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The Getting of Wisdom is a 1977[2] Australian film directed by Bruce Beresford and based on the 1910 novel of the same name by Henry Handel Richardson.

The Getting of Wisdom
The Getting of Wisdom FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed byBruce Beresford
Produced byPhillip Adams
Written byEleanor Witcombe
Based onnovel by Henry Handel Richardson
StarringSusannah Fowle
Hilary Ryan
Barry Humphries
CinematographyDonald McAlpine
Edited byWilliam M. Anderson
Southern Cross Films
Distributed byRoadshow
Release date
15 June 1977
Running time
101 minutes
Box officeA$982,000

The film is set in 1890s Victoria, when Laura (Susannah Fowle) enters an exclusive Melbourne ladies' college based on Presbyterian Ladies' College. The film follows her struggle for acceptance, conformity, romance, friendship and achievement over the next four years. Lesbian overtones between two schoolgirls are made explicit in the film, more so than in Richardson’s novel.

It also starred Barry Humphries, John Waters and Terence Donovan, and featured early career appearances by Kerry Armstrong, Sigrid Thornton, Noni Hazlehurst, Maggie Kirkpatrick and Julia Blake.

A musical theme runs through the story, with piano works by Beethoven, Schubert and Thalberg played by Sarah Grunstein.



Laura Rambotham is sent to attend boarding school in Melbourne at the turn of the century. During her second year she tells everyone about a made-up romance between herself and the school's minister, Reverend Shepherd. She forms an attachment with an older girl, Evelyn. When Evelyn leaves, Laura throws herself into her studies and wins the school literary and music prizes.



Bruce Beresford wanted to make the film after The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (1972) and tried to get finance from Reg Grundy. Grundy said he would think about it if Beresford made a McKenzie sequel. Beresford made Barry McKenzie Holds His Own (1974) but Grundy declined to make Wisdom.[3]

The film was the first production from the newly formed Victorian Film Corporation, who provided $100,000 with additional funding from the Australian Film Commission and the Nine Network. Six thousand girls were interviewed for the school pupil roles. It was shot at the Methodist Ladies' College and in the town of Eddington in January and February 1977.[1]

Box officeEdit

The Getting of Wisdom grossed $982,000 at the box office in Australia,[4] which is equivalent to $4,517,200 in 2009 dollars.


The Getting of Wisdom was nominated for five AFI Awards in 1978 and won in the Best Adapted Screenplay (Eleanor Witcombe) category.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper, Australian Film 1900–1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998 p316-317
  2. ^ Hal Erickson The Getting of Wisdom (1977) Review summary in The New York Times,
  3. ^ David Stratton, The Last New Wave: The Australian Film Revival, Angus & Robertson, 1980 p46
  4. ^ Film Victoria - Australian Films at the Australian Box Office

Further readingEdit

  • Murray and Scott (ed.) (1994). Australian Cinema. St.Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin/AFC. p. 255. ISBN 1-86373-311-6.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)

External linksEdit