For the Term of His Natural Life (1927) - posters and ephemera

| Strike 1912 | For the Term of His Natural Life 1927 | Metropolis 1927 | Captain Thunderbolt 1951 |

Australian 1-sheet poster, linocut plus letterpress on paper, 1927, 30 x 40 inches, The Swift Printing Co. Ltd, Sussex St, Sydney.


  1. Abstract
  2. Precursors
  3. The 1981 reconstruction
  4. Chronology of production and release
  5. Music
  6. References
  7. Publication history to 1930
  8. Acknowledgements


1. Abstract: The greatest of all Australian silent films, with a final reported budget of £70,000, is Norman Dawn's For the Term of His Natural Life (1927) which premiered at the Newcastle Theatre Royal on 20 June 1927. The movie was a success in its home country, despite being considered a scandalous subject, being the portrayal of the mistreatment of convicts during the early colonial period of British settlement, and aspects of the corruption inherent in that system. This was at a time when the 'convict stain' was something many Australians sought to deny any association with. The film saw limited release overseas, in New Zealand, the United States and Great Britain, despite efforts by locals to censor its presentation outside of Australia. It was always envisage that it would be exported, and such attempts at local censorship came to naught. The ultimate lack of success of the film in returning the production cost and generating a profit was, in part, due to the onset of sound in film towards the end of 1927. This lack of soundtrack or spoken word elements limited the film's run in the immediate years following its Australian premiere and resulted in a less than expected financial return from the US and UK markets. Getting an Australian film into those markets was difficult in any case.

2. Precursors

Dawn's film was the third cinematic adaptation of Marcus Clarke's original 1874 novel. It was preceded in 1908 by a 4,000 ft, 35mm film version costing £2,000. Produced by MacMahon & Carroll, it presented at the time as a Picture Drama ("a triumph of realism"), with in-theatre narration reflecting its playhouse origins. Another was released in 1911 and therein titled The Life of Rufus Dawes., perhaps to get around the fact that no permission had been sought from the Marcus Clarke estate. The first was a similar landmark in Australian film production, with a budget of £7,000. The 3,000 ft long 1911 Australian version was expanded to 4,000 feet and re-titled The Convict Hero for the United States market. It was distributed there as a three part serial by Sawyer's Inc., from 1914 through to 1917. Marion Marcus Clarke, an actress and the daughter the author eventually obtained an injunction in that country to have it withdrawn. Two Australian posters for the 1908 'cinematograph' are illustrated below. Both films were released in New Zealand. They are now considered lost.

For the Term of His Natural Life (1908), long daybill and 3-sheet poster.

The Life of Rufus Dawes / The Convict Hero (1911), photographic still. Source: IMDb.

3. The 1981 Reconstruction

A reconstruction of For the Term of His Natural Life (1927) was undertaken by Graham Shirley from March until June 1981, when it premiered at the Sydney Film Festival. Graham had been approached to work on the reconstruction by Ray Edmondson, at that time head of the National Film Archive of the National Library of Australia, later the independent National Film and Sound Archive. As Shirley notes in his Restoring the 1927 Australian Classic article:

An incomplete nitrate print of Term had been sent to the NFA in the 1960s, with the missing sections having fallen prey to vault flooding and nitrate stock decomposition. But in the late 1970s, the American Film Institute had responded to the NFA’s efforts to track down missing Australian features overseas by sending the NFA a momentous rediscovery – the US release version of a longer, although still incomplete, nitrate print of Term. News of this rediscovery became public in [May] 1980.

The Age, Melbourne, 2 May 1980.

A documentary on the 1981 reconstruction work was made by Film Australian and can be seen below. A reprint of one of the original 1927 daybill posters was also issued around this time, and is illustrated at the end of this article.

Epic - The reconstruction of For the Term of His Natural Life (1927), Film Australia, 1981, duration: 35.36 minutes.

