Chips Rafferty

Chips Rafferty
Chips Rafferty

Tall, laconic Chips Rafferty was the first male Australian actor to break through on an international level.   He was born in Broken Hill, New South Wales in 1909.   He made his film debut in 1938 in “Ants in his Pants”.   He is particularly associated with the movies “The Overlanders” and “Eureka Stockade”.   He died suddenly in 1971 at the age of 62.

IMDB entry:

Years before Jack Thompson arrived on the scene, Chips Rafferty was regarded by many as the personification of the stereotypically rugged, straightforward and laconic Aussie male. Tall and thin, though not particularly striking in appearance, Rafferty was a tailor-made star for the austere, modestly-budgeted dramas made ‘down under’ in the 1940’s and 50’s. His most individual aspect was in not being remotely reminiscent of any other leading contemporary British or American actor. In his youth, Chips had learned boxing and the art of horsemanship. He also displayed an affinity for painting watercolours. By the time, he entered the film industry as an extra with Cinesound Studios in 1939, John William Pilbean Goffage (nicknamed ‘Chips’ since schooldays) had already seen a great deal of life as a sheep-shearer, drover, roo hunter, gold prospector and cellarman in a wine bar. One of his more exotic activities also included that of a ‘false teeth packer’. On the side, he wrote poems and short stories, which he sold to several Sydney publications. His first stint on the stage was as assistant and comic foil to a magician.

After his inauspicious screen debut in 1939, Chips came to the attention of film makerCharles Chauvel, who assigned him a rather more roguish-sounding surname, and proceeded to cast him as a heroic ‘digger’ in his patriotic wartime drama 40,000 Horsemen (1941). The resulting box-office success, both at home and abroad, led Chauvel to repeat the exercise with The Fighting Rats of Tobruk (1944). After wartime duties with the RAAF, Chips managed to persuade British director Harry Watt to star him in the pivotal role of tough cattle drover Dan McAlpine in The Overlanders (1946). This defined the Rafferty screen personae to such an extent, that he continued to play variations on the theme pretty much throughout the remainder of his career.

Under contract to Ealing, Chips had a brief sojourn in England opposite Googie Withers inThe Loves of Joanna Godden (1947), followed by an integral part in Massacre Hill (1949) . In the early 50’s, he co-founded – and invested much of his own money in – a short-lived production company, Southern International (in conjunction with the director Lee Robinson). They turned out a few unambitious adventure films, like Return of the Plainsman (1953) and King of the Coral Sea (1953), with Chips as the nominal star. For the most part, lucrative film work was to be found only in Hollywood: in feature films, like Kangaroo (1952), Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) and The Sundowners (1960); or as guest star in television episodes, ranging from Gunsmoke (1955) to Tarzan (1966). He remained for many years, Australia’s most popular actor, an archetypal anti-establishmentarian, irreverent in humour, honest and uncomplicated. His penultimate performance as an outback cop in Wake in Fright (1971) is often cited as one of his best.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: I.S.Mowis

The above IMDB entry can also be accessed online here.

Great article on Chips Rafferty in the Australian Screen website, can be accessed here.

New york times obituary in 1971

SYDNEY, Australia, May 28 —Chips Rafferty, Australia’s best‐known film actor, died in a street here of a heart attack last night. He was 62 years old. 

Mr. Rafferty, whose real name was John Goff age, took his screen name when his first film role in 1938 called for an Irishman. It was his improve ment on the producer’s sugges tion of Slabs O’Flaherty.

His height of 6 feet 6 inches earned him slapstick comedy roles in Australia’s fledgling film industry. It was not until he was given leave from war service in the Royal Australian Air Force to play in Australian wartime morale boosters such as “Forty Thousand Horsemen” (about the Australian cavalry in the Middle East in World War I) and “Rats of Tobruk” (about the siege of Australian troops in World War II) that he created his most durable role — the lanky, drawling “Dinkum.”

Mr. Rafferty played varia tions on this theme in most of his succeeding roles. He was an Australian coastwatcher in the American film, “The Wack iest Ship in the Army,” and a British sailor in Marlon Bran do’s “Mutiny on the Bounty.”

An actor also on Australian and American television series, Mr. Rafferty had his own film company in Australia, Southern International, Ltd. He became a Member of the Order of the British Empire in Queen Eliza beth’s New Year’s honors list.


Mr. Rafferty starred in “The Overlenders,” a British‐Austra lian film seen here in 1946 that was based on the experience of Australian cattlemen who drove their herds across that contin ent in 1942 to keep them from the Japanese invaders.

Bosley Crowther, in a review in The New York Times, wrote: “In the role of the rugged boss drover, Chips Rafferty, an ex perienced Australian star (he was seen in “40,000 Horsemen”) does a cool and masterful job. His face is lean, his voice is gravelly, he sits a horse with magnificent know‐how and he can crack a bull‐whip at a herd of cattle with the lash of a palm tree in a gale.”

Mr. Rafferty also starred in “Massacre Hill,” an Australian made outdoor drama, seen here in 1950. He later appeared in “Kangaroo” and “The Desert Rats

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