Chips Rafferty (John William Pilbean Goffage)
Chips Rafferty was born John William Pilbean Goffage in Broken Hill, New South Wales to John Goffage, an English-born stock agent, and Australian-born Violet Maude Joyce. Gaining the nickname “Chips” as a school boy, Rafferty studied at Parramatta Commercial High School before working in a variety of jobs, including opal miner, sheep shearer, drover, airman and pearl diver before making his film debut in Ants in His Pants in 1938. At that time, he was managing a wine cellar in Bond Street, Sydney. Rafferty’s onscreen image as a lanky, laconic bushman struck a chord with filmgoers in Forty Thousand Horsemen. This film was enormously popular and was screened throughout the world. Rafferty’s first film after the war was The Overlanders, which was a popular success. He followed this with Bush Christmas. Ealing Studios signed Raffert to a long term contract and cast him in The Loves of Joanna Godden. While promoting the film in Hollywood he met Hedda Hopper who said Rafferty “created quite a stir. They call him the Australian Gary Cooper, but if he were cut down a bit he would be more like the late Will Rogers. I don’t know how they’ll get him on the screen unless they do it horizontally… He is as natural as an old shoe.” Rafferty’s next film had him cast as Peter Lalor in the expensive spectacle Eureka Stockade. It was a box office disappointment and Rafferty’s performance much criticized. He was more happily cast in Ealing’s next film in Australia, Bitter Springs, but the film was not widely popular either. Nonetheless Rafferty remained the highest profile Australian actor in the world and received a Hollywood offer to appear in The Desert Rats, opposite Richard Burton.
Rafferty remained in demand as an actor appearing in The Sundowners, with Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr; and Mutiny on the Bounty, with Marlon Brando. While making Bounty MGM announced they wanted to use Rafferty in How the West Was Won and Chautauqua. However filming of Bounty dragged on – meant to take six months, it would up taking 14. The money earned by Rafferty – he dubbed the film The Bounteous Mutiny – restored Rafferty to financial health after the failure of his production company; it enabled him to buy a block of flats which supported him for the rest of his life. His most bizarre appearance was with Elvis Presley in Double Trouble in 1967. In addition to his film work, Rafferty also guest starred in a range of Australian and American television shows, including Gunsmoke, Daktari, The Stranger, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, Tarzan, The Monkees and The Wackiest Ship in the Army (as a different character to the role that he played in the movie version). In one rather bizarre role, he played a Union soldier in The Big Valley with a noticeably Australian accent. He also participated in cinema advertisements that were part of an Australian Government campaign in 1957 called “Bring out a Briton”. The campaign was launched by the government in a bid to increase the number of British migrants settling in Australia. Rafferty’s final film role was in 1971’s Wake in Fright, where he played an outback policeman. (The film was made mainly in and around Rafferty’s home town of Broken Hill.) In a review of the film, a critic praised Rafferty’s performance, writing that he “exudes an unnerving intensity with a deceptively menacing and disturbing performance that ranks among the best of his career”. Hours before he died, Rafferty was offered a prominent role in the film The Day the Clown Cried by Jerry Lewis. The film has never been completed or officially released, and is apparently unlikely ever to be. Rafferty collapsed and died of a heart attack while walking down a Sydney street at the age of 62 shortly after completing his role in Wake in Fright. His wife Quentin predeceased him in 1964 and they had no children.
- March, 26, 1909
- Broken Hill, New South Wales
- May, 27, 1971
- Sydney, Melbourne
Cause of Death
- heart attack