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The recording of the webinar is here (15 May 2022)

Josef Bambach tried to console Isabel McDonagh in a scene from the 1929 silent movie The Cheaters

Film historian Graham Shirley introduces us to the fabled trio - Isabel, Paulette and Phyllis McDonagh - who hold a unique place in Australian film history. Between 1926 and 1934 they made four feature films and several short documentaries, their career coinciding with the Australian film industry's difficult transition from silent films to "talkies". Their sophisticated dramas stood out from the aggressively Australian patterns popular with other local producers. Paulette was director and principal writer; Phyllis was production manager, art director and publicist; Isabel, under the stage name of Marie Lorraine, was the lead actor.  

Of their surviving work,  their 1929 feature film The Cheaters stands out - both for its dramatic qualities and for its demonstration of how the awkward transition from silent to sound films was managed. Originally made as a silent, the film was partly re-shot and re-edited as successive talkie versions in 1930 and 1931, and Graham will explore the contrast between the extant versions of 1929 and 1931. Following his presentation, there will be a Q & A session. The whole webinar is planned to take about one hour.

It is strongly recommended that you see the film before the webinar. It is available free at This link takes you to the complete 90 minute silent version, and short excerpts from the 1931 sound version follow at the end.

Background material on the McDonagh sisters is readily available on the net. For example, there is an interview with Isabel's two sons at  and an introduction to the McDonaghs by Graham Shirley on the NFSA website

The Friends of the National Film and Sound Archive Founding Patrons:

Gil Brealey, Bryan Brown, Anthony Buckley, Patricia Lovell, Chris Noonan, Michael Pate, Fred Schepisi, Albie Thoms