The gold rush days of the 1850s were a significant part of
Australias history, yet the subject was not treated in a television series until
1974. The Americans did make Whiplash here back in 1960, but they got it all wrong
- although set in the 1850's, it bore more resemblance to an American
western. ATN-7s historical series Jonah was actually set just before gold was
discovered and only touched on the era. The ABCs Rush was the first series
of any note to deal with the period, and was closely followed by Homestead Films
production of Cash & Company.
Homestead Films was set up by
Patrick Edgeworth and Russell Hagg, who had worked together at Crawfords on Matlock Police.
Edgeworth, a Londoner, came to Melbourne in 1969 for the wedding of his brother Ron to
Judith Durham (formerly of 'The Seekers'). He stayed and worked as an actor and writer for Crawfords, where
he met Hagg, who was a script editor for Matlock Police.
Edgeworth was surprised upon his arrival in
Australia that there was no local historical drama on television. Discussing this with
Hagg revealed a mutual interest in Australian history, so a working script was
written and presented to Gordon French, Programme Manager of HSV-7. French liked the script
and the Seven Network commissioned a 13 episode series.
Unlike Rush, Cash &
Company was conceived purely as an escapist adventure series. Although the stories are based
on fact, they make no attempt to recreate any authentic events. However, much research was
done to ensure the settings, costumes and props faithfully recreated the period.
"We've done an enormous amount of research on the period," said Edgeworth,
"and there is a gold mine of instances and stories. The stories are triggered by
Patrick Edgeworth and Russell Hagg were
of the series, and Jenny Henry was Production Manager. Edgeworth wrote all but two of the
scripts, and Hagg directed five episodes. The other episodes were directed by George
Miller or Simon Wincer; Hagg was also Script Editor.
Production of the series commenced in July 1974, and
was filmed in colour at the historic Emu Bottom Homestead at Sunbury, on the outskirts of
Melbourne. The owner of the homestead, Hedley Elliot, was most helpful and co-operative
with the filming of the series, and in appreciation of his efforts he received an
Assistant Producers credit.
The shows theme tune and much
of the incidental music was written and performed by the 'Bushwhackers And Bullockies Bush
Band', later simply known as the 'Bushwackers Band'. The theme tune and some
of the incidental music has appeared on their albums.2
Before its Australian debut, Cash
& Company was screened in Britain by London Weekend Television.
Just as the producers of Skippy, Barrier
Reef and Boney attributed their international success to the use of a uniquely Australian ingredient, so too Patrick
Edgeworth thought overseas sales of Cash & Company were due to
its unique subject: "I went to England and asked what sort of series they would consider buying
from Australia," he said. "I was told to make something totally different to anything which could be
made in England. So I turned to Australia's bushranging period, the 1850's, which was a
unique time." He also said the series was entertaining, adding: "It is a
fast-moving adventure series which would appeal to audiences anywhere in the world."3
Cash & Company
was seen at the Cannes Film Festival, and was sold to Sweden, Holland,
Yugoslavia, Ireland, Norway and Nigeria. It premiered in Brisbane on April
7 1975, in Sydney on May 26, in Melbourne on May 29, and in Adelaide on
Cash & Company reflects the view that not
all outlaws were necessarily bad, but were sometimes reasonable men who were persecuted
and driven outside the law by the law itself - as administered by ruthless officials,
epitomised in this case by the corrupt police officer Lieutenant Keogh. The outlaws, Sam Cash and
Joe Brady, are on the run after being framed for murder by Keogh. In fact, Keogh and his
troopers murdered Bradys partner for not having a mining licence, and Brady would
have been next if not for Cashs timely intervention.
Bradys partner was the brother
of Jessica Johnson, who owns and manages a property after being widowed several years
previously. She shelters Cash and Brady, and assists them in their attempts to clear their
names and bring Keogh to justice. Contrary to the entry in Morans Guide To
Australian TV Series, Cash & Company is not about their cavalier
attitude to mining licences and other peoples sheep.4
Sam Cash, played by Serge Lazareff, is an
Irish-Australian with a deep distrust of the British, but underneath his tough veneer is a
cultured and educated man. Lazareff was cast in the part after coming to
the producers' attention for his guest performance in a Matlock Police
episode, No. 109 'Welcome Home Champ'.
Gus Mercurio portrays Joe Brady, a gravelly-voiced
American widower, who is rough, coarse and illiterate, with a quick wit and cunning. A
gambler and a drinker, he also has a
strong, warm and sympathetic side. Apparently Joe has been known to shave on special
occasions but no-one has actually witnessed it, and he is rarely seen
without wearing his hat. The character allowed Gus Mercurios natural flair for comedy timing to show through, and quickly became a
favourite with viewers.
