In a time where the fledgeling nation of Australia was discovering its own identity, one person helped to consolidate what a typical Australian could be.
Born John William Pilbean Goffage on 26 March, 1909 in Broken Hill, he became better known as Chips Rafferty, an actor who started his career in the late 1930s. He appeared in many major Australian films as well as British and American productions. Preceding the Paul Hogan ads encouraging Americans to 'throw a shrimp on the barbie', Rafferty regularly appeared in commercials in Britain during the 1950s to encourage British emigration to Australia.
Chips Rafferty on the set of Forty Thousand Horsemen. Courtesy Wikipedia
His parents were John Goffage, an English stock agent and Violet Maude Joyce. He received his nickname at school and studied at the Parramatta Commercial School before taking on a range of job including opal miner, sheep shearer, drover, RAAF Officer and even a pearl diver.
He caught the acting bug when he appeared in a couple of films as an extra. In 1940 he was cast as a lead in the movie Forty Thousand Horsemen, a story about the Battle of Beersheba during the Great War in 1917. The film went international and Rafferty became enormously popular with his laid back dry humour and acting style.
The following year he married Ellen Kathleen "Quentin" Jameson then enlisted the next day into the Royal Australian Airforce to entertain the troops. He was allowed to make films on leave during the war and appeared with Grant Taylor in The Rats of Tobruk in 1944. This was followed after the war with The Overlanders in 1946, a British production about a cattle drive during war time which was based on a true story. The lead role was given to Rafferty.
The film studio, Ealing Studios, was so pleased with Rafferty's work, they signed him up for a long-term contract. In 1947 he appeared in Bush Christmas playing a villain. His career continued with other movies, establishing him as an international actor, some good, some receiving criticism.
As film production in Australian slowed down Rafferty decided to become a producer. His first movie with producer-director Lee Robinson was The Phantom Stockman in 1953, followed by King of the Coral Sea, which introduced actor Rod Taylor to audiences. After a number of successes, Rafferty found himself making a number of not so popular films causing him to stumble into financial difficulty.
He decided to concentrate on acting only and worked in a number of movies including The Sundowners in 1960, which starred Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr. By the time he was cast in Mutiny on the Bounty in 1962 he was back on the financial track.
Rafferty's final work was in the Australian war series Spyforce in 1971. While walking along a street in Sydney he suffered a heart attack on 27 May, 1971 and died. Quentin had predeceased him in 1964 and he had no children. His ashes were scattered over his favourite fishing spot in Lovett Bay, where he and Quentin had bought a boatshed in 1947. Just before his death, in the 1971 New Years' Honours, Rafferty was made a Member of the Order of British Empire (MBE) by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to the performing arts.
'Chips Rafferty', Wikipedia, accessed 1st September, 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chips_Rafferty
'Chips Rafferty: I'm not a Flamin' Kiwi', Youtube, accessed 4th September, 2022, https://youtu.be/z0Wv_HzNxuc
'John William Pilbean Goffage MBE ''Chips Rafferty'' Of Lovett Bay: Victory In The Pacific Day 2021', Pittwater Online News, accessed 4th September, 2022, https://www.pittwateronlinenews.com/John-Goffage-aka-Chips-Rafferty-of-Lovett-Bay.php