Saturday, February 14, 2009

Jack Ellitt bio - BFI GPO set, Vol 2

Jack Ellitt was the anglicised and vernacular name of Avrom Yitzhak Elitski, born to Lithuanian Orthodox Jews in Manchester, 1902. Moving to Australia 3 years later, Ellitt’s parents early determined on a legal career for their son. In response, he ran away at 15, supporting himself as a farm labourer and jackeroo. Upon return to Sydney, he won a scholarship place to the New South Wales State Conservatorium, studying piano and violin. Rather than compete with his peers for keyboard or string duties in the school’s new orchestra, Ellitt took up the bassoon for their first concert: the Australian premiere of Gustav Holst’s The Planets (a work Ellitt would later abbreviate for the score of Lye’s The Birth of the Robot).

Ellitt and Lye first met in the constrained bohemian circles of 1920s Sydney. Lye was stoking and shiphanding his way to the cultural epicentre of the old “Mother Country”; Ellitt, recently graduated, was gigging in orchestra pits for vaudeville. Libraries gave them a restless sense of what was happening beyond the diminished horizons of then-Australian culture. Both were avid for the cultural renovations of European modernism, and the provocative theories of Marx and Freud. Both were keen amateur anthropologists, stalking the tribal artefacts of the Australian Museum. The pair tested their roughhouse cerebrations at pubs in The Rocks, and between swims at Bondi.

Lye made his abrupt departure for the UK, and at his correspondence-urging Ellitt shortly followed; by 1928 the pair were domiciled in a wharf-bound barge loaned by the writer, A. P. Herbert. Lye and Ellitt maintained a regime of physical fitness by regular swimming in the Thames (suggesting they might previously have been members of Sydney’s “polar bear” club, of perennial all-weather surfers). Herbert also found them work as stagehands at the Lyric Theatre, with Ellitt performing in pubs and teahouses on the side. When Lye began work at animating Tusalava, he entrusted Ellitt with the composition of a live soundtrack...


available February 2009 from the British Film Institute

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jim,
Jack Ellitt was the youngest son of my Great Aunt, Bessie Ellitt and her husband, Abraham Isaac Ellitt. I am keen to establish contact with you as I am currently researching our family history and am very curious about Jack and his family. You have quoted some interesting facts about him.
Please let me know how I can get in touch with you.
Jean Clark of Illawong, NSW

5:47 pm  
Blogger jim knox said...

Thanks for your post, Jean... I'm afraid the extent of my knowledge isn't huge, but I did begin to compile a list of films that Jack Ellitt had worked on (in many different capacities, from sound recordist to director) & perhaps I can locate it. If you don't have the BFI DVD box, I'm also happy to send you the full text of the bio that I wrote for them. There are at least 1 or 2 people who know more about your great uncle than I do; I can certainly refer you to them. If you send a note to idiophonics [at] gmail [dot] com then I'll be happy to give you my number & talk to you some more about all this.

9:54 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jim,
Thank you so much for your prompt response; I really appreciate your efforts to help me out.
Until I read your article I had no knowledge of him at all. I was particularly curious after I read that at the time of his mother's death, the family indicated they didn't know whether he was alive or dead! Your insights into his earlier life helped to explain why.
I'll look forward to getting in touch via the suggested email address.
Jean Clark

10:06 am  

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