MILESAGO - Television
|ONCE UPON A TWILIGHT|
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Bill Mathias
One of the great 'lost' artefacts of Sixties Aussie pop, this quaint little show was the pilot episode for a proposed TV series starring Aussie pop sensations The Twilights. Clearly inspired by The Monkees, the series was planned to feature the group going through the usual round of zany youthful antics, interspersed with musical numbers. It's hardly a classic -- in fact it's hilariously awful for the most part -- but it is of genuine historical interest for many reasons.
Co-star Mary Hardy added some badly-needed muscle on the acting side, and would have been a major asset had the series gone ahead. Mary (the sister of novelist Frank Hardy) was a veteran of Melbourne TV and a regular performer on Graham Kennedy's IMT. Mary was a very skilled and engaging comedienne and had great screen presence, and even allowing for the very limited part, she performs very well indeed. She subsequently had a featured role in the shortlived series Good Morning, Mr. Doubleday (1969) and was a regular guest and host on TV talk and variety shows. Sadly, like many great comedians, Mary's life and career were overshadowed by chronic depression and she evenutally took her own life in the 1980s.
Also good in her (tiny) part is fondly-remembered character actress Madeleine Orr, who plays the part of the president of the Gumnut Gully Ladies' Auxiliary, the mother of Ronnie Burns' character Alphonse. She does it with her usual flair; Orr was a fine actress and a charming presence on Australian TV. She appeared in many series, including regular supporting roles in Crawfords' crime dramas, and did a very nice line in dithering old ladies. Ms Orr died in 1979 and the proceeds of her estate were bequeathed to establish a piano scholarhsip in her name for the Faculty of Music at the University of Melbourne.
Of the musical "stars", lead singer Glenn Shorrock is by far the best. He has always been considered a great performer -- he was renowned for his comedic showmanship in The Twilights and is reputed to be a very funny man. One could easily imagine that he might have developed into a very competent TV performer had the fates so decreed. But, with all due respect, the rest of the group are pretty woeful. They may have been a great band, but unlike The Beatles or The Monkees, they were not natural screen performers. Rising pop sensation Ronnie Burns plays a supporting part as a wanna-be singer, Alphonse, and he performs pretty well.
The real villain of this show is the script -- it's dreadful and although it's not helped by the Nullabor-flat delivery of most of the 'stars', it didn't give them much to work with in the first place. The plot is is silly and insubstantial, and basically serves only to enable the band to move from one locale to another (usually in Benny Hill-style fast motion) and from one musical number to another. The songs include their Abbey Rd-recorded classic 9:50, Cathy Come Home, the title tune and several other tracks from their forthcoming LP; Ronnie also performs one number, Terry Britten's In The Morning.
Another point of interest for OzRock trainspotters is the location used for The Twilights' office -- these scenes were filmed in the opulent Victorian-revival foyer of one of Melbourne's top discotheques of the day, the legendary Berties, owned by the Knight family and managed by the flamboyant Anthony Knight.
The series was never picked up because the main sponsor, the Ford Motor Company, withdrew their support and no other sponsors could be found. Soon after this the band were dumped by manager Gary Spry and their popularity waned. The group split up in early 1969.
Glenn Shorrock of course went on to become the lead singer in Little River Band in 1975. Terry Britten became a hugely successful songwriter and producer in the UK. Ronnie Burns remained a popular performer and hosted a number of TV specials in the 1990s. He retired from performing in 2002 and now lives in Tasmania.
Script co-writer John Vandenbeld went on to work for the ABC's Natural History Unit. He wrote and produced several programs for them including the acclaimed series The Nature Of Australia.
Brian Kavanagh became one of Australia's leading film editors and his later credits include A City Child, The Odd Angry Shot, The Devil's Playground and The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith.
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Sweet Floral Albion #26