “Here’s Marlene Dietrich” narrates Tonkins, “and she’s asking - ‘What’s New Zealand like, Ron?”

Not much is known about exactly how Tonkins ended up on Hollywood studio lots. It’s possible he was a studio photographer hired to take portraits of the stars for press and promotional purposes. Certainly, Tonkins' knowledge of the stars, their films and the mechanics of movie making is encyclopedic. Throughout the film he reels off the names of both famous and forgotten faces, as well as details of their movies, marriages and mortality.

Unmissable for any film lover.

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