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Lottie Lyell

In 1911, Lottie Lyell was Australia's first movie star and producer.

Honour Roll

Lottie Lyell was born in Balmain on 23 February 1890. Around 1906, she was taught elocution by the Shakespearian actor, Harry Leston. Her parents placed her in the care of Raymond Longford, an actor with Edwin Geach's Popular Dramatic Organisation, which she joined. For several years she toured Australia and New Zealand performing in romantic melodramas.

In 1911, Lottie Lyell joined Spencer's Pictures when Longford was appointed to direct its films. She played in his first film, The Fatal Wedding (1911), which achieved great commercial success and followed this up with leading roles in The Romantic Story of Margaret Catchpole (1911), The Midnight Wedding (1912) and Australia Calls (1913). Lottie could also swim and ride horses, skills that were captured on screen.

When Spencer's Pictures became Australasian Films Ltd, Lottie continued to act only in films directed by Longford, who was her partner although they never married. The films included Neath Austral Skies (1913), The Mutiny of the Bounty (1916) and The Woman Suffers (1918). Her reputation as a screen actress reached a highpoint with her sensitive portrayal of Doreen in Longford's masterpiece The Sentimental Bloke (1919).

As she became more involved in production and her health deteriorated Lottie made fewer on screen appearances. She scripted and co-directed The Blue Mountains Mystery (1921) with Longford. They formed the Longford-Lyell Australian Productions which produced the successful film The Dinkum Bloke (1923), Lottie Lyell's last screen performance. Lack of financial backing caused the company to fail. They formed a new company and produced two more films in 1924 and 1925.

Lottie succumbed to tuberculosis and died on 21 December 1925. Her contribution to early Australian cinema was not just as an actress but also as a writer, editor, producer and director.