Queen’s Birthday is celebrated in New Zealand each year on the first Monday in June. This Spotlight collection shines a light on all things queenly on NZ On Screen, from Auckland’s main drag, to drag queens, beauty queens and movie River Queen; to the reginas themselves — Queen Salote of Tonga and Aotearoa’s head of state Queen Elizabeth II (who can be seen doing everything from touring NZ as a young honeymooner, to meeting the world’s first transsexual MP).
"So the Queen comes to New Zealand. 12,000 miles from the motherland she is not among strangers. She has come to her New Zealand home." When the Queen and Prince Philip began the first tour of NZ by a reigning monarch (soon after her coronation), a National Film Unit crew followed the journey, before condensing 40 days and 46 stops into a mere 25 minutes. Along the way the newly crowned Queen wears her coronation gown to open Parliament, and witnesses geysers, long-jumpers, Māori canoes, plus masses of enthused Dunedinites refusing to keep behind the barrier.
In 1976 three former Miss New Zealand winners fronted up for Max Cryer talk show Town Cryer — including a winner from the 1920s, who agreed to talk on condition her identity wasn’t revealed. The woman recalls her mother firmly turning down offers of travel to Hollywood. 1949 winner Mary ‘Bobbie’ Woodward agrees stamina was as important to the role as beauty. 1954 winner Moana Whaanga (nee Manley) was also a national swimming rep. After the show aired, Cryer heard from an earlier Māori winner, who in 1923 took away possibly the first Miss NZ title of all.
Georgina Beyer was the first transgendered person in the world to be elected to national office. This internationally lauded documentary, by Annie Goldson and Peter Wells, tells the story of Beyer's extraordinary and inspiring journey from sex worker to Member of Parliament for rural Wairarapa and handshakes with the Queen. Born George Bertrand, Georgina grew up on a Taranaki farm, before spreading her wings on the Auckland cabaret circuit. Subsequent events led her to the town of Carterton, where she became involved in local body, and then national, politics.
Three friends cruise inner-city Auckland in a 1946 Ford pickup, as they cope with the changing dynamic of their friendship and encroaching demands of the adult world. In the tradition of American Graffiti it captures the hope promised by a night on the town and a reality that struggles to meet expectations — punctuated by hoons, officious cops and dodgy tow truck operators. Queen Street is a fascinating look at Kiwi car and street culture in the pre-boyracer era, and a snapshot of a downtown that has changed markedly since 1981 when the film screened on TV.
Looking at New Zealand was an early NZBC “pictorial magazine” show which explored “New Zealand’s backyard”. Produced by Conon Fraser, it was a staple of Sunday night 60s TV. In this edition the narrator introduces NZ’s unheralded scenic wonder: “its girls”, as he meets some of Miss New Zealand’s 1969 contestants. The women talk about their interests (“I adore frilly nighties”) and occupations (typist) in a style that is more Stepford Wives than Kate Sheppard. Miss Auckland Carole Robinson (not seen here), would go on to win Miss Photogenic at that year’s Miss Universe pageant.
Vincent Ward's fifth feature follows an Irishwoman in 1860s New Zealand, as Māori tribes resist the occupation of their land by the British. Sarah (Samantha Morton) has had an affair with a Māori and borne his child. Years later the boy is kidnapped by his grandfather, a powerful tribal leader. Sarah embarks on a search for her child, aided by warrior Wiremu (Cliff Curtis). When she finds him, both mother and son must decide to which culture they belong. This excerpt from the notoriously ambitious film sees Sarah encountering charismatic chief Te Kai Po (Temuera Morrison).
This live TV spectacular documents an 18 October 1981 Royal Variety performance in front of the touring Queen Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh. Performers in St James Theatre included Ray Columbus (in That's Country mode), Sir Howard Morrison and John Rowles. Dance is represented by Limbs and the Royal New Zealand Ballet, while McPhail and Gadsby and Billy T James deliver pre-PC gags. There’s a show stopping all-singing all-dancing finale, and what seems like the entire roster of NZ showbiz of the time lines up to greet the Queen, including Lyn of Tawa.
The early 80s were the apex of the local beauty pageant — Lorraine Downes won Miss Universe in 1983, and more Kiwis watched the 1981 Miss New Zealand contest on TV than Charles and Di’s wedding. This 1984 Miss World New Zealand live telecast was legendary for host Peter Sinclair announcing the wrong winner (clip six). Miss Auckland Barbara McDowell’s runner up sash is swiftly swapped for a crown and she is (eventually) made the first part-Samoan Miss NZ. A retro delight is the beauties dancing to Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ in an Oamaru quarry.
There's panic on the streets as 19-year-old tearaway Ska (Matthew Hunter) comes to terms with love and death in Auckland's 80s urban underworld. After an ultimately tragic attempt to 'rescue' his prostitute sister, Ska plots revenge at a rock gig ... with riotous results. Directed by Bruce Morrison when broken glass was still on the ground from the Queen Street riot, the film was inspired by a story from 16-year-old Richard Lymposs. In this teen spirit-infused excerpt, street-fighter Ska saves rich girl Stacy (Kim Willoughby), and meets her classy parents.
In more repressed times, Carmen was one of NZ's most colourful and controversial figures. Geoff Steven's doco traces the life story of the transgender icon who was born Trevor Rupe in Taumarunui in 1936 and went on to be a dancer, sex worker, madam, cafe owner — and one of the few non-MPs to appear before the Privileges Committee. Steven shines a light on a bygone era of gay culture but avoids the temptation to focus on the seedy — opting, instead, for extended fantasy sequences (featuring Neil Gudsell aka Mika) to illustrate key moments in Carmen's life.
"I mean to say, shouldn't I be in love with a fella or something?" Mandy, a man who dresses as a woman, talks about his relationship with Jewel (Georgina Beyer), a transsexual. Jewel's Darl concentrates on the fine details of their relationship: tea and biscuits in bed, Jewel's belief in staying strong against other people's mockery, plus Mandy's memories of a troubled childhood and the day their romance began. The acclaimed drama was inspired by Anne Kennedy's first published short story, winner of the 1983 Katherine Mansfield Award.
Miles (Joel Tobeck) is 16. His family are falling apart and he's got a crush on his cousin. An imminent royal visit offends his mother's political sensibilities and his father is spending time with a female neighbour. Christmas is coming and the twins have murder on their minds. Director Niki (Whale Rider) Caro's survey of the everyday eccentricities of family was nominated for best TV drama scipt and director at the 1994 NZ Film and TV Awards. The film was one of three half-hour dramas commissioned by TVNZ under the series title Another Country. Producer Owen Hughes writes about it here.
A line-up of receptionists, trainee teachers, and models talk horse-riding and modesty, vying to win Miss New Zealand 1973. Miss Otago (Pam King) proves a popular winner — the show was filmed in Dunedin — and was later a semi-finalist at that year's Miss World contest. The compere provides innuendo-laced links, and introduces reigning Miss New Zealand (Kristine Allan), Miss World (Australia's Belinda Green), Canadian singer Gary Buck, and blind Māori crooner Eddie Low. Miss Horowhenua — a hairdresser — highlights 1973 style: wigs are out for women, but in for men.
This is the official film of the Royal visit to Queen Salote's Kingdom in 1954, made by the National Film Unit for the Tongan Government. There is comprehensive coverage of the welcome, traditional ceremonies and feasting, dancing and singing, the church service, and the farewell. The young, recently coronated, Queen Elizabeth and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, leave the 'friendly islands' on the Royal liner Gothic, which will continue on to New Zealand.