CLASSIC AUSTRALIAN TELEVISION

DYNASTY


Copyright © 2013 Don Storey.  All rights reserved.


DYNASTY

EPISODE DETAILS

 

HOME

 

INTERVIEWS

 

CHRONOLOGICAL
OVERVIEW

 

F.A.Q.

 

LINKS


Dynasty was a critically acclaimed, award-winning series produced by the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) in 1970-71. Not to be confused with the 1980’s American soap opera, Dynasty was developed from a novel of the same name written by Tony Morphett. The novel was the basis for a television play, which then became a series.

Dynasty was concerned with the intrigues and conflicts of the Mason family, owners of a powerful media empire. The Mason Corporation Board controls a daily newspaper, ‘The Standard’, and a television station, MSN Channel 6. The head of the family and chairman of the board is Jack Mason, played by John Tate. A newspaperman like his father before him, Jack is an old-style autocratic owner-publisher determined to retain control.

Jack has three sons, John, David and Peter. John Mason, the eldest at 42, is his father’s lieutenant on the newspaper with ambitions of making it his own, and is played by Ron Graham. David Mason is a lawyer and the administrator of the whole media complex, and is played by Kevin Miles. Peter, the youngest son and manager of the television station, is played by Nick Tate. All three sons are often professionally hostile to one another, and each continually tries to manipulate events to achieve their personal aims and strengthen their own power base.

John Tate and Nick Tate were father and son in real life. John Tate left Australia for a successful acting career in England, and was brought back to Australia by Executive Producer Eric Tayler especially for the role. Nick Tate had appeared extensively in various Australian and British series, including a lead role opposite Ed Deveraux in the original mini-series of My Brother Jack. Ron Graham had also appeared extensively in local productions, and Kevin Miles had previously appeared in lead roles in both Delta and The Link Men.

A fifth member of the board is Jacob Goldberg, a Jewish financier who bought his way into the company after fleeing Germany, and is played by Owen Weingott. Former Hunter lead Tony Ward played Nigel Dayton, a trouble-shooter and hatchet man for Coriolan Motors, a firm in which David Mason has some financial interest. Ben Gabriel (formerly of Contrabandits) played ‘Unk’ Martel, editor of ‘The Standard’, and an old and trusted friend of Jack Mason.

Other regular characters are John’s wife Kathy, played by Anne Haddy; Peter’s wife Pat, played by Pat Bishop; Jack’s secretary Maggie Tench, played by Lyn James; and John and Kathy’s son Christopher, a university student who operates an underground newspaper, played by Serge Lazareff. (Lazareff later had lead roles in The Spoiler, Cash & Company, The Rise And Fall Of Wellington Boots and Young Ramsay). Tom Oliver appeared in several episodes as police reporter Tom Fenwick.

Tony Morphett commenced writing the ‘Dynasty’ novel in December 1965, and it was published in hardback in 1967. (A paperback edition followed in 1970, featuring a photo of the TV series cast on the cover). The novel became the basis for a television play, also written by Morphett, and was produced in 1969 by the ABC at their Melbourne studios. It was screened in October 1969 by the ABC as one instalment in an anthology series of six unrelated plays. The play was a completely different story from the novel, and was written so that it could be a typical episode of a possible series. “At that time I had discussions with the ABC about the possibility of a series,” said Morphett, “and as a result I wrote the script which became the play, but which I always thought of as the pilot for a series.”1

The original play had some different cast members. Jack Mason was played by Brian James, and Mark McManus appeared as Peter Mason. Alan Hopgood played Jacob Goldberg, and Kathy Mason was portrayed by Patsy King. Because of this, the play was never incorporated into the series. Tony Morphett won a Penguin Award for writing the play.

Morphett teamed up with Glyn Davies, a British scriptwriter who came to Australia in 1967 and wrote for Crawford Productions and also devised The Link Men for TCN-9. They formed a company (Glyn Davies Associates, later Davies-Morphett Productions), and put together ten story ideas for a Dynasty series. Morphett wrote a script, and the ABC gave the go-ahead to produce a series.

Production shifted to Sydney for the series, which was made in-house by the ABC, commencing in August 1970. It was shot in black and white using the film/video integration method (film for exterior location work, video for interior studio scenes). Dynasty premiered in October 1970 across Australia.

