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Bapty & Co.: Where Movie Magic Begins

By Dan Shea

“The British film industry is very sick, and although doctors have been brought in and we hope for the best, it is hard to say just what will happen to the patient…. I believe that part of the trouble was psychological- Much of this I have good reason to know is due to faulty organization and unwise expenditures- pennies when Pounds were necessary, and Pounds when pennies would have done- but the real trouble was that the British were tackling a job for which many of them had not the right temperament.”  Major P. S. Bapty quoted in “The Sydney Morning Herald;” Thursday, 20 January, 1938, on the Major’s arrival in Australia.

Major Bapty’s personna was variously as wounded war hero, theatrical armorer, Bisley champion, world traveler, collector, historian and general “Man of Mystery.” Starting Bapty & Co a century ago as a gun store in London selling Bapty branded double rifles and military surplus, (The accepted date for start of the theatrical armory is 1919) he was unafraid to obtain or even build whatever firearms and props which were needed for London’s theatrical productions; and when the fledgling movie industry arrived in the 1920s, he was prepared to work with them and supply what was needed. The gun shop ceased in 1932-33 and went strictly theatrical rental and collectable sales. In keeping with his “Man of Mystery” persona, Major Bapty was unmasked as a bigamist in 1935 and by 1938 was in Australia. He joined the Australian Air Force as Australia entered World War II, then was ejected for being too old (And lying about his age); so onward to America; where he was in charge of moving servicemen to the Asian front.

As well as blank firing weaponry, Bapty has a large stock of period and modern weapons ranging from medieval swords, maces and polearms to machetes, baseball bats and ceremonial swords. All of these weapons can be dry hired as props and have the option of coming complete with waist belts and other accessories. Other weapons in...

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