The Magic Garden

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Feature film by Donald Swanson Released (1951) (62:41)(aka: The Pennywhistle Blues)

Filmed in 1950, when Alexandra had approximately 65,000 inhabitants, this fable was made by Donald Swanson following the success of Jim comes to Jo’burg the previous year. It starts with a general introduction to Johannesburg and its mixed “native” population before focusing on life in Alexandra township, where an elderly man who feels that he is nearing the end of his life, donates a sum of 40 pounds to his church. While he and the priest pray for guidance on how to spend this then sizeable amount, a thief who has been hanging around makes off with it. While being chased by an angry crowd, he hurriedly buries his loot in the garden of a needy widow and this random act sets of a series of events during which the money changes hands a number of times, coming to the rescue of various individuals who have a need for it. The thief makes two more successful attempts to retrieve his ill-gotten gains (always from less deserving individuals), but eventually he is caught and, miraculously, the money finds its way back to the priest.

The screenplay is based on a story by James Ambrose Brown and amongst those involved in the film’s production were British cinematographer C.M. Pennington Richards, with John Coquillon as his camera operator. (Coquillon later shot such anti-apartheid films as Ralph Nelson’s “The Wilby Conspiracy” (1975) and Philip Saville’s made-for-television “Mandela” (1987)). Springbok Radio announcer-to-be Eric Cordell acted as assistant director. The storyline is embellished by a number of few musical interludes, some of them contributed by composer Ralph Trewhela and performed by singer Dolly Rathebe. The cast is said to consist entirely of non-professionals and the film features noted pennywhistle player Willard Cele in a non-acting role.

Swan Film Productions Ltd present Based on an original screen story by James Brown Screenplay: Ferdinand Webb, Donald Swanson & C. Pennington-Richards Scenario: Donald Swanson Lighting Cameraman: Cyril Pennington-Richards Production Manager: Harry N. Ebedes Camera Operator: Johnny Coquillon Continuity: Gene Swanson Wardrobe: Bessie McAuliffe Assistant Director: Eric Cordell Sound Recordist: Ken Taylor Editor: Gerald Ehrlich Music: Ralph Trewhela & Matome “Tommy” Ramokgopa Producer & Director: Donald Swanson

Cast: Tommy Machaka – The Thief Harriet Qubeka – Mrs. Sakabona David Mukwanazi – Lucas Ranku Dolly Rathebe – Lily Victor Cwayi – John Grinsell Nongauza – Mr. Shabalala Lucas Khosa – Isaac Wela Linda Madikisa – Mrs. Wela Jonathan Mzamo – The Priest George Mabuza – Mr. Letuli Joseph Motuba – Nicolas Cornelius Moghare – Policeman Samuel Alcock – Policeman Stanley Khali – Neighbour Willard Cele – The Whistler


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