The role of Jessica Johnson is
played by Penne Hackforth-Jones. Jessica is
strong-willed and as competent as any man, and features equally in the action. Her
character was actually modelled on stories of a woman who lived at that time. Penne had an
extensive wardrobe designed for her in keeping with the period. "I had to learn how
to walk all over again with these clothes," said Penne. "You need to lift your
skirts and take very tiny steps and learn how to control the skirts, because if you run
one way the dress will go the other way. It was quite funny at first, but I think I've
mastered it now."5
The corrupt Lieutenant Keogh is
brutal and ruthless, but also a fool. Of the part, actor Bruce Kerr said, "The biggest
problem I faced was how to be a complete idiot, as Keogh is, and not look it. Keogh is
always outwitted and is a thundering idiot. I hope I achieved that."6 He
Edgeworth created Keogh, he immediately thought of Bruce Kerr for the
part. Kerr's first impression of the character was of a 'Sheriff of
Nottingham' type: "A typical villain without much reality," explained
Kerr. "He was evil through and through. No-one is really like that so I
had to give him some colouring. This was hard to do because Keogh was also
a complete idiot. The only opportunity to show a more human side of him
was through his relationship with Jessica Johnson. He really cared for her
and she brought out quite a different side of him to that seen in other
parts of the series."7
John Frawley appeared as a support artist in three
episodes as Jessicas father-in-law, as did Anne Pendlebury as Jessicas
simple-minded housekeeper Annie, although no explanation was given for her absence from
Major guest roles were minimal, with the regular
cast carrying most of the stories. However, appearances were made by many
well-known actors, including Judy Morris, Tony
Bonner, Michael Pate and Lynette Curran. In episode 4,
Golden Girl, Judith Durham (former lead singer with 'The Seekers') made her
acting debut playing a goldfields singer, in a role specially written for her by
brother-in-law Patrick Edgeworth. Patrick's brother (and Judiths husband), musician
Ron Edgeworth, scored a part as a pianist. Judith sang selections from six different songs
in the episode, including Maggie May, The Lord Is My Shepherd and
others of the gold rush period, plus one of her own compositions When Starlight
called for much horse-riding, and the lead actors spent three months
practicing around the Emu Bottom area,
which certainly paid off in lending great authenticity to the scenes.
Critics, who were shown episode 3,
Up To Scratch, at a preview luncheon at Emu Bottom, were unanimous in their
praise of the series. None compared it to Rush, and one described the plots as in
the style of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or Robin Hood.8
The Cash & Company title referred to the
description on the wanted posters of the trio, Jessica being the hitherto unidentified
third accomplice. A publicity offer for a Wanted: Cash & Co.
poster was met with an overwhelming response.
There was a minor variation in the opening titles on
different prints: Some display the actors name only, others also display the name of the
character they play. The first episode did not feature the stock opening or actor credits,
the title being displayed over the first scene.
In an unusual move, the Seven Network commissioned a
second series of 13 episodes before the first series went to air. Sevens faith in
the series was not misplaced - Cash & Company was an instant success, scoring a
rating of 32, the second highest of any programme on HSV-7 at the time. (First place went to
Homicide which achieved a peak rating of 54. Ironically, the success of Cash
& Company was cited by the network as a factor influencing their decision to
cancel Homicide.) The programme won a Logie Award for Best New Drama Series of
When filming of the first series was
completed in January 1975, and before the decision was made to go ahead with a second
batch of 13 episodes, Serge Lazareff decided to quit the show. "At the
time I finished in episode No. 13," said Lazareff, "the Seven Network had
bought 13 of Cash. They were discussing 13 more. I took the gamble
and decided to quit while I was in front. At the end of 13, I thought I
should be available because I have to try new things."9 He later stated that he felt the character of Cash had run its course, and that
also there were no firm contracts offered when he left.10
At that time discussion had taken place between the
producers and the Seven Network on whether to go ahead with 13 more episodes of Cash
& Company, or take up a new concept recommended to them called Tandarra.
A press report stated that Seven issued an ultimatum to Homestead Films that
unless Gerard Kennedy, who made a guest appearance in the final episode, was signed for the
new series they would not buy any further episodes.
Gerard Kennedy was considered a top drawcard,
following his success for the Nine Network as Kragg in Hunter and
Det. Banner in Division 4. Kennedy had been with the top rating Division 4 for five years
and wanted a change. Nine, anxious to retain his services, persuaded him to stay with the
show for a further 13 episodes on the understanding that he would play a major part in a
proposed Crawfords series titled Kelly Country. Nothing came of the proposal,
Gerard left Division 4, and Nine axed the programme one episode later. (Shortly
afterwards the 0-Ten and Seven Networks coincidentally axed their
police dramas Matlock Police and Homicide).
