By KATHERINE HOBY
Michael Brook is like a kid at a candy store who has just found a dollar in his pocket.
The Film Archive's Auckland operations manager is surrounded by film canisters, posters, photographs and other memorabilia from the films of pioneer New Zealand film-maker Rudall Hayward.
The woman some call the grand dame of early New Zealand film, Ramai Hayward, is gifting the collection of her late husband's work to the archive.
Mr Brook says the gift is like "an Aladdin's cave of early New Zealand film."
Mrs Hayward's tiny New Lynn flat has been home for over half a century to the film collection, some of which has never been viewed by the public before.
Rudall Hayward died in 1974.
His widow said she wanted to gift the precious footage to the archive to mark the centenary of her husband's birthday. He was born on July 4, 1900.
"His greatest wish was to gift the films to the nation," she said.
"So very many people helped with the films. He wanted them to own them."
Some of those who had starring roles in the early films were paid the equivalent of $50. "They all gave it right back, including me, so we could keep making the movie. Money was that tight," she laughs.
Rudall Hayward made several silent films, including Rewi's Last Stand, in which his wife had a leading role. The sound version of the film was completed in 1939.
Some of his other films included My Lady of the Cave (1922), A Takapuna Scandal (1926) and The Te Kooti Trail (1927).
Hayward travelled in the late 1950s to China and in 1971 to Albania and shot extensive footage
His 1972 film, To Love a Maori, tackled the difficult topic of inter-race relationships.
Mrs Hayward said going to the cinema used to be a real occasion in New Zealand. "Those theatres, we loved them, they were like palaces," she said. She seldom goes to the movies now, preferring the glamour of the old-style theatres.
Mrs Hayward has just finished her autobiography and is now working on the story of her husband's life.
"Although I'm not sure I've included all my adventures. I've just realised I'm going to be 88 this year and not 86 as I thought."
Mr Brook said it was very exciting for the archive get the film collection of a man who was the first New Zealander to make regular features, although some of the footage would need specialist care to restore it to its former glory.
"This is definitely one of the most important collections in the country," he said.
"Ramai retains ownership of all this. Our role is more one of guardianship.
"One of the best things about this is that we don't just keep them, the public gets to see them now, too."
Rudall Hayward's 1928 New Zealand fairy tale, The Bush Cinderella, will screen at the Civic Theatre in Auckland on Tuesday at 6.15 pm as part of the International Film Festival.
By KATHERINE HOBY