The Making of 40,000 Horsemen
The scenes made in Orange were those of the final charge on Beersheba, the climax of the whole film. The first scenes filmed were at Cronulla/Kurnell, in 1938. When Sydney’s sesquicentenary celebrations were in progress, and the Light Horse parading, my father gained permission of the Army to use the Light Horseman for scenes on the sandhills at Kurnell, depicting their long desert marches on the way across the Sinai, and their approach to Beersheba.
He used these scenes as a ‘shop window’ to gain finance for the making of the film. Finance and final scripting, as well as construction of studio sets, casting, etc. took about a year and a half, so the main part of the production was not begun until May, 1940. Chauvel did his research well, gaining advice from his uncle, the General. He knew that the final part of the charge on Beersheba took place over flattish, hard ground, as the men had left the sands of Sinai behind. For that reason, he chose a venue near Orange.
Alf Reid (This is the late Alf Read of Spring Hill) told me that there had been Light Horse encampments at Orange in 1939, so I am assuming that the charge scenes were made in that year, while all the studio preparations were in hand.
Although it was basically only one scene, it was the most memorable scene of the whole film, and integral to the story.
* Susanne Chauvel Carlsson