Gerard Kennedy was signed for the new series,
now renamed Tandarra due to the absence of Serge Lazareff as Cash. The title is taken
from the name of Jessica Johnsons property, although in Cash & Company
Tandarra was a name given to a local settlement
- Jessicas property was never referred to by name. Kennedys signing was
announced before Cash & Company had gone to air, and, like the others before,
he had to practice his horse-riding before filming commenced.
Gerard was introduced in the final episode of Cash
& Company as Ryler, a bounty hunter. Ryler is an Irishman who
turned to bounty hunting
after tracking down an outlaw who killed his wife. Tough, resourceful and professional, Ryler poses a far greater threat to Cash and Company than the incompetent Keogh, to the
extent that they must question their future together. As Ryler traces Sam and Joe to
Jessicas homestead, the trio decide to split up and the final scene shows Sam and Joe
parting company and riding
away in different directions.
Like Cash & Company,
Producers of Tandarra
were Patrick Edgeworth and Russell Hagg, and Jenny Henry was Associate Producer. As it was
also filmed at Emu Bottom, owner Hedley Elliott again received an Associate
Producers credit for his help and co-operation with location work. Edgeworth wrote
most of the scripts, the other writers being Everett de Roche, Alfred Johns and David
Boutland. Directors were Russell Hagg and Simon Wincer. 'The Bushwhackers' did not do the music for the follow-up, this being handled by
The first episode, which like its predecessor did
not feature the stock opening, picks up with Ryler hot on the trail of Joe Brady. Ryler
captures Brady, and soon finds himself on the wrong side of the law after crossing Lt.
Keogh. Ryler becomes convinced of Joes innocence and decides to help him, and they
return to Jessicas homestead. Ryler and Joe manage to clear their names and bring
about the arrest of Keogh. Ryler is invited to stay on at 'Tandarra' and he accepts.
Bruce Kerr made his final appearance in this
episode. Both he and the producers felt that the character of Lt. Keogh had
been taken as far as he could go, and Kerr was anxious to take a part as a surgeon in the ABC science fiction series
Andra (which featured Lisa Peers in the title role). "The
second series has a different concept to the first,"
said Kerr. "There would be a great danger of becoming typecast as an evil
person had I carried on with another 13."11
Tandarra therefore had a shift in emphasis
from Cash & Company. The fugitives from corrupt police theme was
dropped, and Tandarra settled down into routine adventures that Ryler, Joe and
Jessica would come across as part of their lives on the homestead. Because of this, Tandarra
lacks the depth and intrigue of its predecessor, although it is nonetheless quite a
polished and enjoyable show. In spite of the high hopes held by the network it did not
match the ratings performance of Cash, although it still achieved a
respectable rating of
Penne Hackforth-Jones and Gus
Mercurio again handled their roles very competently, and Gerard Kennedy as
Ryler presented a strong
screen presence. Rylers past unfolds slowly in the series, together with a
softening of his character. Kennedys Irish accent also gets better as the series
progresses. "It certainly was an enjoyable series to do," said Gerard. "I
had to stop myself from drifting off into other accents. It's also difficult to shake off
some of the Banner mannerisms that tend to become part of you after so long."12
Guest roles in Tandarra were also minimal, as
again the bulk of the stories were carried by the three leads. Guest artists
included George Mallaby, Norman Yemm, Terence Donovan, Max Gillies, Briony
Behets and Maurie Fields. Anne Pendlebury again appeared as Jessicas maid Annie, but
only in one episode. Tim Evans made a couple of cameo appearances as a drunken
lemonade salesman (actually the proprietor of a sly grog tent).
Tandarra premiered on February 9, 1976, less
than two months after filming was completed, and considerably sooner than
the mid-year premiere most industry pundits were predicting. The series ran for 13 episodes, although a contemporary press report
stated that the production would be expanded to 20 episodes, but this never eventuated.
Homestead Films were relying on
overseas sales to recoup the production costs of Tandarra. When Producers Patrick
Edgeworth and Rusell Hagg approached Seven with the Cash & Company follow-up idea, they were aware that
Seven would not pay more than their ceiling price of $36,000 an episode -
which applied for any
series. The problem was that Tandarra would cost at least $50,000 an episode. Cost-cutting was
not an option: "There was never any thought of half measures," said Hagg. "I
am sure we will recoup the money. There have already been some overseas feelers. It will
be shown at the Cannes Film Festival in April and that is when we will know."13
Government funding of $100,000 for Cash & Company was not available for Tandarra;
however, the necessary overseas sales were forthcoming, and Tandarra was also shown
in Britain by London Weekend Television starting in April 1976.