Unfortunately, an original, complete copy of the 10,000 ft long Australian release version of the film, or the 11,000 ft long US cut, did not survive the years. As a result, Shirley's reconstruction (not a restoration as such, but it did include restoration of selected elements) was based largely on film elements located in Australia and the United States. The original camera negative nitrate film elements were never located, and a number of reels of the screened versions were missing. It is always hoped that a more complete copy survives in a private collection. However, as the film approaches its centenary in 2027, this becomes more unlikely. A 2023 webinar to the Friends of the National Film and Sound Archive by Shirley which reflects upon the reconstruction and updates the fate of the film is also linked at the end of this article.

Title lobby card, 1927. Inscribed 'Term 94.'

The chronological listing below features selected reviews and news items relating to the production and distribution of the initial release of For the Term of His Natural Life, along with associated posters and ephemera.

The listing provides a mere introductory resource for the film, with links to a variety of reference material. It is hoped that in the future a more fulsome digital resource will be available, online or in disc form, featuring the reconstructed film plus additional audio visual material such as interviews with those involved in the original production, commentaries, and digitised archival resources and film elements. Most published histories of the Australian film industry contain sections on For the Term of His Natural Life (1927) and reference should be made to those. Some are listed in the Reference section below. The National Film and Sound Archives webpage on the film is a good starting point. Though issued on VHS video by the NFSA in 1988, the film is not currently available to the public, apart from low-quality copies on YouTube which were available prior to the reconstruction. A separate section below, after the chronology, is headed Music and deals with the various aspects of the score and song composed for the film by Henry Hayes.

A link to the 1981 trailer of the reconstruction is included below. This was directed by Graham Shirley and featured narration by well-known Australian radio personality John Laws.

For the Term of His Natural Life (1927), trailer, National Film Archive, 1981, duration: 3.13 minutes. Dir: Graham Shirley.


4. Chronology of production and release


- The first Australian filmed version of For the Term of His Natural Life is produced by Charles MacMahon & Edmund Carrol over a four month period, with initial screenings in June. It is based on a long running play. The 4,000 feet long / 1 hour feature presentation was accompanied in theatres by a narrator. It ran in Australia through to at least 1911, distributed at one stage therein by Guest Pictures.


- 23 January, Hamilton Spectator - Review of the film:

"For the Term of His Natural Life." Messrs. J. and n. Tait have arranged with Messrs. Charles MacMahon and Edward Carroll for the presentation of the very comprehensive cinematograph film illustrating every chapter of the late Marcus Clarke's sensational story of early Australian days, entitled "For the Term of His Natural Life," for two nights only, in Hamilton, namely, next Friday and Saturday evenings, at the town hall. The subject is one of intense interest, and of a highly dramatic and much historic nature. The story of "For the Term of His Natural Life" embraces wide geographical location in its telling, and all these places, many of marvellous scenic beauty and others of historic fame, had to be visited by the characters, and the stirring episodes of Australia's days under British Government, as told by Clarke, re-enacted. In Sydney these pictures ran for 100 nights. To add to the realism a lecturer of high repute is engaged to describe the various events as they are projected on the screen. Besides the series referred to a number of other animated pictures quite new to Australia will he shown. The prices of admission, considering the excellence of the production of this historic subject, have been fixed at a very moderate tariff, namely, 2/ and 1/.

- 1 April, The Dominion, Wellington, New Zealand: Notice of the presentation of the Carroll and MacMahon production at the Opera House, Wellington, from 11 April, following a provincial tour. Notes that it has been seen by upwards of 300,000 people in Australia to date.


- 19 June, Sydney Morning Herald: Production of the second filmed version of For the Term of His Natural Life by C. Spencer's Theatrescope Co. In some Australian and New Zealand theatres it was released as The Life of Rufus Dawes. The 3,000 or 4,000 ft long feature was made without permission from the Marcus Clarke Estate. Following the imposition of an injunction in the US, it was eventually withdrawn, following its release there during 1914 as The Hero Convict and run there through to 1917.

Barrier Miner, Broken Hill, 31 December 1911.


