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Playing Beatie Bow (film)

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Playing Beatie Bow
Playing Beatie Bow poster
Directed byDonald Crombie
Produced byJock Blair
Bruce Moir
John Morris
Written byPeter Gawler
Irwin Lane
Based onRuth Park's novel
StarringImogen Annesley
Peter Phelps
Mouche Phillips
Nikki Coghill
Moya O'Sullivan
Music byGarry McDonald / Laurie Stone
CinematographyGeoffrey Simpson
Edited byAndrew Prowse
Distributed bySouth Australian Film Corporation
Release date
  • 7 August 1986 (1986-08-07)
Running time
93 minutes
BudgetA$4.4 million[1]
Box officeA$97,036 (Australia)

Playing Beatie Bow is a 1986 Australian time travel drama film. It is directed by Donald Crombie and stars Imogen Annesley, Peter Phelps and Mouche Phillips. The screenplay by Peter Gawler and Irwin Lane is based on the 1980 novel of the same name by Ruth Park.

Plot summary

Beatrice May "Beatie" Bow, a young Victorian-era girl, is summoned from the past to contemporary 1986 Sydney by children, including eight-year-old Natalie, chanting her name. Sixteen-year-old Abigail Kirk, whose mother Kathy was looking at rekindling her relationship with her estranged husband, accidentally follows Beatie back to September 1873, in Sydney-Town in the colony of New South Wales. Beatie's family, including Granny and Dovey, believe Abigail is the promised "Stranger" who will arrive to save "The Gift" for future generations of Bows. The Gift comes at great sacrifice, though, as one of the Bow children—either Beatie, the "poorly" middle brother Gilbert Samuel (Gibbie) or the oldest brother Judah will die at a young age (Gibbie, who spends his time in bed reading "The Good Book", is convinced that he will be the one to die young). Abigail is trapped in the past until she does what she was "sent" to do, even though she does not know what this is. During her sojourn, she falls in love for the first time with Judah (who is promised to marry Dovey) and gains a more mature perspective on her parents' re-forming relationship.

After returning to her own time, Abigail finds that her friends Justine and her daughter, eight-year-old Natalie, are descendants of the Bow family and learns the fate of the Bow children. Beatie never married or had children, though she achieved her childhood dream of becoming a scholar and became the longtime headmistress of the Fort Street School and died in the 1920s. Gibbie, despite being convinced that he would be the one to die young, married an undertaker's daughter and lived until 1940 when he was 76 and was actually Justine's great grandfather. Abigail had saved Gibbie from a fire that all but destroyed the Bows' home located above Samuel Bow's confectionery shop, which was what she as the "Stranger" was sent to do thus preserving "The Gift" for future generations of the Bow family. Judah, whom Abigail had fallen in love with, married Dovey and they had a daughter in 1874, though the child died before her first birthday while Dovey died in 1919. Natalie then tells Abigail that Judah died in a shipwreck just outside of Hobart-Town at the age of 22, thus becoming the great sacrifice. Abigail then meets Justine's younger brother Robert who bears a striking resemblance to Judah and the pair fall in love, while Natalie has assumed the Bow family "gift" allowing her to become a talented piano player.



Playing Beatie Bow is directed by Donald Crombie, and produced by Jock Blair, Bruce Moir and John Morris. It is rated PG instead of the milder G because Abigail uses a swear word ("shit") towards the end of the film as well as two scenes in which Annesley appeared semi-nude.[2] Also, due to Annesley only being 16 at the time of filming, the kissing scenes between herself and 26-year-old Phelps were "toned down" to avoid controversy.

Most of the film was shot in Adelaide, including using one of the city's iconic indoor amusement arcades "Downtown" and its popular second-floor roller skating rink for a scene early in the film.[3] AU$400,000 was spent on recreating Sydney's Rocks area in a disused industrial site.[1]

Box office

Playing Beatie Bow grossed $97,306 at the box office in Australia,[4] which is equivalent to $212,127 in 2009 dollars. However the film was popular on video.[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b Greg Kerr, "Playing Beatie Bow", Australian Film 1978–1992, Oxford Uni Press, 1993 p203
  2. ^ TV Tropes, Cosi rated PG
  3. ^ David Stratton, The Avocado Plantation: Boom and Bust in the Australian Film Industry, Pan MacMillan, 1990 p340
  4. ^ "Film Victoria – Australian Films at the Australian Box Office" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 February 2011. Retrieved 15 November 2010.
  5. ^ with Donald Crombie", Signet, 18 December 1998| accessed 16 November 2012
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Playing Beatie Bow (film)
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