Although picking up where Cash & Company
left off, there is absolutely no reference whatsoever in Tandarra to the character
of Sam Cash - it is as if he never existed. Even flashback scenes in the first episode,
where Joe explains to Ryler how he got on the wrong side of the law, are carefully edited
so that Cash does not appear. Presumably this was done so that Tandarra could stand
alone as a series, however after the mood created in Cash and the emotive
splitting-up of the trio in the final episode it is somewhat of a let-down.
There was some repetition of storylines in Tandarra.
Episode 3, The Brothers, was very similar to The Intruders, episode
6 of Cash & Company - both concerning a group of thugs who takeover the
homestead and hold the occupants prisoner. Boxing was the theme of Cash episode 3,
Up To Scratch, and again in Tandarra episode 5, The Manly
Art, and a mysterious woman visitor to the homestead was the subject of Cash
episode 5, Dolly Mop, and also Tandarra episode 4, Plain Lizzy.
Visitors to the homestead as the
basis of a plot were much more common in Tandarra than Cash & Company.
Mike Preston, who previously appeared as Det. Delaney in Homicide, played one
such visitor in episode 8, Davey, which won him many accolades. "I gave
myself two years to try to learn the acting business," said Preston, whose first major
role was in Homicide. "This Tandarra story is the one which I hope
shows that I've paid my dues. It was written by Patrick Edgeworth with me in mind, and I
knew I had to make it work. Davey is the story of a big, giant-hearted simple-living
fellow who is accused of a murder. I was in a bit of a quandary about how to play him, but
I remembered being in Cornwall in England where the locals tend toward being big, friendly
guys like that. So as I approached Gerard Kennedy for the first scene I took on a Cornwall
accent. It surprised him a bit, but I think it worked."14
Although there was
occasionally a very subtle hint that there may possibly be some attraction
between Sam and Jessica in Cash & Company, romance didnt blossom
in either series until
the final episode of Tandarra. Publicity had promised that by the end of the series
Jessica would be won by either Ryler, Joe or a mysterious stranger. There was
a mysterious stranger in the last episode who looked like winning Jessicas heart,
but when Ryler revealed his true feelings for Jessica they proved to be mutual. Yet
another visitor to the homestead, Molly, provided the romantic interest for Joe.
Presumably they all lived happily ever after.
four awards: Penne Hackforth-Jones won a Penguin and a Sammy Award for Best Actress, Lyndall Rowe won a
Logie for Best Individual Performance By An Actress in ep. 4, Plain Lizzy, and
Clare Griffen won a Sammy for Best Costume Design. In addition, Gus
Mercurio and Patrick Edgeworth both received a Penguin Commendation.
Finally, mention should be made of the 1977 feature
film Raw Deal. Homestead Films were by now quite adept with the 1850s
Australian western setting as used in Cash & Company and Tandarra,
and this formula was again utilised in the production of Raw Deal. Incorrectly
referred to by some as 'the Tandarra movie', it did feature Gerard Kennedy and Gus
Mercurio in the lead roles, but they played two characters called Palmer and Ben, not Ryler and Brady. The film was about a gun salesman and a bounty hunter who are enlisted to
stop some revolutionaries for reward only to be double-crossed themselves. It was produced
by Patrick Edgeworth and Russell Hagg, and written by Edgeworth and directed by Hagg. The
cast also featured Norman Yemm, Rod Mullinar and Christopher Pate, and was the final
production of Homestead Films brief but successful existence.
CASH & COMPANY / TANDARRA
1. Woman's Day, Feb 17, 1975.
2. The Bushwackers also
performed the theme for the 1975 ABC series Ben Hall.
3. TV Times, April 19, 1975.
4. Albert Moran, Morans Guide To Australian TV Series, (Australian Film
Television & Radio School 1993), p. 103. The errors in this work are numerous.
5. TV Week, July 26, 1975.
6. TV Week, July 12, 1975.
7. TV Times, Aug 16, 1975.
8. About a year previously Patrick Edgeworth wrote a script for Matlock Police (ep.
144 Two To One Against) which he described as "like Butch Cassidy and the
Sundance Kid come to Matlock".
9. South Australia
TV Guide, Aug
10. TV Week, Nov 19, 1977.
11. TV Times, Aug 16, 1975.
12. TV Week, Feb 21, 1976.
13. Sunday Press, Feb 1, 1976.
14. TV Times, March 27, 1976.