POWER WITHOUT GLORY

Australian Serial Drama

Power Without Glory is probably among the two or three finest drama series produced in Australia. The series was, in effect, a local equivalent to The Forsyte Saga and told the story of John West, his wife and family from the 1890s when he was an impoverished youth in the depression-stricken city of Melbourne to his death around 1950. By that time, he has become a millionaire although he is tainted by shady political and business dealings. The series was based on the novel of the same name by Australian author Frank Hardy, which had been published in 1949. At the time, it was widely believed that Hardy had based the figure of John West on the real-life Australian businessman John Wren. The Wren family took legal action against Hardy, accusing him of libel. Hardy successfully defended the case, however, on the basis that his novel was fiction. Subsequently the book sold extremely well, no doubt because the public believed that in fact it was based on the Wren story. Power Without Glory should have been a natural adaptation for either radio or television in the 1950s or 1960s but no broadcast producer was willing to take on the material for fear of further legal action from the Wren family. It was not until 1974 that such a project was undertaken.

That year Oscar Whitbread, veteran producer with the public service television broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), decided that the novel should be brought to the television screen. After all, despite the timidity of ABC management, the court case had happened over 20 years earlier and had, in any event, been lost. Moreover under a federal Labour Party government, the ABC was expected to be progressive and innovative in its productions and its revenue, coming directly from the government was, in real terms, at an all time high. Whitbread judged that the time was right for such a massive undertaking and he and script editor Howard Griffiths set to work on the novel. The book was split into a projected 26 hour-long episodes and a series of ABC and former Crawford Production writers such as Tony Morphett, Sonia Borg, and Phil Freedman were set to work to develop scripts. Writing and filming took place over the next 18 months and the series began on air nationally on the ABC in June 1976. Power Without Glory starred Martin Vaughan as West and Rosalind Spires as his wife. Other well known Australian actors in the series included Terence Donovan, George Malleby, and Michael Pate. Like many television miniseries, especially those with such a long screen time, Power went well beyond the domestic drama of the couple and included the developing lives and careers of their children and their acquaintances. These mostly private dramas were stitched onto a larger historical canvas that included political and national events such as the formation of the Australian labour Party, the conscription debates of the World War I, and the impact of the Great Depression and the World War II.

The quality and integrity of the production, most especially its writing and the performance of the large cast, effectively sustained audience interest over its 26 hours. Power was to prove enormously popular and prestigious for the ABC. In 1977 it won a host of industry awards, including nine Sammys and four Penguins. The series was repeated in 1978 and in 1981 it was sold to Network Ten where it was to receive two further screenings. Power Without Glory has been the finest drama series made at the ABC. The moment of its production and screening was a watershed, coinciding both with the twentieth anniversary of the beginning of ABC television transmission and the fact that, with a change in federal government and a downturn in the Australian economy, the circumstances that had made such a production possible were now a thing of the past.

-Albert Moran

CAST

John West ..............................................Martin Vaughn Nellie Moran.......................................... Rosalind Spiers Mrs. Moran.......................................... Heather Canning Mrs. West................................................ Irene Inescort Piggy Lewis ..........................................Michael Aitkens Barney Robinson................................... George Mallaby Eddie Corrigan............................................ Sean Scully Mick O'Connell........................................ John Bowman Paddy Cummins.......................................... Tim Connor Jim Tracey.................................................. Alan Hardy Det. Sgt. O'Flaherty............................... Peter Cummins Sgt. Devlin........................................ David Ravenswood Mr. Dunn ...................................................Carl Bleazby Constable Brogan....................................... Burt Cooper Sgt. Grieve .....................................................Terry Gill Alec ............................................................Les James Arthur West............................................ Tim Robertson Mrs. Tracey............................................ Marnie Randall Father O'Toole........................................... John Murphy Brendan................................................. Richard Askew Sugar Renfrey.............................................. John Wood Bob Standish............................................... Reg Evans Florrie Robinson.......................................... Leila Hayes David Garside............................................. Leon Lissek Mrs. Finch............................................... Esme Melville Frank Ashton................................................. Barry Hill Tom Trumbleward..................................... Frank Wilson Jim Francis........................................... Telford Jackson Dick Bradley........................................ Gerard Kennedy Rev Joggins.......................................... Jonathon Hardy


Power Without Glory
Photo courtesy of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Martha Ashton........................................... Elaine Baillie Commissioner Callinan................................. Keith Aden Constable Baddson.............................. Stephen Oldfield Detective Roberts ....................................Tony Hawkins Constable Harris.......................................... Hugh Price Constable Logan ......................................Matthew King Dolly West................................................. Kerry Dwyer Frank Lammence................................ Terence Donovan Lou Darby..................................................... Gil Tucker Dr. Malone................................................ Michael Pate Ron Lassiter............................................... Terry Norris Snoopy Tanner..................................... Graham Blundell Mr. Johnstone........................................ Byron Williams Harriet .................................................Rowena Wallace T.J. Real................................................... Carl Bleazby Turner.......................................................... Lou Brown Smith.......................................................... Iain Merton Margaret...................................................... Joan Letch Kate ............................................................Sue Jones Marjorie................................................. Lisa Crittenden Mary..................................................... Andrea Butcher Brendan............................................... Stewart Fleming Jim Morton........................................... Norman Hodges Ned Horan............................................... Norman Kaye Maurice Blackwell......................................... Tony Barry Mary West .............................................Wendy Hughes Marjorie West ...............................................Fay Kelton Brendon West........................................... Tony Bonner Luke Carson .................................................Fred Betts Peter Monton.......................................... Tristan Rogers Hugo .....................................................David Cameron Andy Mackenzie................................... Kevin Colebrook Paul Andreas.......................................... Warwick Sims Bill Tinns .................................................Gus Mercurio Graham Kennedy ........................................Clive Parker Keith Burkett........................................ Charles Tingwell Ted Thurgood............................................. Ken Wayne Jimmy Summers................................... Peter Aanensen Smollett...................................................... Garay Files Lygon........................................................... John Nash Monton........................................ Arthur Barradell-Smith Mrs. Granger........................................... Margaret Reid Brenda............................................... Camilla Rowntree Ben Worth ..................................................Ben Garner Vera Maguire............................................... Patsy King Egon Kisch ............................................Kurt Ludescher Jock McNeil.......................................... Michael Duffield Watty..................................................... Fred Culcullen Paddy Kelleher...................................... Jonathan Hardy Vincent Parelli.......................................... Alan Bickford Michael Kiely .............................................Bobby Bright Dr. Bevan .............................................Michael Duffield Tony Grey..................................................... Peter Cox

PRODUCER Oscar Whitbread

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

Australian Broadcasting Commission
26 One-hour Episodes
21 June 1976-13 December 1976

FURTHER READING

Cunningham, Stuart, and Toby Miller, with David Rowe. Contemporary Australian Television. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 1994.

Hardy, Frank J. The Hard Way. Port Melbourne: Mandarin Australia, 1961.

Moran, Albert. Images & Industry: Television Drama Production in Australia. Sydney: Currency Press, 1985.

O'Regan, Tom. Australian Television Culture. St. Leonard's New South Wales: Allen & Unwin, 1993.

Tulloch, John, and Graeme Turner, editors. Australian Television: Programs, Pleasures, Politics. Sydney and Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1989.

 

See also Australian Programming