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Film-maker Ted Coubray and his brother Fred are shown here atop the New Zealand Radio Films sound truck in December 1929. They were filming the funeral of Henry Cleary, Roman Catholic bishop of Auckland. The advertised ?Coubray-tone? was Ted?s invention ? when the talkies arrived, he developed his own film sound system. (C) Coubray Collection.

Our first keen individual who inspires and surprises for 2019 is Ted Coubray who, on 3 Jan 1930, screened the first New Zealand made ‘talkie’ movie at Auckland?s Plaza Theatre. Filmed on location around the city, footage included the funeral of Catholic Bishop Henry Cleary, workers on Queen St and the Auckland wharves, and scenes from ?The Romance of Maoriland?, which captured poi, haka and waiata performances.

Edwin Coubray was born at Eastern Bush, Southland, on 19 October 1900 [and]  was a six-year-old schoolboy at Orepuki, near Riverton, when he saw his first picture show; this was the beginning of a lifelong fascination with cinema.

[…] In 1914 he began working as a trainee mechanic at George Skinner?s motorcycle and bicycle shop. At the end of the First World War his older brothers, Nicholas and Arthur, bought a bakery in nearby Rongotea and Ted helped with bread deliveries. In the early 1920s he got a job at the local Kosy Picture Theatre and learnt about motion picture projection. He opened his own picture show at the Rongotea town hall and distributed ?dodgers? advertising the screenings on his bread-delivery rounds. With Arthur he operated a country circuit, travelling in a truck he had adapted to generate electricity and showing pictures in halls from Hunterville to Levin.

Coubray?s first effort at professional film-making was a 10-minute movie prologue, The motor bandits (1920), produced by a small syndicate. After a successful screening to prospective shareholders, New Zealand Cinema Enterprises was registered, ?10,000 capital was raised and a ?great and glorious story?, The birth of New Zealand , filmed. Coubray was assistant cameraman (working under Frank Stewart), occasional extra and stills photographer. Released in 1922, the movie was admired for its historical accuracy and educational value and was popular as a matin?e programme.

After filming The birth of New Zealand , Coubray returned briefly to running the family picture show circuit before leaving for Wellington to take up a position as projectionist at the Paramount Theatre. After a few years he left to work for Stewart at New Zealand Films, where he learnt his craft shooting material such as censor?s titles.

[…] In 1925 Coubray shot the British-produced Under the Southern Cross (1927), described since as ?an ode to the pastoral splendour of the New Country?. After establishing New Zealand Radio Films in 1926, Coubray made an inventive series of short, sponsored industrial documentaries and produced newsreels of local events. [Wife,] Nellie assisted by painting glass advertising slides for cinema screenings. Ted often accompanied the immigration inspector travelling by launch to meet incoming ships and was able to film famous stars such as Ignacy Paderewski and Anna Pavlova for newsreel items.

In 1927 Coubray formed Moa Films, for which he wrote, produced and directed the horse-racing feature Carbine?s heritage. Screening at three Queen Street cinemas in Auckland, the film attracted capacity audiences. The single copy was transported between the theatres and session times were staggered to meet the demand.

Coubray began developing his own sound-on-film system following the arrival of ?talkies? in New Zealand in early 1929. After six months? experimentation, and with a minimum of technical knowledge, the Coubray-tone sound system was operational. Entirely New Zealand-made, it was the first of its kind in Australasia. Experiments continued while he was working on Hei tiki (1935), but they were cut short when its unscrupulous American director, Alexander Markey, fired him and commandeered the equipment.

This incident forced New Zealand Radio Films out of existence and Coubray took up a position as a street photographer. In 1938 he briefly took up film-making again, working as associate cameraman for Rudall Hayward on Rewi?s last stand (1940). He returned to film projection during the Second World War, mostly in the Hutt Valley?s King George and De Luxe theatres.[…] [In 1960] he became manager?operator for Auckland Cinemas. When the company?s Tudor Cinema in Remuera closed in 1973, Ted […] retired to Australia.

Throughout his life Ted Coubray was always interested in mechanics and never ceased inventing. His numerous patents include an early camera-stabilising tripod, a speed-weighing machine, and various three-dimensional and colour systems. He died, aged 97, at Homebush, Sydney, on 10 December 1997. […] The following year the New Zealand Film Festival included a special programme on Coubray, screening footage of films he had worked on and Mouth wide open (1998), a documentary about his life, directed by Jonathan Dennis.