From making pioneering bushranger films and launching the careers of Australia’s most famous early stars to a bitter business betrayal and a bloody murder in the remote wilderness, the conclusion to movie mogul Cosens Spencer’s story is like something from the silver screen. But it’s all true.

Cosens Spencer
Mary Stuart Cosens — aka Senora Spencer — alongside her husband.
The Senora at work.
Lottie Lyell, our first film star, given her first movie role by Spencer.
The Romantic Story of Margaret Catchpole: made in 1911, this 26 minutes of footage is all that remains of Spencer’s prodigious feature film career.
Lottie Lyell as lady convict Margaret Catchpole.
An early Kinemacolor film frame — this was the first colour film process,
introduced to Australia by Spencer in 1913.
Also in 1913: Spencer introduced Edison’s Kinetophone sound pictures.
Another of Spencer’s surviving films: a record of the 1913 naming
of Canberra as Australia’s future capital city.
Australia Calls was Spencer’s 1913 racist anti-invasion Asian-scare film.
The biggest set piece of Australia Calls was “The Burning Of Sydney”, achieved
via model work and trick photography.
Views of Spencer’s Rushcutters Bay studio after it had been rebranded by The Combine.

In the early 20th century, Spencer Cosens was Australia’s greatest showman. With his wife, projectionist Senora Spencer, “the world’s only lady operator”, he pioneered motion picture exhibition, establishing the first permanent cinema, introducing sound and colour films and championing local feature production. But a business betrayal would ruin Spencer’s career, permanently sabotage the Australian film industry and result in a bloody tragedy that unfolded like something out of the movies. Click for MORE

Born Spencer Cosens, the showman changed
his name to Charles Cosens Spencer.
Senora Spencer — Spencer’s wife Mary (nee Huntly)
Spencer’s film of the Jack Johnson – Tommy Burns World Championship Fight in Sydney in 1908 originally ran 80 minutes and was an international box-office hit.
Spencer’s 1909 film of the VFL Grand Final between Carlton and South Melbourne is the oldest surviving footage of Australian Rules football.
Spencer’s Marvellous Melbourne: Queen City Of The South was released in 1910
and is the oldest surviving documentary about the city.

The main suspect, John Patrick Reynolds, pictured for his 1939 enlistment in the AIF.

In June 1928 sisters Esther Vaughan and Sarah Falvey were shot and killed in the lolly shop that had made them favourites in the Sydney suburb of Dulwich Hill. Who killed the sisters and why? For the first time the mystery and main suspect are reinvestigated.

Reynolds’ mugshot, circa 1930.

Truth newspaper pulled out all stops to sell copies.
The Daily Telegraph’s front-page artist’s conception of the murders
The Daily Telegraph sets the scene for readers