- 28 October, Thames Star, New Zealand: Roberts' Pictures tonight. Presentation of The Life of Rufus Dawes. An adaptation from the well known novel by Marcus Clarke. For the Term of His Natural Life. Tonight and two following nights. The picture's run in New Zealand is known to have extended through to the end of the year.


- August, The Movie Pictorial, Chicago: Censorship problems for The Convict Hero.

What are the censors doing? .... Rejections. The Convict Hero (Sawyer). Permit refused because picture portrays several murders, an attack on prison guards by convicts, an escape from prison, and mistreatment of prisoners.


- November, Moving Picture News, New York: Report on efforts by Marion Marcus Clarke to produce a new version of the film.

Sydney, Sept. 1. Marion Marcus Clarke, character actress for the J.C. Williamson Company, is negotiating with a local firm to produce a feature picture founded on the widely read novel "For the Term of His Natural Life," written by her father. It is a fine story of an innocent man being convicted for another's crime.... A motion picture was made of this story about five years ago, but as the film was not up to the standard, Miss Clarke was able to secure an order restraining the producers from continuing to screen the picture. If a satisfactory arrangement cannot be arrived at here, Miss Clarke intends to endeavour to dispose of the rights to all of her father's works to an American company.


- 19 October: Ethel Marion Clarke obtains film copyright in the US to For the Term of His Natural Life.


- Whilst working in the United States during 1922, Marion Marcus Clarke (1876-1958), actress and daughter of Marcus Clarke, attempts to obtain support from a studio for production of a film version of For the Term of His Natural Life. She was not successful. However, following her return to Australia around 1924, a local company - Australasian Films - subsequently took on the project, utilising an American director (Norman Dawn) and actors, with the hope of a later successful run in that country.


- 23 July: The Advertiser, Adelaide: A £40,000 Film. Picture Scheme for Australia. A New Industry. Report on the production of a new film.

The picture version of Marcus Clarke's "For the Term of His Natural Life" is to be produced in Australia, and will cost £40,000. This, it is hoped, will place Australia on the map as a film production country. Filming will commence on August 10, with Miss Eva Novak in the leading feminine role. Mr. Norman Dawn, the well-known American producer, has been engaged by Union Master Pictures, and arrived in Melbourne last week. He said Australian conditions were like those of Southern California, and he was confident the picture would compare favorably with American films. Mr. W.A. Gibson, a director of Union Master Pictures, said his firm realised that in making a bid for the world's market, it was necessary to spend a very large sum of money. Without a foreign market it would be impossible to get back even a fair fraction of the cost of production. He had every confidence that this would be the first of many Australian pictures which would be put on the world's market. The directors had made arrangements with the trustees of the Marcus Clarke estate for the world rights of "For the Term of His Natural Life," and the scenario writer would alter the story in a manner that would make it acceptable to audiences without its too gruesome effects being made a feature. Mr. Dawn produced the famous picture "Cabiria" about 12 years ago. He has been about 25 years in motion pictures, as a camera man, director, and producer. "Justice of tie North," "Lure of the Yukon," "Thunder Island," "The Evil Half," and "The Eternal Triangle" are among 40 pictures he has made. Some time ago Mr. Dawn read "For the Term of His Natural Life" in America, and was struck with its possibilities for the screen. He considers this is one of the best opportunities to make a picture that will attract general attention. With Miss Eva Novak, now on her way from America, are Miss Katherine Dawn, wife of the producer, Mr. George Fisher, and Mr. Steve Murphy. Mr. Fisher will have the role of Rufus Dawes. Mr. Fisher is an Englishman who has spent most of his time in the theatrical and moving picture business in America. He began his film career with Thomas Ince in Triangle features. He has appeared with Mr. William S. Hart, Mr. Charles Ray, Miss Clare Williams, Miss Mary Miles Minter, and other well-known artists. Australian members of the cast will include Miss Marion Clarke, Mr. Dunstan Webb, Mr. Mayne Lynton, Mr. Arthur Touchert, and Miss Jessica Harcourt.

- August: Eva Novak arrives in Australia to begin filming For the Term of His Natural Life, newsreel footage, duration: 0.30 minutes. Source: NFSA Collection.

