Pic­ture show man

Dubbo Photo News - - Profile. - BY LISA MIN­NER

Keith Far­rands is known about the city of Dubbo for his vol­un­tary work with var­i­ous or­gan­i­sa­tions but there’s more to this lo­cal leg­end…much more as LISA MIN­NER found. A ca­reer with Paramount Pic­tures saw the movie buff mix­ing with some of the in­dus­tries greats, like Al­fred Hitch­cock, and in­spired a life­long pas­sion for films and theatre.

IF va­ri­ety is the spice of life then Keith Far­rands has had a sprin­kle-and-ahalf in his 76 years. A movie buff extraordinaire, Far­rands has worked for Paramount Pic­tures, has a col­lec­tion of films that would make even Netflix tip its hat and can even boast hav­ing been in a cou­ple of clas­sic Aussie films in the 60s and 70s. It’s all been part of the jour­ney for this gent who even­tu­ally re­turned to Dubbo to sink his teeth into a ca­reer at the Dubbo RSL Club.

Af­ter fin­ish­ing his in­ter­me­di­ate cer­tifi­cate, Far­rands and his fam­ily moved from Or­ange to Dubbo where his father es­tab­lished the pub­lic works in White Street.

In his late teens, he set his sights on the bright lights of Syd­ney and en­rolled at East Syd­ney Tech with the hope of be­com­ing an in­te­rior de­signer. Af­ter two years he found he was a lit­tle ho-hum with it all and quit, but as luck would have it, he found work in an­other area he was equally fas­ci­nated by and be­gan a ca­reer that would shape his fu­ture – in the movie in­dus­try.

He be­gan work­ing for the pres­ti­gious Paramount Pic­tures.

Asked how he snagged the job of a life­time, Far­rands says he was lucky to have a friend who worked at Paramount as the di­rec­tor’s chauf­feur.

There was a po­si­tion go­ing in the des­patch depart­ment which in­volved choos­ing con­tent, pack­ing up all the dif­fer­ent films and send­ing them off to the­atres around the coun­try.

“I started in des­patch and was later of­fered a job in the book­ing depart­ment where you make up the pro­grams for all the the­atres.”

In those days, there used to be two fea­ture films and a car­toon for each ses­sion.

“We also pro­vided se­ri­als and news reels, not like now days and I did that job for two years.”

Later, the young as­pi­rant changed roles within the com­pany, mov­ing into an­other divi­sion of Paramount as a sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive in New Zealand, af­ford­ing him a whirl­wind tour of ev­ery beau­ti­ful theatre in the neigh­bour­ing coun­try.

“I was over there for six months and can say I have been in ev­ery theatre in New Zealand – ev­ery theatre!

“I had to go around and meet with the man­agers and get them to sign a con­tract to say they’d show so many films at a cer­tain price.”

From there, Far­rands took on Queens­land in the same role, and as was the case in NZ, it gave him the op­por­tu­nity to visit ev­ery theatre in the state.

“I was ev­ery­where, from Cook­town to Mt Isa – ev­ery­where! And away for stints of six weeks at a time, liv­ing out of a suit­case,” he re­calls.

While he was at the peak of his ca­reer with Paramount in the 60s, be­hind the scenes tele­vi­sion was slowly be­gin­ning to gather mo­men­tum in the mar­ket, with fam­i­lies in­stalling sets in their homes and for the first time be­ing able to see what was once only avail­able at a theatre.

It changed the whole na­ture of the theatre busi­ness, with fam­i­lies choos­ing to stay in and watch TV in their own lounge rooms.

Theatre at­ten­dance dropped dra­mat­i­cally for a time, Far­rands says, with many es­tab­lish­ments clos­ing their doors al­to­gether.

As a sales rep, the dra­matic change to the in­dus­try made his job no longer vi­able and so Far­rands bid Paramount farewell and re­turned to Syd­ney to be­gin a new life and ca­reer.

Some of the high­lights of his time with the com­pany were get­ting to meet some pretty fa­mous peo­ple, like the leg­endary Al­fred Hitch­cock, whom he met in Syd­ney at the pre­miere of Pyscho in 1960.

“He was a very strange man… very. He liked blondes too; he had a fas­ci­na­tion for them.

“I took a photo of him hold­ing a koala in Syd­ney and I had a short con­ver­sa­tion with him but he wasn’t too keen to speak with us nor­mal peo­ple.”

He also met Tony Bill from the 1963 film Come Blow your Horn, which also starred Frank Si­na­tra.

“He was a nice man, ap­par­ently a mad wom­an­iser though,” Far­rands re­calls, laugh­ing.

He also met Bob Hope, whom he de­scribes as “a ter­rific fel­low, a very nat­u­ral sort of per­son”.

Re­flect­ing on that time the now 76 year old says: “I had a pretty in­ter­est­ing life with Paramount when I look back on it all.”

In 1971, the in­flu­ence of the movie in­dus­try had al­ready made and Fer­rands de­cided to try his hand at act­ing. He spot­ted an ad­ver­tise­ment in the lo­cal metro pa­per seek­ing ex­tras for a new Aussie film to be shot in the out­back.

