Walter Franklyn Barrett (1873-1964), film cameraman and director, was born at Loughborough, Leicestershire, England. He moved to New Zealand around 1895 working as a clerk but in his spare time started experimenting with the new technology of moving film. He filmed documentaries in Australia and New Zealand. Among his filming assignments was the visit to Australia in 1901 of the Duke and Duchess of York. In 1904, Barrett made the first complete film of the running of the Melbourne Cup and was commended by Pathe-Frere for his work in photographing racehorses in full gallop. He started his professional film career in the Melbourne offices of Pathe-Frere, in 1908, as a newsreel cameraman, and filmed The Sea Coasts of New Zealand and in 1909-10 South Sea Island Films.
Among his great successes were "The Pioneers" (1916), "The Monk and the Woman" (1918) and "Know Thy Child" (1921).
Although the plot of The Breaking of the Drought (1920) was old-fashioned, Barrett's realistic photography of the drought scenes was praised by the critics and led indirectly to the tightening of Commonwealth censorship laws. In 1920 he formed his own film company with Barry Kenwood, a solicitor, and in 1921-22 made three features, A Girl of the Bush, which 'had a distinctive spirit of "documentary realism"', Know thy Child and A Rough Passage. They all revealed 'his sensitive eye as a photographer of Australian landscapes'. (Australian Dictionary of Biography)
He married Mabel Muriel Pile in Perth on 10 December 1906.
Throughout his film career, he was ably assisted by his wife Mabel and later his daughter, Harrie "Todds" Barrett.
When the major film companies started to threaten the future of the independent film makers in the late 1920s, and with the advent of sound films, Barrett gave up his production company and turned to theatre management. He managed the Hoyts chain of theatres with cinemas across Sydney in Neutral Bay, Mosman, Arncliffe, Clovelly and Woollahra.
Apart from his movie-making, Franklyn could play every stringed instrument and spoke fluent English, French and Italian.
Franklyn Barrett died on 16 July 1964 at Randwick.
Barrett House, Randwick
Barrett House was the home of cinema pioneers Franklyn and Mabel Barrett. In this home between 1919 and 1926, 15 silent pictures were developed, printed and edited including Australian classics "The Breaking of the Drought" and " A Girl of the Bush".
When she celebrated her 92 birthday in the house in 1999, Todds Barrett was surrounded by her sepia prints depicting scenes from Australia's earliest movies. Nearby was the huge oak table her father used to cut his film.
Barrett House was bequeathed to Randwick City Council by Harrie Marett (also known by her stage name "Todds" Barrett.) The house has been developed as a Sustainable Demonstration House, incorporating display material dedicated to Franklyn Barrett and Australia's early film industry.
Barrett House is listed as a heritage item under Randwick Local Environmental Plan 1998 (Consolidation). Its heritage significance largely derives from the early Australian cinematography that was developed and edited in the building.