- 10 August: Shooting begins on For the Term of His Natural Life, produced by Australasian Films. Director: Norman Dawn. Script: Norman Dawn from the novel by Marcus Clarke, with subtitles by Gayne Dexter.

- 2 September, The Mercury, Hobart:  Port Arthur Picture. The Work of Filming. Heavy undertaking. Article.

- 16 September, The Mercury, Hobart:  For the Term of His Natural Life - Australian film company at work. The old days at Port Arthur. How Pictures are made. Article 1. Report on production plus illustration of a convict.

- 27 September, The Mercury, Hobart: Cinematograph Party. Visit to the West Coast. The Programme Changed. Article.

- Photographs of filming For the Term of His Natural Life (1927), Archives of Tasmania, Hobart. See also here for a listing of the collection.

For the Term of His Natural Life, coloured glass slide, 1927.

- October: Australian Gazette - newsreel footage: £70,000 Production Nears Completion. Duration: 3 minutes. Footage of filming in the Bondi Junction studio. Source: NFSA Collection.

- October: Shooting completes in Sydney, after filming had taken place at various sites in New South Wales and at the old convict prison of Port Arthur in Tasmania.

- Throughout his film making career, director Norman Dawn developed numerous special effects shots, which he implemented and developed whilst in Australia. He later prepared presentation boards describing this work, including a number relating to For the Term of His Natural Life. These are illustrated below, comprising descriptive text, art work by Dawn, and original photographs. Source: Norman O. Dawn Collection, Harry Ransom Centre, University of Texas at Austin.

- 25 November, Motion Picture News, New York: Australasian Enterprise. Story on the local production.

Editing and printing of the film takes place in Sydney between November 1926 and June 1927, in preparation for its Australian premiere and later release overseas.


Australian lobby cards (2), 1927.


- June: The release of For the Term of His Natural Life in Australia.

For the Term of His Natural Life (1927), b/w, duration: 94.41 minutes. Source: Silent Cinema.

- June: Press Sheet released for distribution to media outlets i.e., newspapers and magazine. Includes text for use in reviews, plus black and white illustrations of print blocks available for purchase for advertising by theatre owners. The following is a single page from the press sheet. The original press sheet most likely included extra pages which illustrated available posters and other advertising material. Note that the illustrated advertisements were additional to those illustrated in the section below. Source: National Film and Sound Archive, Canberra.

Australian Press Sheet, 1927 [extract]. Musical synopsis reproduced below in Music section.

- 13 June, Newcastle Sun: Australian premiere of the film takes place at 11 a.m., Monday, 20 June, at the art deco Theatre Royal, Hunter Street, Newcastle, followed by a gala performance at 7.55 p.m. The score composed for the film by Henry Hayes indicated a run time of 111 1/2 minutes.

- 21 June, The Sun, Sydney. Quarter page advertisement for the presentation at the Crystal Palace, Sydney.

- 24 June, The Daily News, Perth: "The Term" at Last. First screening tomorrow.

Australian long daybill, 1927, 21 x 44 inches.

- 24 June, The Sun, Sydney: Half-page advertisement for the presentation at the Crystal Palace.

- 26 June, The Sun, Sydney: Half-page advertisement for presentation at the Crystal Palace.

- 26 June, Los Angeles Times: Grace Kingsley, Australia is Story Setting: "For the Term of His Natural Life". Article.

Australian long daybill, 1927, 21 x 44 inches.

- 9 July, Auckland Star: Printing of the film for Australian and New Zealand release.

Australasian Films Studios Laboratory staff are in the last stages of printing "For the Term of His Natural Life," Norman Dawn's production. In order to have sufficient copies of the 10,000 ft masterpiece to enable exhibitors throughout Australia and New Zealand to get an early release, nearly a quarter of a million feet of positive film will be used. Easily a record for Australia. But then so many production records and standards have gone by the board during the picturisation of Marcus Clarke's immortal story, and still many more will also "go west" when the picture is released.