The film was the cult clas­sic thriller, Wake in Fright (also known as Out­back), ar­guably one of the coun­try’s most dis­turb­ing and in­no­va­tive films of the time. It starred Chips Raf­ferty, Gary Bond and Don­ald Plea­sance and was dig­i­tally re-re­leased in 2009. Prior to that it had been con­sid­ered a “lost-film”, not avail­able on VHS or DVD. It was screened in Aus­tralian the­atres again some 38 years af­ter its first re­lease, and re­ceived crit­i­cal ac­claim.

Re­view web­site, Rot­ten Toma­toes said of the film: “A dis­qui­et­ing clas­sic of Aus­tralian cinema, Wake in Fright sur­veys a land­scape both sun-drenched and ruth­lessly dark.”

The scene in which Keith par­tic­i­pated was early on in the movie dur­ing a packed bar scene.

“I went to the Syd­ney show ground where they had a pub set cre­ated for the scene. They filmed us all day.

“It wasn’t too tax­ing. I just had to sit around and smoke and drink beer – there were about 100 of us do­ing the same!” he says, laugh­ing.

He re­calls be­ing fairly close to Chips Raf­ferty who sat up the end of the bar. “But you couldn’t get near him of course.

“It was great day – beer, cig­a­rettes and a cheque for $11,” – which Far­rands still has, lam­i­nated, as a me­mento of his part in the film.

He also had a bit part in an­other clas­sic called They’re a Weird Mob in 1966 – a film based on a comic novel by au­thor John O’grady.

“The scene I was in was on Bondi Beach – it’s not even all of me ac­tu­ally, it’s just me from the waist down in my red jock­ettes!

“We use to go to Bondi Beach ev­ery week­end and the crew hap­pened to be film­ing this week­end and the cam­era just came along.

“I have both the films in my col­lec­tion at home and have watched them many times.”

Speak­ing of col­lec­tions, no story fea­tur­ing the re­mark­able Mr Far­rands could be com­plete with­out ac­knowl­edg­ing what can only be called a movie col­lec­tion of epic pro­por­tions.

In­flu­enced by his early ca­reer with Paramount, as of 2016, Keith’s col­lec­tion of VHS and DVDS num­bers 4000.

“I have a whole room full of them, but in 1980, when I pur­chased my first VCR I was given a copy of a film called Break­ing Away and it all snow­balled from a sin­gle tape and af­ter that I de­cided I didn’t want to give them away, I wanted to keep them and the col­lec­tion just con­tin­ued to grow.”

Asked to name his favourite film genre, Far­rands doesn’t hes­i­tate – MGM mu­si­cals.

He counts Judy Gar­land among his favourites, along with Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe.

His favourite film of all time is the 1952 clas­sic, Sin­gin’ in the Rain, star­ring Gene Kelly, Deb­bie Reynolds, Don­ald O’con­nor and Cyd Charisse.

“I love it. I am go­ing to Syd­ney to see the stage pro­duc­tion later in the year. I know ev­ery word of it.”

Have films im­proved over the years or has the in­dus­try been con­sis­tant, I ask the movie buff, who thinks the vi­o­lence and swear­ing is over done in cur­rent films.

“I went and saw Last Cab from Dar­win and I have to say the swear­ing spoiled it for me.

“I know peo­ple will put up with it now days, but per­son­ally, I don’t like it.”

When Far­rands even­tu­ally re­turned to Dubbo, he turned his per­son­able na­ture to the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try.

Em­ployed with the Dubbo RSL Club for 30 years as a se­nior stew­ard, there are not too many peo­ple in the city who wouldn’t have crossed Keith’s path in this ca­pac­ity.

Now firmly re­tired, Keith has taken on the role of gallery guide with the Western Plains Cul­tural Cen­tre, a role that sees him as­sist in guid­ing with school vis­its, “de­men­tia tour” and with var­i­ous com­mu­nity groups that may need the as­sis­tance of an in­formed guide to en­rich their visit.

He says he wanted to con­tinue on in some form of ser­vice af­ter re­tire­ment and the WPCC ticked all his boxes.

“I have al­ways been fas­ci­nated by the place and I also work over at the Neigh­bour­hood Cen­tre,” he says. “And I en­joy trivia com­pe­ti­tions.”

If he could have his time over, would he do any­thing dif­fer­ently with his life?

Far­rands is char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally frank: “I prob­a­bly would have con­tin­ued with the in­te­rior de­sign course!”

I was over there for six months and can say I have been in ev­ery theatre in New Zealand, ev­ery theatre!

Keith’s Top Ten clas­sic films of all time:

Sin­gin’ in the Rain. (1952) The Wizard of Oz. (1940) Gone with the Wind. (1940) Rebel with­out a Cause. (1955) Pyscho. (1960) Seven Year Itch. (1955) Some like it Hot.(1959) How to Marry a Mil­lion­aire. (1953) Sta­lag 17. (1953) Shane. (1953)

Keith’s Top Ten favourite the­atres of all time:

The State Theatre (Syd­ney) The Re­gent Theatre (Syd­ney) The Win­ter Gar­den (Bris­bane) Her Majesty’s Theatre (Perth) Mel­bourne Re­gent Theatre (Mel­bourne) The Plaza Theatre (Syd­ney) The Cen­tury Theatre (Dubbo) The Roxy Theatre (Dubbo) The Em­bassy Theatre (Bri­tish films, Syd­ney) St James Theatre (MGM mu­si­cals, Syd­ney)

The Re­gent Theatre in Mel­bourne

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