Letters to the editor: believers
I have only seen the last three NZ dramas in Montana Sunday Theatre and found them excellent. Forgotten Silver moved me deeply as the shots from the Spanish Civil War struck a personal chord. My mother was born in Malaga and, being very anti-fascist, was deeply involved with the Spanish government-in-exile in Amsterdam and Paris; she also worked closely with the poet Garcia Lorca. This work made her persona non grata in the country of her birth and she could not return until after the death of Franco. Will there ever be a chance Salome will be shown to the public?
(TV Guide, 10 November 1995)
I am astounded and amazed. Never before have I seen such a documentary, or in fact, any programme as prolific as Forgotten Silver. The life and films of Colin McKenzie are truly magic! They say fact is stranger than fiction, and never could this be more true than in the case of Colin McKenzie. Congratulations Peter Jackson and Costa Botes. You have risen to the occasion with this truly extraordinary account of a great man's life. If a documentary ever deserved an academy award, this is it.
(TV Guide, 10 November 1995)
Peter Jackson and all those associated with the programme on the newly discovered pioneer New Zealand filmmaker Colin McKenzie (Forgotten Silver, TV1. October 29) deserve to be congratulated. What an incredible story!
I add a footnote, which I hope will contribute to the "explosion of interest in the man from Geraldine" that Jackson hopes for. I wondered why the programme did not give more information about Maybelle, the star of Salome. The unusual name sent me back to my own research notes, and I discovered something that may account for this odd silence.
In researching the history of adoption in New Zealand, I examined records going back to before World War I. In Dunedin, I came across a record of a child born to a young woman with the unusual first name of Mabelle or Maybelle (there were two spellings). Significantly, the child was named Salome (there is a disapproving comment about the mother's outlandish choice, by a person in charge of the Otago Benevolent Institution, where poor Maybelle, as a single woman, had had to give birth).
Salome was boarded out with a church orphanage, but her exceptional, dark beauty (which I now realise came from the mother) apparently caught the eve of the childless wife of a prominent Dunedin businessman who was visiting the orphanage as part of her charity work (she had just lost her brother at Gallipoli).
The child was apparently never formally adopted. but seems to have been brought up as a member of this family (whose name, of course, I am not at liberty to reveal). Understandably, her own first name was changed to something more suitable. Although she is probably no longer alive, she may well have descendants whose excitement at discovering their connection with such a distinguished New Zealander as Colin McKenzie would greatly outweigh the old stigma of illegitimacy which forced poor Maybelle to give up her child. Although that child was almost certainly the daughter of Brooke McKenzie, conceived and born before the couple married, it is possible that further research may establish that her father was, in fact, film-maker Colin McKenzie.
(New Zealand Listener 18 November 1995)