CLASSIC AUSTRALIAN TELEVISION

CASH & COMPANY
TANDARRA


Copyright 2013 Don Storey.  All rights reserved.


CASH & COMPANY
 TANDARRA
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The gold rush days of the 1850’s were a significant part of Australia’s 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-7’s historical series Jonah was actually set just before gold was discovered and only touched on the era. The ABC’s Rush was the first series of any note to deal with the period, and was closely followed by Homestead Film’s 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 fact."1

Patrick Edgeworth and Russell Hagg were joint Producers 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 Producer’s credit.

The show’s 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 it’s 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 July 16.

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 Brady’s partner for not having a mining licence, and Brady would have been next if not for Cash’s timely intervention.

Brady’s 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 Moran’s Guide To Australian TV Series, Cash & Company is not about their ‘cavalier attitude to mining licences and other people’s 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 Mercurio’s 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 did.

When Patrick 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 Jessica’s father-in-law, as did Anne Pendlebury as Jessica’s simple-minded housekeeper Annie, although no explanation was given for her absence from other episodes.

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 Judith’s 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 Fades’.

The scripts 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. Seven’s 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 1975.

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 respective Crawford 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 Johnson’s property, although in Cash & Company ‘Tandarra’ was a name given to a local settlement - Jessica’s property was never referred to by name. Kennedy’s 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 Jessica’s 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 Producer’s 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 Jon Mol.

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 Joe’s innocence and decides to help him, and they return to Jessica’s 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 25.

Penne Hackforth-Jones and Gus Mercurio again handled their roles very competently, and Gerard Kennedy as Ryler presented a strong screen presence. Ryler’s past unfolds slowly in the series, together with a softening of his character. Kennedy’s 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 Jessica’s 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 didn’t 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 indeed a mysterious stranger in the last episode who looked like winning Jessica’s 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.

Tandarra won 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 1850’s 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 Film’s brief but successful existence.

 

CASH & COMPANY / TANDARRA
EPISODE DETAILS

 

 

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, Moran’s 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 9, 1975.
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.



Gus Mercurio as Joe Brady, Penne Hackforth-Jones as Jessica Johnson and Serge Lazareff as Sam Cash - the three principal characters in Cash & Company.


Penne Hackforth-Jones.


The opening titles for Cash & Company. Two variations appeared on different prints, one without the character names as shown in the lower right corner.


Anne Pendlebury had a support role as Annie, Jessica’s simple-minded housekeeper.


Bruce Kerr played the corrupt Lieutenant Keogh, pictured here with Lynette Curran in a scene from Cash & Company episode 9 ‘Home Brewed’.


Serge Lazareff and Anne Pendlebury during a break in filming.


Serge Lazareff, Penne Hackforth-Jones and Gus Mercurio.


Serge Lazareff as Sam Cash.


Gus Mercurio as Joe, Penne Hackforth-Jones as Jessica and Serge Lazareff as Sam.


One of the promotional Cash & Company wanted posters.


An advertisement for Cash & Company that appeared in the South Australian press.


Gus Mercurio as Joe Brady gives Anne Pendlebury as Annie some shooting lessons.


The Tandarra cast: Gus Mercurio as Joe Brady, Gerard Kennedy as Ryler and Penne Hackforth-Jones as Jessica Johnson.


Gerard Kennedy as Ryler, who always wore a chamois shirt.


A scene from Tandarra episode 3, 'The Brothers'.


It was decided that Jessica Johnson would not ride side-saddle, as was customary for women of the era, but would ride astride to highlight her independent character. It also fitted in with sequences where she was mistaken for a man.


Gus Mercurio (full name Augustino Eugenio Mercurio) as Joe Brady.


Typical Tandarra scenes.


Tandarra opening titles.


Left: Penne Hackforth-Jones as Jessica Johnson. Right: The Tandarra cast.


Off the set, Penne Hackforth-Jones in a Cash & Company T-shirt.