Four’s A Crowd

Australian Workers Film Guide


Produced by the Waterside Workers Film Unit, Four’s A Crowd is a slapstick comedy that highlights the negative effect of bad behaviour by individual workers on the collective union as a whole. The film illustrates how this bad behaviour creates a false impression of waterside workers on bosses and the wider public through the media.

The Film Unit’s Jock Levy plays each of the archetypal workplace villains – ‘Glass Arm Harry’, ‘Tiddly Pete’, ‘Nick Away Ned’ and ‘Ron the Roaster’. Apart from a voiceover by Leonard Teale and a musical score, the film is silent in terms of dialogue and location sound. The film features a union song sung by Dick Hackett. [1]

The film opens with an animated sequence of a worker holding items that represent the 49 million tonnes of cargo that Australian waterside workers loaded and unloaded in 1946. It then turns into live action on Walsh dock in Sydney, where ‘Glass Arm Harry’ is seen pretending to help his mates push a fully laden cart, which ends in Harry walking off the pier into the water. ‘Tiddly Pete’ is seen drinking at the Royal Oak Hotel when he should be at work. Staggering to work drunk, Pete’s buffoonery climaxes with foreman ‘Sackem Plenty’ spraying ink on his face and dancing with him on the dock, resulting in a front page newspaper headline and a visit to the union disciplinary committee. ‘Nick Away Ned’ embarks on a new farce as he attempts to leave work early, but instead trips up the foreman, resulting in a chase on the docks and a can of oil on his head. His workmates are then seen working at a fast frame rate to make up for the lack of one man on the job. ‘Ron the Roaster’ is a know it all on every subject, including union policy. He is so busy talking that he doesn’t do any work and is eventually taken away on a stretcher by doctors in white uniforms. 

The film ends with a superimposed image of all four characters, which the narrator tells us is a minority in a large and industrious workforce – “Maybe you didn’t realise that in the long run you only cruel yourselves, your mates and your union.” To which the four characters agree to change their ways.

According to Milner, the film was made to counter mainstream press attacks on maritime workers. [2]

[1] Milner, L. (2003), Fighting Films: A History of the Waterside Workers’ Federation Film Unit, p110, Pluto Press; North Melbourne.

[2] Milner, L. (2003), Fighting Films: A History of the Waterside Workers’ Federation Film Unit, p109, Pluto Press; North Melbourne.

Special Notes/Achievements

Featured on Fighting Films DVD (2006). [3]

[3] Fighting Films DVD (2006), Produced by Lisa Milner. [DVD] Sydney; Maritime Union of Australia.

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 13 mins 52 secs

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Film Director: Jerome Levy, Keith Gow, Norma Disher,

Film Producer: Jerome Levy, Keith Gow, Norma Disher,

Film Writer: Jerome Levy, Keith Gow, Norma Disher,

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