Borders of the national family in King of the Coral Sea (1954)

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Landman, Jane (2009) Borders of the national family in King of the Coral Sea (1954). Studies in Australasian Cinema, 3 (1). ISSN 1750-3175


This article examines the genial 1950s matinee-styled adventure, King of the Coral Sea, a film set on Thursday Island. With Chips Rafferty playing pearling lugger captain Ted King, the film extends Rafferty's previous iconic national repertoire of digger, drover and bushman in an unprecedented (in entertainment cinema) imaginative ‘nationalization’ of the Torres Strait. The article proposes that the narrative – concerning the protection of the nation's daughters and borders from the threat of shadowy European illegal migration – can be read as a fantastic reversal of power relations in the post-war Pacific, where Australian multiracial enterprise is ably supported by American muscle. It locates the production and reception of the film within the discursive habitat of popular illustrated magazines, focusing on the visual deployment of race and gender in respect to assimilationist anxieties that form part of the imagining of a modern ‘Australian way of life’. It further considers how this discourse shapes the deployment of the Torres Strait in a diegetic and extradiegetic relay, in order to imagine an established nationhood for Australia.

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Item type Article
DOI 10.1386/sac.3.1.61_1
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Communication and the Arts
Historical > FOR Classification > 1902 Film, Television and Digital Media
Historical > SEO Classification > 9502 Communication
Keywords ResPubID16947, film history, Australian history, Pacific colonialism, Australian nationhood, Australian film stars, Chips Rafferty
Citations in Scopus 3 - View on Scopus
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