Bitter Springs


Wally King, with his family and stockmen, drive livestock over hundreds of kilometres of dry country to take up their new selection at Bitter Springs, in central Australia.

A government trooper warns them that they are moving onto a waterhole that is home to a clan of Aborigines, but King believes he has all the rights.

Trouble begins soon after they arrive, when Wally’s son John shoots a kangaroo that some Aborigines are trying to spear. Englishman Tommy and his son Charlie are abducted, and the Aborigines burn down the makeshift homestead that Scottish carpenter Mac has built.

Hot-headed John kills a young tribesman in a skirmish and is speared trying to get water. The Aborigines cut the family off from the waterhole to force them out.

As they await the final attack, the trooper arrives with reinforcements. He has orders to round up the Aborigines and move them off their traditional lands, an order with which he disagrees.

A final shot shows another possibility: blacks and whites working alongside each other in Wally King’s prosperous shearing shed in the future.



Gordon Jackson - Scottish carpenter Mac
Henry Murdoch - Blackjack
Michael Pate - government trooper
Nonnie Piper - Emma King
Chips Rafferty - Wally King
Charles Tingwell (AKA 'Bud' Tingwell) - Wally’s son John
Tommy Trinder - Englishman Tommy
Nicky Yardley - Tommy's son Charlie
Jean Blue - Ma King
Release dates
24 June 1950 - Australia
6 July 1950 - UK
1951 - USA
4 July 1951 - Japan
1952 - Austria
28 April 1952 - Sweden
25 April 1953 - Portugal
G - general
Ralph Vaughan Williams, Ernest Irving

Ralph Smart had his script for Bitter Springs rewritten by head office at Ealing Studios; he was forced to include a role for Tommy Trinder, an English comedian who was completely out of place in the story, and he was not allowed to shoot the ending he wanted. Smart would recall this later as the unhappiest experience of his working life.

Bitter Springs was shot around Quorn, South Australia.

Find a copy of "Bitter Springs"

Explore more Aboriginal movies

Aboriginal movie timeline

Explore movie history with the Aboriginal film timeline.

Take the quiz: Are you an Aboriginal movie buff?

Cite this resource

An appropriate citation for this document is:, Movies - Bitter Springs, retrieved 17 December 2018