88 EVERGREEN Autumn Laya Raki and Jack Hawkins. (continued) natural appearance it gave the slightly dusty New Zealand countryside. Technicolor would make the greens look glossier, in his opinion. Television was more than six years away from New Zealand homes when The Seekers was filmed, so New Zealanders still relied on radio for most of their at-home entertainment. On the night of 28th February 1954 the ZB commercial network of the New Zealand Broadcasting Service (NZBS) aired On Location, a documentary about the making of the movie. The script was written and produced by Arthur E. Jones, who had recorded the programme while the British contingent was filming at Honeymoon Bay on Lake Rotoiti. Jones said he and his crew had joined them at Rotorua to spend several days watching them and even working with them. “Twenty-three people had travelled from England, and we were able to get interviews with such top-line actors as Jack Hawkins and Noel Purcell, and such experienced film-makers as the producer George Brown, the director Ken Annakin, and the cameraman Peter Hennessy.” Listeners to On Location heard actors Hawkins and Purcell reading extracts from the script, and the voice of Annakin using an NZBS microphone to direct a scene between Raki and Hawkins, where she swims up to him while he is fishing. Ten years after filming The Seekers, Laya Raki said in a 1964 interview that she retained the happiest and most vivid memories of her time in New Zealand, particularly of Rotorua and Whakatane. She did not mention the stir she had caused at the hotel in Rotorua with her late-night nude swimming in the pool. Raki was born in Germany of French-Dutch-Javanese descent. Press releases said she was cast as Moana after no suitable Maori actress could be found for the role. While critics generally enjoyed her performance, many Maori did not. The gesticulating of her dancing was called “foreign” by Maori historian Guide Rangi. “No Maori girl would dance and carry on like that,” she said. Rangi had escorted Queen Elizabeth around
2017 EVERGREEN 89 Holding the baby, Inia Te Wiata. Whakarewarewa, the Maori village near Rotorua, during the royal visit. The gala world premiere of The Seekers took place in New Zealand at the Majestic Theatre, Willis Street, Wellington, on 24th June 1954 in the presence of the Governor General Sir Willoughby Norrie and his wife, Lady Jocelyn. None of the film’s overseas stars came for the premiere, although Jack Hawkins sent the management and staff of the Majestic a cablegram wishing them a successful premiere. The Evening Post thought the film “a remarkable piece of make-believe” considering the difficulties of making a picture 12,000 miles apart, and praised New Zealand-born opera basso Inia Te Wiata’s movie debut as the wise Maori chief Hongi Tepe. Te Wiata’s scenes were all shot at Pinewood Studios in London. JNO, reviewer for the NZ Listener, graded the film as “Overcast”. He said that director Annakin’s foregrounds “are always just a little too full of local colour — geysers and boiling mud pools, Maori artefacts or tattooed faces; his backgrounds range from the splendid natural panoramas to stiffly obvious studio sets”. The comments seem even more accurate when the movie is seen today. The Seekers (Land of Fury in America) was popular with New Zealanders in 1954, as Jack Hawkins had predicted, running for extended seasons in major centres. CHRISTOPHER MOOR
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