- September: Release of the film in New Zealand. For details, see the Papers Past NZ database.

- 1 October: UK release of the film (Wikipedia). It is elsewhere stated that this did not occur until after the US release of 1929.

International release promotional poster (n.d.).


- Golden, American Motion Pictures Abroad, Transactions of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, 1928, 53:

Australia is finally seeking hard to create a native film industry. There are now several motion picture concerns organized in that country and three or four features were put out last year. One of these, For the Term of His Natural Life, received quite extensive showings, and was recently taken to England for distribution.

- The Film Daily Yearbook, New York, 1928, 945-6:

Foreign Markets by Country - Australia - Production. Approximately 10 films have been produced in Australia. The most outstanding, being "For the Term of His Natural Life," said to have cost $250,000 and which is doing  tremendous business where ever played.

- 28 April, Star, Christchurch, New Zealand: Report that producers are worried that For the Term of His Natural Life will be classified as a "foreign" film by the British, and taxed accordingly, despite British films being exempt from duty in Australia.


- 4 June: US release of the film.

- 12 June, Variety: Review of the film:

For The Term of His Natural Life (Australian-Made) (Silent). Produced and released by Australasian Films. Direction and story adaptation credited Norman Dawn. Foreign cast, excepting Eva Novak, including Arthur McLaglen, George Fisk, Kay Souper, Marian Clark, Dunstan Webb, Susan Dennis. At Stanley, New York, one day, June 4. Running time, 94 minutes. Made in a real convict locale, this Australian subject is richer in felon colony color than, doubtless, any previous release In the same category. "For the Term of His Natural Life" meets the most morbid illusion of convict ship and settlement book readers. While it is grippingly dark-hued and old world dish from start to finish, a jumbled story along Dumas' "Monte Cristo" lines, and directorial laxity in keeping the threads of the yarn and characters apart, unfortunately cause an otherwise excellent production to fall short of the classification which it would most certainty have rated as the film epic on old penal life. The picture is a good bet as a novelty in any unwired house. Arty policies should realize their biggest pull in proper publicity. Non-theatricals will find it excellent fodder. The penal settlement on Van Dieman's Island, Australia, as it existed in 1827 before Queen Victoria decided to keep her bad boys closer at home, is the center of action. Around this is written a hoke yarn about a bastard son of a murdered lord taking the blame in order to save his mother the shame of public identity. The trip on a convict ship, similar, on a much larger scale, to the rotgut barge that occasionally takes in the public at a half buck per, is well pictured. Here the attempt to unravel the characters, including two men of like physiques, but opposite inclinations, gets beyond the direction. General conglomeration and hopeless but thrilling meshwork become a mutiny. High walls of rock, rough water far below, chain gangs at work in the field and in the shop with an occasional outbreak against tyrannous guards, command audience attention. Worked in between is the story of the commander's daughter in love with the bastard prisoner. The latter situation canters oft into a sequence where a flagship to the convict schooner is conquered by the bad man and the hero convict, a worthless captain and the girl are marooned on an island. After cared for by the prisoner, rescue comes but the girl loses her memory and the captain takes all the credit. Despite marriage, the girl eventually remembers when the prisoner, set free by a conscience stricken clergyman afraid to name the original killer, escapes with her on another boat. Here a miniature is used effectively of a storm at sea. Several gruesome but well done incidents include a gorilla-like convict who plots the gang's escape and feeds on his own companions until captured in the swamps. Two boy felons, leaping off a cliff to end their careers, furnish a suspense gem rarely caught with such sincerity by American cameras. Waly.

For the Term of His Natural Life (1929), US release, with 1970s soundtrack. Source: YouTube, uploaded 28 July 2011. Duration: 94.41 minutes.

- 16 June, Film Daily, New York: Review of the film.

