Sunday, May 20, 2012


The cast of Bellbird

Last night I dreamed about Bellbird. There is a good reason for this, because when she and Ernie were staying with me some weeks ago, Nell and I reminisced about Australian television, and Bellbird cropped up. These days I suppose one would describe Bellbird as a soap, and although it had some of the qualities of a soap, there was an innocent Australian-ness about the rural locality, many of the characters, and the opening theme and credits, which you may sample here, that was anti-soap. I especially like that sprig of gum-leaves dangled in front of the camera in that closing view over the town. Unlike the soaps of today, Bellbird occupied a convenient position as an appealingly bite-sized, fifteen-minute chunk of advertisement-free television drama that went to air immediately before the seven o’clock ABC national news, each and every night from Monday to Thursday. (In this instance ABC stood for Australian Broadcasting Commission.) Alas, the ABC was so poor that they had to wipe and re-use most of the tapes, so future historians of Australian television will be hamstrung. Practically nothing of Bellbird survives. However, I was also reminded that everyone who ever pursued, or attempted to pursue, a career on stage or screen in Australia in the ten years from 1967 to 1977 had a walk-on role in Bellbird, including some who might not now include it in their curriculums vitae. I do not remember more than a few of the permanent fixtures, but of these Jim “The Colonel” Emerson (Carl Bleazby), of course, and his glamorous young wife Maggie (Gabrielle Hartley); the local motor mechanic Joe Turner (Terry Norris) and his wife Olive (Moira Charleton); police constable Des Davies (Dennis Miller) and his wife Fiona (Gerda Nicolson); the mean stock and station agent Mr. Quinney (Maurie Fields), and, towards the end of the run, that rather sinister, scowling ne’er-do-well Andy (Michael Carman). Jim Bacon (Peter Aanensen) started off as the town policeman, however when his wife Marge (Carmel Milhouse) won the lottery he retired from the force and they bought the local pub, and remained en poste until the very end. Much of the action took place in the front bar, under the watchful eyes of Marge and Jim. Anyhow, in my dream, which was as brief as it was vivid, Marge leaned over the counter and confided to me that she was terribly concerned about Aunt Anne’s chemo.

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