This city is going through an existential crisis at the moment, but my last post was so heavy with angst I don’t feel like taking it on. The gist of it is, like all attractive, thriving destinations, Melbourne is being loved to death. It is growing at a rate of 1200 new people a week. It now has a population of 3.5 million. By 2030, it will approach 6 million, probably surpassing Sydney.

And this is a very, very, very spread out city, with a population density of just 1500 people per square km., compared to Paris at 3400 or London at 5100. It is rapidly eating up the surrounding countryside, generating new suburbs without the transportation infrastructure to support them. The Economist just named it as the 2nd most livable city in the world (right behind Vancouver), but it carbon footprint is that of Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The expansion on the outer edges is turning the metropolis into a bifurcated city of haves in the inner city (with access to the transport that is already in place), and have nots in the outer suburbs, reliant on increasingly expensive petrol to get to work. And so on.

But I was not going to write about that. I was going to write about Australians you have heard of, but probably don’t know are Australian. Errol Flynn, for example, born in Hobart, Tasmania in 1909. His early career as a gold prospector, plantation owner, slave recruiter and womanizer was nothing to brag about, but probably enhanced his stature when he hit Hollywood.

A photograph in a newspaper caught the eye of an Australian movie maker, who cast Flynn as Fletcher Christian in the 1933 epic, “In the Wake of the Bounty.” The success of that role led the Tasmanian to London and a role as Captain Blood, then his triumph, “The Adventures of Robin Hood.”

He had the looks, the cocky attitude and a stunt man’s fearlessness to make his mark as a matinée idol. Onscreen, it was period pictures and a pairing with the lovely Olivia de Havilland. Offscreen, it was Don Juan in the flesh. Parties, orgies, drugs and alcohol. He set the lowest possible standard for all young hunks in Hollywood to follow. “In like Flynn” was coined to describe his innumerable erotic conquests.

His last great role was no stretch for him as an actor– he portrayed an alcoholic in Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises.” He died of a heart attack at the age of fifty.

Counterpoint– another very physical matinée idol, Jackie Chan. I’ll bet you thought he was from Hong Kong. He is, actually, but the Australians don’t mind claiming him as a native son. He was born in 1954 in Hong Kong, where his father worked as a chef at the French embassy. In 1962, both parents were offered employment at the American Embassy in Canberra.

The son remained behind for a few years, studying martial arts at the Peking Opera School. In the mid 70’s he came to Australia to live with his parents. He attended school, then worked on building sites, where he picked up the nickname that stuck with him for life, Jackie.

He had already caught the eye of film makers back in Hong Kong, however, He returned to the colony and made his breakout film, “Drunken Master.” In 1994, he made “Rumble in the Bronx,” and the rest is kung fu cinematic history.

Jackie made two films in Australia in the late nineties, “First Strike” and “Mr. Nice Guy,” and has often used post production facilities here to finish pictures. His mother died recently, but his father remains a resident.

Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger, Toni Collette, Nick Cave, Bryce Courtenay, Peter Finch, Colin Friels, Rachel Giffiiths, George Miller, Morris West, Naomi Watts, Dame Joan Sutherland, Percy Grainger, Dame Melba, Helmut Newton, Guy Pearce, Havelock Ellis.

Just a sampling of Australians who found their way into the global awareness, at least in the West.  More power to them. It is time for bone dry antipodes to bloom.

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