As many of the silent era bushranger films are lost to the sands of time, either through being misplaced or destroyed, there are no opportunities to view them ourselves. Because of this we rely on reports from the time that describe the films and discuss the audience responses. This was in the days before people wrung their hands over “spoilers” and were more worried about which film would break opening weekend records.
In the following we have several articles that discuss what is, to date, the only film about Captain Moonlite that has ever successfully been made.
Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate (NSW : 1894 – 1954), Saturday 11 February 1911, page 4
Measrs. Toose and Orbell had a crowded house at the Dubbo Skating’ Rink on Wednesday evening, when they presented that fine bushranging Picture “Moonlite.” The film was 4000 feet in length, and occupied the whole of the second half of the programme. It commences in New Zealand, where Captain Scott alias “Moonlite” is caught cheating at cards. He is disrated and turned out of the army, and crosses over to Victoria. Here, he joins the Presbyterian Church, as minister, to achieve his purpose of robbing the bank. The picture then proceeds with various interesting stages until “Moonlite” is captured and lodged in Dubbo gaol. He strangles the warder and escapes. It is after this event that the gang is formed. His reign on the road was a short one. After sticking up several gold escorts and robbing several homesteads he had some sharp encounters with the pollce, the chief of which was Inspector Carroll, and was eventually captured alter a desperate struggle, and hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol. The film concludes with a picture of “Moonlite’s” grave, and Miss Clark, his fiance, is shown weeping over it. The first part of the programme was taken up with interesting subjects, including an A.B. drama and several good comics. The company showed again on Thursday, when “Moonlite” was again screened, together with an entirely new programme of other subjects.
Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), Saturday 11 March 1911, page 8
To-night will be a specially attractive time at the New Picture Palace, Centennial Hall, for the great bushranging picture, “Captain Moonlite ” will be screened for the first time in Brisbane. The film has been made at great expense, and though it is very long, taking 1 hour 20 minutes in the showing, its story and incidents are such that interest can never wane. In fact, some of the bushranger’s exploits are complete in themselves as absorbing and thrilling stories, and when added together, and invested with the love interest, which runs throughout its length, the film is a novel. The story will be told by Mr. R. F. Stephens, and the first part of the programme will include many excellent pictures, including “The Drunkard’s Reformation.” A matinee will be given at 3.30 p.m.
Queensland Times (Ipswich, Qld. : 1909 – 1954), Saturday 18 March 1911, page 4
On Monday night next the above named well-known Australian bush drama will be screened at the Lyceum Theatre. It was shown for the first time in Brisbane on Saturday last, and the “Daily Mail” of Monday, last speaks of it as follows :– For the past week the management of the Centennial Hall have been booming the great bushranging dramatic picture, “Capt. Moonlite.” They were convinced they had a good picture and after witnessing the first performance on Saturday evening the public are equally convinced of the satisfactory nature of the film. There is no doubt whatever that “Moonlite” is the best motion picture of the fascinating life of the notorious bushrangers ever seen in Brisbane. There is no appearance of artcificiality or staginess in the drama; every character and super plays his part with life-like realism. The life of the famous “Moonlite” offers a wide field of study for the student of character. He is first introduced as Capt. Scott, the scene being military quarters in New Zealand. There Scott held a commission, and while playing cards with his brother officers, he is caught cheating, and taking advantage of his superior strength, brutally assaults his accusers. Exposure and disgrace follow. Drummed out of the army Scott joins the clergy with ulterior motives. He makes the acquaintance of the manager of the Egerton Bank – gains his confidence and becomes conversant with the affairs of the bank – using his knowledge afterwards in robbing the bank of a large sum of money. It is difficult to say his motive for the robbery – whether it was desire of gain or for sentimental reasons. For, about this time he had gained the affections of a beautiful young girl, named Ruth Clarke, and she appeals to Scott to save her brother from ruin by lending him money to restitute a large sum he had embezzled. The bank robbery follows this appeal, and serves to show both sides of Scott’s character – cruelty and kindness. Scott endeavours to leave by boat for England, but he overdoes his disguise and the police get on his track. A daring attempt to escape is made by jumping from the boat Lady Isabel, but in swimming Scott is wounded, and subsequently arrested. Imprisonment follows, but by strangling a warder he effects his escape. Once again free, Scott decides to form a bushranging gang, and not content with ruining the life of Ruth Clarke, makes up his mind to induce her brother to come a bushranger. More out of gratitude than from a spirit of lawlessness young Clarke joins Scott, now known as “Moonlite,” although his sister tries to prevent him doing so. The famous gang is formed, and the great robbery of the gold escort takes place. The dual nature of “Moonlite’s” character induces him to befriend poor people with the proceeds of the robbery. By effectual disguise “Moonlite” brings the raid on the station to a successful issue, and to the benefit of his lawless gang. Another raid is made on McCreedy’s farm, where “Moonlite” defies a large and well-organised police squad, and is captured by them after one of the most exciting fights in Australian history. He fights determinedly until he is overpowered. After capture he is overcome with remorse and grief at the untimely death of young Clarke, who was shot in the fight, and by permission of his captors, approaches the body and reverently lays it out. His last journey to gaol and his sweetheart’s grief at his grave concludes this most heart-stirring picture drama. The story given above includes the main points of ‘”Moonlite’s” career, but there are very many subsidiary scenes and adventures which are vividly pourtrayed [sic] by the picture. Almost an hour was occupied in displaying the film, and every minute of that time was enjoyed by the large audience.
Bundaberg Mail and Burnett Advertiser (Qld. : 1892 – 1917), Wednesday 3 May 1911, page 2
Last night the popular Jubilee picture Gardens resort presented to their numberless patrons something new and startling and a large audience gathered to witness the latest bush drama entitled Captain Moonlite. This film is over 3,000 feet long and not for one instant during its portrayal is there a dull foot in the whole length of the film. To-night this wonderful picture will be screened for the last time, and judging from the large attendance last night, the enthusiasm shown, and the magnificence of this picture and the excellent programme of other pictures we predict another crowded house.