On his wedding night, Sandy Nelson decides to abandon his young bride, Jenny and to go work in Sydney as a painter on the Harbour Bridge. He befriends a doctor, John Vaughan, who is in love with a married woman. Vaughan decides to accept a job as flying doctor in the outback.
Sandy gets in a brawl at a cricket match, serves time in prison, then heads for the outback and discovers gold. He is shot in a bar room fight and loses his eyesight. He then discovers Vaughan has fallen in love with Jenny, his former bride. When he realises Jenny loves Vaughan, Sandy decides to commit suicide, leaving his fortune to the Flying Doctors.Charles Farrell – Sandy Nelson
Mary Maguire – Jenny Rutherford
James Raglan – Doctor John Vaughan
Joe Valli – Dodger Green
Margaret Vyner – Betty Webb
Eric Colman – Geoffrey Webb
Tom Lurich – Blotch Burns
Maudie Edwards – Phyllis
Katie Towers – Mrs. O'Toole
Phillip Lytton – Doctor Gordon Rutherford
Andrew Beresford – John Rutherford
Jack Clarke – Pop Schnitzel
Phil Smith – Barman Joe
Donald Bradman – Himself
The movie was the first and only production from National Productions, a new Australian film production company which was formed in the 1930s under the management of Frederick Daniell, a promoter involved with radio and newspaper companies in Sydney. Amongst its directors were Sir Hugh Denison, Sir Samuel Walder and Sir James Murdoch.
The company was closely associated with National Studios Ltd, which built a large studio complex in Pagewood, Sydney. It was incorporated in September 1935 with capital of £50,000.
National Productions had links to the British company, Gaumont British, which had been interested in making a film in Australia for a long time, with Robert Flaherty intending to shoot one. Gaumont provided technical and financial support for the company.
Gaumont British provided several personnel for the film, including the director, writer, cinematographer, unit manager and sound recordist. National Productions also hired Englishman Errol Hinds to be head of the camera department for two years.
The British unit arrived in November 1935. In December, American star Charles Farrell was signed to play the lead. He did not arrive until late January 1936.
Cricket star Don Bradman was signed to make a cameo.
Shooting began in 1936 with bad weather helping the budget increase. The film was shot at National Studio's Pagewood facility.
Director Miles Mander left for Hollywood in March 1936, leaving J.O.C. Orton to finish the film.
Mary Maguire lived in Brisbane, so it was decided to hold the film's international premiere there. 20th Century-Fox agreed to distribute the film free of charge. Box office receipts were poor but the release of the film led to a flood of donations to the flying doctors. Reviews were patchy.
Gaumont British decided not to distribute the film in the UK and it was done by General Film Distributors. The movie was never released in the USA.
National Productions had prior to shooting announced intention to make three more movies but none of these eventuated.
This film was thought to have been lost until workmen clearing a building site in the Sydney suburb of Fig Tree uncovered a film vault. They cut through the steel door using an oxy torch – somehow avoiding igniting the highly flammable nitrate film inside – and loaded a truck with the contents to take away for disposal. An office worker saw the truck drive by, loaded with film cans, gave chase in his car, and rescued the film, which included the first eight of nine reels of The Flying Doctor. Two years later, the National Film Archive in London found a copy of the shortened, re-edited British release of the film, also eight reels long, in the possession of a large film company. Despite this print having been "totally rearranged", the last reel was found to take up exactly where the Australian one left off.