"For the Term of His  Natural Life" (Silent) Australasian. Length: 11000 feet. Fair number for small houses carried novelty angle with Australian convict camp, but is unevenly directed. Melodrama of convict life in the old days in Australia. A very grim and sometimes terrifying presentation of the horrors that took place in the English convict camp at Tasmania in the old days. The picture was filmed on the actual locales, showing the old prison quarters, barracks, etc. The story traces the experiences of several people whose lives are intertwined with the events centering at the penal colony, and a pleasing love story is developed. The details of the brutalities and tortures administered to the prisoners form a grim and dramatic portrayal that carry a big punch. The convicts are seen working in chain gangs, and a big riot scene is shown graphically. Photography is scenically beautiful in many spots. But too tragic a subject for popular fare... Direction: uneven. Photography: very good.

- 18 October 1929, The Daily News, Perth: Comment on the lack of success of Australian films overseas:

Wrong Themes. Australian Films Abroad..... 'For the Term of His Natural Life,' the Australian 'Ben Hur' on which £50,000 was spent, was a flop in England and America...

- 30 November, Exhibitor's Herald World, Chicago: Notes length of film as 11.000 feet.


- 4 July, The Walsall Observer and South Staffordshire Chronicle: Advertisement for The Term of His Natural Life at the Cinema de Luxe, Walsall, with a one line review:

Eva Novak has the lead in "The Term of His Natural Life,' which is also to be shown, and which tells a powerful story with an unusual theme.


- 10 July, Variety: Australia seems slump tide turn. More native films....

Stuart F. Doyle declares Greater Union Theatre Productions Ltd. will import an American director to make a series of full length pictures. First will probably be a talker version of old silent "For the Term of His Natural Life."


- 30 March, Hollywood Reporter:  Report that a new talkie version of For the Term of His Natural Life is slated for production at the new, Bondi, Cinesound studio. It is unclear whether this would use the 1927 version footage with sound added, or an entirely new production.


1981 re-release poster, 13 x 30 inches.


5. Music

A score was composed for the film by Henry T. Hayes, along with a theme song. The latter was released as a 10 inch 78 rpm disc, a Mastertouch piano roll, and sheet music which included three additional songs. Aspects of the production and release of the music for the film are discussed in Diane Daphali's 1998 University of New South Wales PhD thesis Music and the Australian Film Industry, 1894-1969: A History. Of some significance is the musical synopsis included with the local press sheet. It comprised 85 separate pieces for a 111 1/2 minute long film presentation (i.e. 10,000 ft of film at a projected speed of 24 frames per second). Sections are reproduced below.

Musical Synopsis for "For the Term of His Natural Life"

No. Film scenes
Music themes
Length (m)
1ScreeningL'Illusion Supreme
2To-day Australia
3North end houseRustic Revels1
4Sir Richard
5I Go Now
6By the Strange
7A Silent Title
8Had Sir Richard
Passionate Episode
9Three months later
Moonlight Dreams
10Mrs. VickersChatterbox 1/2
11(D) Officer Comes
12 The Convict Prison Between Decks Notte Mysterioso  1/2
13In the Afternoon the Captain
Misterloso Furioso
14(D) Boat Returns After Ship Burning
Agitato Drammatico
1 1/2
15He Had Written
Scenes Poetiques
16 (D) Prisons Talking Burglar or Spy: Mysterioso 1
17Be Ready to Strike at Eight Bells
18(D) Richard Falls Back SickDramatic Mysterioso
19In the Cuddy.


