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Strathis (Stan) Raftopoulos MBE

          – A Movie Mogul

          By Gerry Kennedy

              tan Raftopoulos’ story began as did many other immi-  then spent most
              grant stories of the early 20th century. The first mem-  of the wartime
         Sbers of the Raftopoulos family, and distant relatives of  entertaining
          Stan, arrived in Australia in the 1860s. (These were the broth-  troops in concert parties and
          ers Spiro, Platon and Demosthenes).                 performing in variety shows and concerts. As a mem-
            Many impoverished migrant men came to Australia and  ber of the National Follies he remembers playing in a lot of
          embarked on years of hard labour in an attempt to make good.  Melbourne venues including the Tivoli, Kings, Apollo, Savoy
          It was often the intention to work for five years and then return  and New  Theatres.  As film screenings were prohibited on
          to their homeland. Their families were left behind and often  Sundays, in those days, concerts were staged in cinemas if they
          their children did not see their fathers for many years. Stan’s  had any sort of stage facilities. He remembers Tivoli shows
          grandfather Raftopoulos was one of these people and he  moving to the Royal Hall at Footscray for a suburban season.
          arrived in Australia in 1895. He returned to Greece in 1903  Stan still occasionally performs today at charity functions.
          and again returned to Australia at the end of the same year  In 1946 his father sent him back to work at the family
          with his son John leaving the rest of the family behind. They  property in Deakin Ave, Mildura, a vineyard of 25 acres! After
          worked in the fruit business in the Sunraysia district around  this property was resumed by the Education Department to
          the large rural town of Mildura in Victoria.        increase the grounds of the neighbouring High School Stan
            Stan’s father, Spiros, came to Australia in 1922 and settled  returned to Melbourne. Stan taught the Greek language to
          in Redcliffs (near Mildura). He opened the Golden Key Café  Greeks in Melbourne from 1946-51.
          in 1923, becoming the best in the area. Five years later he  Stan imported the first Greek film into Australia in 1949,
          moved to Merbein (west of Mildura) and built four shops, one  which he screened in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane
          of which was the Kookaburra Café. Eleven years later in 1933  and Newcastle. The Finos Films production was entitled Voice
          he returned to Ithaca, Greece. At the end of 1933 he returned  of the Heart and in Melbourne it was shown at the Nicolas
          to Australia taking with him his son Stan. The rest of Spiros’  Theatre (Lonsdale St), a 500 seat venue. In Sydney the film
          family followed later and they all settled in Merbein.  was screened in the Macabian Hall (Darlinghurst). From these
            Stan was born in Ithaca in 1922 and recalled being the only  early beginnings Stan embarked on a film-importing career
          foreign student at the Merbein South State School in 1934 and  through his company Dionysios Films. Up to 1956 he was the
          being subjected to a lot of bullying for being different.  only importer supplying films to the rapidly growing Greek
             Opposite the Café was the Royal Theatre and a sidewall of  community and he travelled to the eastern capitals and to larg-
          the Café was used to post day bills in exchange for free cinema  er country towns with his travelling shows. Today Melbourne
          passes. Stan was a regular visitor to the Royal and befriended  has the largest Greek population outside Greece.
          the projectionist (in a manner reminiscent to the film Cinema  In 1943 Stan published his first poetic works entitled
          Paradiso). He often picked up bits of film from the waste bin in  Freedom Selections; it was the first Greek poetical work pub-
          the projection room. He later purchased a cheap hand projector  lished in Australia. From this he later got the idea of becom-
          from the Mildura Coles store for 2/6 (25¢). He then joined his  ing a printer to produce all the posters and flyers for his film
          scraps of film and screened it to friends.          publicity. He established his own printing business in the
            In 1937 the Raftopoulos family moved to Melbourne, after  woodshed at the back of his father’s home in Madden Grove,
          selling their shops in Merbein, and settled in Abbotsford. They  Kew. He subsequently developed a database of addresses for
          ran a milk bar and a fruit shop. Also, in 1937, Stan purchased  Greek citizens for the eastern capital cities and Newcastle. He
          his first movie camera, a 9.5 mm                                      then sent them flyers of forthcoming
          model and began to film school                                          attractions. Stan’s wife Kay, and his
          picnics and weddings (for                                                sister, ran the postage and later Kay
          free).                                                                   was trained to run the printing
            Stan’s theatrical talents                                              press which is still housed, in full
          were also being developed at this                                        working condition, in the basement
          time. He was, and still is, an accom-                                    of their home.
          plished magician. He started getting                                       Tuesdays and Thursdays proved
          work as “Rafto the Magician” and                                       to be the best nights for screening to
          worked with Audrey Anderson, Manager of                               the Greek Community as they were
          the “Glad Eye Review Company”. Fire eat-                                mainly shop keepers and these were
          ing was one of Stan’s spectacular acts.                                   their quietest days.
            He was called up for military service in                                   In 1951 Stan returned to
          1940 however, Audrey Anderson was able                                     Greece and showed documen-
          to get him an exemption for 6 months in
          order to work the Glad Eye group. Stan                                     Stan filming in Greece in 1954.

          8 8  Autumn  2001 CINEMARECORD
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