State Library and Tasmanian Archives Blog

Jewelled Nights: The Surprising Story of Two Tasmanian Women and their Lost Silent Film

Part of a cover page for sheet music. The title is "Jewelled nights, song fox trot"
Jewelled nights song fox trot / written and composed by Frank Ottenson.

Almost a century ago, two Tasmanian women wrote and produced a lost classic of Australian cinema. Set in the osmiridium mining fields of Tasmania’s Western Wilderness, Jewelled Nights was one of the first productions of its kind, created by the novelist Marie Bjelke Petersen and the silent film actress Louise Lovely in 1924.

Marie Bjelke Petersen wrote nine novels, many of which were set in the Tasmanian bush. Jewelled Nights (published in 1923) featured a runaway bride who sought her fortune in the osmiridium fields in Tasmania’s West, where miners panned and dug the precious metal that tipped gold fountain pens around the world. Petersen’s novel was brought to the silver screen by the Australian silent film star, Louise Lovely. Born Nellie Louise Carbasse in New South Wales in 1896, she went to Hollywood in 1914, where she became a leading lady. The two women met in Hobart in 1924 when Lovely was on tour with her husband, Wilton Welch. Taken with Petersen’s tale of romance, mining, and cross-dressing, Lovely wrote the screenplay, directed, produced, and starred in the film. Petersen’s account of the filming (together with some other manuscripts) are in the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office.

A black and white photo of a white, two-story building as seen from the street.
Jewelled Nights was shown around Tasmania in places like this – The Athenaeum Hall in Waratah, built in 1886 as the second Waratah Mechanics Institute. According to Nic Haygarth, “. In this photo you can see the projection box added when the hall was Waratah’s cinema.”

The ground-breaking film was shot on location at the osmiridium mining fields at Flea Flat on 19-Mile Creek, amidst unforgiving terrain and terrific challenges. It was hugely popular across Australia when it was released in 1926, from Melbourne and Sydney to the then-bustling town of Waratah. Audiences came in their thousands, and the film was hailed as a ‘splendid Australian production.’ 

Despite its popularity, the film wasn’t much of a financial success for Lovely or for Petersen – it lost £3000, and there were no international sales. The film itself has now been lost, but a 2-minute excerpt has survived, and it’s considered to be a lost classic of Australian cinema.

The film might have vanished, but you can still play the soundtrack! TAHO has one of the few copies of the sheet music for the “Jewelled Nights Song Fox Trot.”Since this blog was originally written in March of 2018, the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) in Canberra has acquired two letters from Louise Lovely to one of her devoted fans, together with one of the costumes she wore in the film.  And as one of our readers kindly pointed out on the original blog, “Belinda Holloway and family have loaned Louise Lovely’s travelling trunk to the TMAG,” and it periodically features in school holiday programs, exhibition talks and tours.

A cover for sheet music. There are 3 pictures on the cover, the first is of a landscape and fields, the second is of a woman looking at towards the viewer, and a man looking to the side. Text on the poster reads: "Jewelled nights. Song for trot. Written and composed by frank Ottenson. as featured by Hoy's Renown famous s syncophating Orchestra. Louise Lovely. Cecil W. Fraser. Copyright. Published by Loebell and Co Royal Arcade Melbourne.
Jewelled nights song fox trot / written and composed by Frank Ottenson.

As for Louise Lovely and Marie Petersen, both ultimately ended up in Hobart.  Lovely returned to Tasmania with her second husband, Burt Cowan. They lived in Lower Sandy Bay and she managed a sweet shop next to the Prince of Wales cinema, which Burt managed. Marie Petersen died in Lindisfarne in 1969.

Further Reading: 

Nic Haygarth, On the Ossie. Hobart, Forty South Publishing, 2017.

Alison Alexander, A Mortal Flame: Marie Bjelke Petersen Australian Romance Writer 1874–1969, Hobart, Blubber Head Press, 1994

Warren Boyles, “The Jewelled Nights of Miss Louise Lovely” Forty Degrees South (No 6, August 1997): 50-55.

To hear an ABC radio interview about Lousie Lovely’s house in Lower Sandy Bay, go here:


  • Annaliese Claydon is an independent scholar based in Hobart. She previously worked as an Archivist at the State Library and Archive Service. Her first book, "Arctic Circles and Imperial Knowledge: The Franklin Family, Indigenous Intermediaries and the Politics of Truth" was published by Bloomsbury Academic (UK) in January 2024. Her current book project is tentatively titled The Emu, the Plover and the Bowhead: Histories of Bering Sea and the Southern Ocean, 1848-1854.

7 thoughts on “Jewelled Nights: The Surprising Story of Two Tasmanian Women and their Lost Silent Film”

  1. Alison Higgins says:

    Hi Anna,
    Do you know if the cinematographer (not stills) was Tasman Higgins?

  2. Wayne Peake says:

    There is further footage of Jewelled Nights in the SBS documentary The Colour of Australia. It includes a racecourse scene. I’m guessing that it was a Tasmanian racecourse, given the other locations. Does anyone know which racecourse it might have been?

  3. Jeff Crowe says:

    John H Robinson was the stills photographer for the “Jewelled Nights” silent film .
    See his photos in the John H Robinson Photos on Face book group.

  4. Tony Marshall says:

    Alison Alexander’s biography of Marie Bjelke Peterson, published in 1994, was launched just around the corner from the State Library, in the Playhouse. The surviving fragments of “Jewelled nights” were screened, and I sang the theme song of the film.

    • Anna Claydon says:

      Thank you Tony, for this amazing note! We’ll have to have a search and see if the book launch and your performance were taped!

  5. Karolina Damen says:

    Belind Holloway and family have loaned Louise Lovely’s travelling trunk to the TMAG. Worth looking at.

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