(Dinner) (D) Miles opens Door. Girl Sees Prisoner

20The Fever is Aboard
A Scenic Impression
21To-night the Prisoners Mutiny
Weird Night
22(D) Sarah Purfoy Runs to Old Man
23A Sinister Silence
The Flight
24 (D) Prisoners Fight Mysterioso No.5 1
25 (D) Two Prisoners in Saloon Dramatic Hurry 1
26Surrender, in the Name of the King
27Dawes Must Have
Storm Strife
28(D) Ship at Sea
Allegro Mysterioso
29Six Years Later (Major Vickers)
Frozen North
30Gabbet Has Come Back
A.B.C. Gavotte
31The Night Before
Autumn Winds
32Sometime in His Solitude
The Season's Greetings
33He Would Try Again
34Major Vickers
Pangs of Love
35(D) Ship Leaves (Fight)
In Minor Mode
36 (D) Mother and Daughter Taken Ashore Hurry (1) Arncliffe 2
37 (D) Dawes on Island Poesia Pastorale 1
38 While at Port ArthurAgitated Hurry : Berge 2
39 Mrs. Vickers Illness (Dies) Rhapsody Appassionato 1
40Beating Along the Coast
41Put That Scoundrel in Chains
Andante Amoroso
42And Now, After Five Years
43Sarah Purfoy Has Made Good
Intermezzo D'Ariequine
44So You Want Another Favor
45 And So John Rex Approached Dawes in Box Treacherous Knave 2
46 Intuition of Some Great Injustice Mysterious Night 2
47Dawes Was Confined
48(D) Parson Falls in Water
Serres de Pres

49(D) Dawes Escapes
Defence of Honor


50 Dawes' Sensational Escape Was Forgotten Dance (Alberts) 3
51 (D) Sylvia Outside, Dawes Approaches A Love Scene
52 Such Monstrous Ingratitude Dramatic Adagio 1
53At the Great Penitentiary

54At the End of Weary Days

55Give Him 50 Lashes


57(D) Dawes Lashed

58One Hundred Lashes

59Dawes in Prison

60Rev. North Made a Complaint


(D) Convicts Working

61(D) Change of Scene. Two Children on Cliff

62(D) Shipbuilding Yard

63Dusk Fell Upon Glory
Eagleneck in 1838

65Gabbett's Gay Ruffians

Six Famine-stricken Wretches

66For God's Sake, Don't Kill

67At a Certain Mysterious

68The Thirtieth Morning

69Days Passed

70The Valley of the Shadow

71Four Days Gabbett Had

72While in England

73Glowing Reports

74Rev. North


Convicts Fight

75The Tour of Inspection

76Vague Rumors of Husband's Cruelty

77What Do You Mean

78For Days Dawes Was Set Grinding; Dawes in Hospital

79After Months of Scheming

80(D) Clock

81Unable to Bear Any More

82 Sylvia Goes on Board Ship (Storm) Furioso (1)
83In the Terror of the Moment
The Tempest
84Sometimes Death's Message
Storm Music
85Scene, Morning - Sylvia and Dawes on Raft


- June: Henry T. Hayes, For the Term of His Natural Life [sheet music], Allan's Music Publishers, Sydney, 1927, 8p.
For the Term of His Natural Life, sheet music, 1927. Source: National Library of Australia.

- June: For the Term of His Natural Life, Words and Music by Henry T. Hayes, Sung by Sidney Burchall, Accompanied by Instrumental Trio, Parlophone A 147-4, 80 rpm (Speed 80), 10 inch disc, A2205, 1927, duration: 2.55 minutes. B-side - Song of the Wanderer, Words and Music by Nell Moret, Sung by Sidney Burchall, Accompanied by Instrumental Trio. Another recording of the song on Columbia by tenor saxophonist and vocalist Len Maurice is also known. A piano roll version was also produced.

Sidney Burchall, For the Term of His Natural Life, June 1927, Parlophone, duration: 2.55 minutes.

Lyrics: For the Term of His Natural Life (as sung by Burchall)

[Verse 1] Gather around and a story I'll tell / Of life's cruel jest on a young man who fell / Into the clutches of fate's iron hand / Sentenced a convict to some far off land /

[Chorus] For the term of his natural life / To be an outcast for ever / Bound down with fetters of grief and shame / Innocent yet taking all the blame / And the love of an innocent maid / helped him bear all this sorrow and strife / For the sake of a mother he sheltered another / For the term of his natural life / For the term of his natural life /

[Verse 2] Oft times his burden seemed just too great to bear / The maid with her love longed his troubles to share / And always she waited just to answer his call / And she prayed and she urged him ever to smile thru it all /

[Chorus] For the term of his natural life.....

