Peter Bland’s creative career encompasses two cultures, dozens of poems, the creation of Wellington’s Downstage Theatre and at least 30 screen roles – among them, his star turn as conman Wes Pennington in Came a Hot Friday.
English-born Graham Kerr was New Zealand’s first celebrity chef. Initially RNZAF Chief Catering Adviser, he soon found himself on television in a flamboyant persona that would come to be known as the Galloping Gourmet. He has gone on to make more than 1,800 programmes around the world – but, in later years, conversion to Christianity and family ill health have considerably toned down his performance and recipes.
Best known for his many decades in radio, Peter Harcourt's career also included books and varied screen appearances. In the 60s he and his wife Kate Harcourt fronted Junior Magazine, one of our earliest children’s TV shows. Peter went on to act on Gloss and present the Mobil Song Quest, though his most famous screen appearance runs just 21 seconds – a 60s era underwear ad which was originally rejected as too risque to screen.
Using the power of documentary film Frank Chilton made a difference to the lives of disabled children in New Zealand and around the world. The films he directed for the National Film Unit won many awards and he was honoured by the Queen with an OBE for services to the handicapped.
New Zealand’s first left-wing documentary filmmaker, Cecil Holmes achieved notoriety in the late 1940s through the highly publicised exposure of his communist activity as a Public Service Association (PSA) delegate in the National Film Unit. He went on to become a significant film director in Australia.Image credit: Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/2-023573; F (detail)
A self taught stargazer, Peter Read’s passion for astronomy coincided with a budding television industry and the beginning of manned spaceflight. His programme, Night Sky, played in primetime from 1964; and his avuncular style inspired New Zealanders to look at the stars. It was the country’s longest running TV show when it was cancelled in 1974, and he was the longest serving presenter. Peter Read died in 1981.
National Film Unit cameraman John Hutchinson was well known for his films of royal tours and rugby. An early highlight of his 20 years behind the camera was filming the fire that destroyed Ballantyne’s store in Christchurch, but he quite literally reached new heights with his thrilling short film Jetobatics (1959).Image credit: Archives New Zealand, ref AAQT 6401 A39924
Between getting his start in filmmaking with the National Film Unit, and returning to New Zealand to retire, John Feeney made his name as a director at the National Film Board of Canada; he also spent 40 years filming and photographing in Egypt. Some of his NFU films were considered to be outstanding documentaries, and two of his Canadian films were nominated for Academy Awards.
An ideas man who campaigned for a Government film body, Stanhope Andrews would become the National Film Unit's first manager. Andrews commanded the Unit for a decade. Along the way he oversaw dramatic expansion, set up regular newsreel Weekly Review, and opened the door to filmmakers of both genders.
A pioneer of the commercial use of 16mm film in post-war New Zealand, Robert Steele is arguably a lost name in the local screen industry. A portrait photographer who was making amateur films in 1930, he spent several years in his native Australia before returning to NZ for good in 1937. Steele screened his films at workplaces and trade fairs, and was a major producer of commercials in the first decade of Kiwi television.