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    Possum Paddock: Two men and two ladies standing in front of a house, singing, courtesy of National Film and Sound Archive.
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Howarde, Kate (1864 - 1939)

Born
28 July 1864
London, England
Died
18 February 1939
Kensington, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation
Actor, Director, Producer, Scriptwriter and Theatrical director
Alternative Names
  • Black, Catherine Clarissa (Second Married Name)
  • de Saxe, Catherine Clarissa (Previous married name)
  • Jones, Catherine Clarissa (birth name)

Summary

Kate Howarde, born Catherine Clarissa Jones in England and migrating to New Zealand as a child, was the first woman to direct a feature film in Australia.

She married the musician William Henry de Saxe in April 1884 and their only child, Florence Adrienne, was born not long after on 5 December 1884. William Henry de Saxe left soon after Florence was born and died c.1899.

Catherine de Saxe adopted the stage name Kate Howarde in the 1890s. By the late 1890s, her theatre production company, the Kate Howarde Company was based in Australia and was reported to be extensively touring through New Zealand and all Australian States. In addition to managing the tours, Howarde controlled all finances, wrote and directed many of the performances, songs and pantomimes and performed herself.

Her biggest success was the comedy Possum Paddock (1919). Written, produced and presented by Howarde, the play told the story of the financial and romantic problems of a bush family. The success of the play convinced Howarde to turn the play into a film which she starred in, produced, co-scripted and co-directed with Charles Villiers. This made her the first woman in Australia to direct a feature film. Australian censors removed a scene from the film in which an unmarried mother imagines drowning her baby. The film was released in Sydney on 29 January 1921 and was well received throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Details

The Kate Howarde Company included Kate's two younger brothers and one of her two sisters. Her brother Billie Howarde and brother-in-law Harry Craig ran the company when she traveled overseas.

Howarde traveled to San Francisco in 1906 and made a living writing theatre reviews for newspapers. She then traveled to London, where, it is reported, she married her second husband, vaudevillian Elton Black.

Between 1914 and 1917, the Kate Howarde Company presented successful weekly shows at the National Theatre, Balmain, Sydney. These shows included her own productions The White Slave Traffic (1914) and Why Girls Leave Home (1914).

Howarde's biggest success was the comedy Possum Paddock (1919). Written, produced and presented by Howarde, the play told the story of the financial and romantic problems of a bush family. The success of the play convinced Howarde to turn the play into a film which she starred in, produced, co-scripted and co-directed with Charles Villiers. This made her the first woman in Australia to direct a feature film. Australian censors removed a scene from the film in which an unmarried mother imagines drowning her baby. The film was released in Sydney on 29 January 1921 and was well received throughout Australia and New Zealand.

The success of Possum Paddock financed a ten month tour for the entire company throughout South Africa, the United States and Great Britain. Upon the company's return to Australia, Howarde made no further films, however continued to tour with her theatrical company and continued to write her own plays. These plays include the comedy Gum Tree Gully (1924), and the dramatic works The Limit (1921), The Bush Outlaw (1923), Find Me A Wife (1923), Common Humanity (1927) and The Judgment of Jean Calvert (1935).

Howarde died 18 February 1939 from cerebral thrombosis.

Sources used to compile this entry: Bertrand, Ina, 'Celebrating Kate Howarde', Senses of Cinema, no. 57, Senses of Cinema Inc., 4 October 2002, http://www.sensesofcinema.com/2002/22/howarde/; Bertrand, Ina, 'Howarde, Catherine Clarissa (Kate) (1864-1939)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University, 2006, http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/AS10235b.htm; Possum Paddock, 1921, 6882; Howarde, Kate (1864 - 1939); National Film and Sound Archive.

Archival resources

National Film and Sound Archive

  • Howarde, Kate: Set of 22 negatives taken c. 1915, 1915, 765413; National Film and Sound Archive. Details
  • Howarde, Kate: Two frames showing two people talking to a couple in a car, 1920s, 765452; National Film and Sound Archive. Details
  • Possum Paddock, 1921, 6882; Howarde, Kate (1864 - 1939); National Film and Sound Archive. Details

Digital resources

Title
Possum Paddock: Two men and two ladies standing in front of a house, singing
Type
Image
Repository
National Film and Sound Archive

Details

Hollie Aerts

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

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