- For the Term of His Natural Life [music roll], Mastertouch Music Roll, D1737, G.H. Horton & Co. Ltd., Sydney, 1927. Annotations: Ballad, Key of E. Flat, B. Flat to F., , Tempo - 70. Henry Hayes. Played by L. Keyes and E. Murn. (C) Allan & Company Ltd. 5/9. The players were Letitia "Lettie" Mary Joseph Keyes and Edith Murn for George Horton and his Mastertouch music (piano) roll company.


6. References 

FIAF Members [webpage], International Federation of Film Archives, accessed 1 April 2023.

For the Term of His Natural Life (1927 film), Wikipedia [webpage], accessed 30 March 2023.

Lantern - Media History Digital Library [database], accessed 1 April 2023. Digital archive of American and United Kingdom film magazines and publications.

Past Papers NZ, Library of New Zealand, accessed 30 March 2023. Digital archive of New Zealand newspapers, publications and manuscripts.

Shirley, Graham, (director) For the Term of His Natural Life (1927) [reconstruction], National Film Archive of the National Library of Australia, 1981, duration: 94 minutes.

-----, (director) For the Term of His Natural Life (1927) [trailer], National Film Archive of the National Library of Australia, 1981, duration: 3.13 minutes.

----- and Brian Adams, Australian Cinema: The First Fifty Years, Angus & Robertson and Currency Press, 1983, 325p.

-----, For the Term of His Natural Life - Restoring the 1927 Classic [webpage], National Film and South Archive, Canberra, accessed 17 March 2023.

-----, For the Term of His Natural Life - An Epic Film Lost and Found [webinar / video of Zoom presentation], Friends of the National Film and Sound Archive, Canberra, 19 March 2023, duration: 95.07 minutes.

Graham Shirley, An epic film: Lost and found [webinar], 19 March 2023, duration: 95.07 minutes.

TROVE, National Library of Australia, accessed 28 February 2023. Digital archives of newspapers, publications, manuscripts, images and audiovisual material.

Tulloch, John, Legends on the Screen: The narrative film in Australia 1919-1929, Currency Press and The Australian Film Institute, 1981, 48p.

When Hollywood Came to Bondi - Sydney's Forgotten Film Studio, Brooksie at the Movies [blog], accessed 30 March 2023. Union Master Pictures Studio No.2.


7. Publication History to 1930

Between 1874 and 1929 various editions of For the Term of His Natural Life were issued. There was no special issue during 1927 to coincide with the release of the Norman Dawn film.

  • 1870, His Natural Life [serial], The Australian Journal, March 1870 - Jun 1872.
  • 1874 - First edition, Melbourne.
  • 1875 - Second edition, 3 volumes, crown 8vo, 31/6, London.
  • 1878 - Third edition, in one volume, crown 8vo, 6/-; reprinted September 1882, March 1884.
  • 1885 - In one volume, crown 8vo, 2/6, July, August and September. 
  • 1886, 1888, 1889, 1891, 1892, 1895, 1897.
  • 1898 - August, transferred to Macmillan & Co. Reprinted 1902, 1907, 1909.
  • 1908 - Sixpenny edition. Reprinted 1909, 1911.
  • 1912 - Shilling edition.
  • 1920 - Re-issue, 3/6. Reprinted 1921, 1924, 1925, 1926.
  • 1911, 1928 - Ward, Lock & Co., London and Melbourne.
  • 1929 - Unabridged edition, Angus & Robertson, Sydney. With Introduction by Hilary Lofting and 45 illustrations.


8. Acknowledgements

In the compilation of this article I would like to acknowledge the assistance and pioneering work of Graham Shirley in researching and reconstructing For the Term of His Natural Life (1927). I would also like to thank Ray Edmondson, doyen of Australian film archivists, and an ongoing inspiration for projects such as this. Despite being a professional archivist, I also see myself as very much part of Australian film fandom, on the fringe of the hard work carried out in preserving the film and sound heritage of Australia, and the rest of the world for that matter.


| Strike 1912 | For the Term of His Natural Life 1927 | Metropolis 1927 | Captain Thunderbolt 1951 |

Last updated: 14 April 2023

Michael Organ, Australia


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