Nick Tate was optimistic about the series, which he considered was the greatest production yet made in Australia: “It has the technical excellence of a British series like The Power Game and The Troubleshooters, and the dramatic filming and the slick script of the best U.S. dramatic series. To me Tony Morphett’s dialogue is the most believable of any show I have seen except, perhaps, The Troubleshooters. I am convinced that Dynasty will be a tremendous hit.”2

Right from the start, Dynasty established a solid core of viewers, and received much acclaim from the critics. Dynasty was a quality production - the acting, direction, editing and writing were of a particularly high standard. Episodes covered a wide range of issues, and the setting allowed many newsworthy subjects to be dealt with, such as drugs, politics, industrial espionage, sport, fashion, business, pop culture and music. The private lives, intrigues and power struggles of the characters were also explored, as were the moral aspects of journalism and professional and personal ethics.

Laurie Lewis was responsible for the excellent theme music for the series, which was let down by a rather ordinary visual opening sequence. The title ‘Tony Morphett’s Dynasty’ was preceded by a scene of an empty boardroom chair with the actors credits on the table placeholders.

Tony Morphett described some of the characters he created: “David is interesting because he’s the universal administrator who happens to be running a newspaper. But he doesn’t need to be. He could be equally happy running an auto plant or government department. He’s not like me, and he interests me because his obsession is ill defined. All three of them have obsessions, and each of them has fascinated me in turn.

“Peter’s obsession with television is consequent upon it being the ‘now’ medium. It’s what’s happening. He thinks of himself as being younger, perhaps, than he is, say, forever 25. He’s actually in his early 30’s.

“When I was writing the book I had just lost another novel through the threat of a defamation action. This was a loss of 18 months work, so I was writing ‘Dynasty’ out of every thread of discipline I possessed. Out of my obsession came John, to whom nothing else matters except getting the next day’s newspaper out – right, beautiful and dead accurate. In fact John has changed, because Ron Graham has given him more humanity and warmth. I’ve had to write around this. It has meant making his wife Kathy more sympathetic. She is really a neglected woman who, because she is neglected, looks at other men occasionally. She’s a lonely woman with her own needs who’s been widowed by a newspaper. The other two brothers have to be slightly different to compensate and keep the audience’s sympathies in the right balance.

“Goldberg is a Jew who was a German nationalist and had to get out of Germany. He represents the various external forces that operated on Australia. I wanted a bloke who had come to the country poor, had become rich, and had brought a different view of the world to this very tight knit family.”3

Tony Morphett wrote seven of the ten episodes. Peter Schreck, John Dingwall and Glyn Davies each contributed one script. Tony Morphett was joint winner of an Awgie Award for Best Script For A TV Drama Series (1971) for episode 5, ‘Cry Me A River’ (shared with John Dingwall for Division 4 episode 54, 'Johnny Reb'), and the series won a TV Week Logie Award for Best New Drama Series. The script for episode 6, ‘Paper Of The People’, was included in Close-Up, a text book for media students.4

Executive Producer of the series was Eric Tayler (previously Producer of the ABC series Contrabandits), however, as he was shortly afterwards required to work on the new ABC mini-series Dead Men Running, Alan Burke took over the responsibilities of Executive Producer.

Episode 2, ‘Catwalk’, was the basis for a spin-off series. The episode concerned the staff of a glossy women’s magazine, and featured John Wood, John Forgeham, Cecily Polson and Cornelia Frances in the lead guest roles. The spin-off, Catwalk, was a half-hour series of 13 episodes made by Davies-Morphett Productions for the Seven Network. It retained the same cast, but a number of changes were made, including the names of the magazine and the lead characters. Although it was a spin-off, Catwalk was a separate entity and did not fit in with the continuity of the Dynasty series. (See Catwalk section elsewhere on this site).

Tony Morphett was very pleased with the way his novel came to life on television: “The directors are marvellous, the cast is brilliant and I’m in love with the whole series. It’s not good Australian television, it’s good television. If I were to sit down now and read ‘Dynasty’, I would be seeing John Tate and company. I couldn’t recapture my visual impressions, though they are described differently. Unk, the editor, from his description would be a person like Leo McKern, but now I can’t see him as anyone but Ben Gabriel. Eric Tayler brought John Tate out from London, not because he was Nick’s father but because John and Nick happened to be the best actors for the roles. Anne Haddy was born to play Kathy, and Peter’s wife is called Pat because I knew I would be writing for Pat Bishop.”5

“As soon as I read it, I knew it had to be successful,” said Glyn Davies. “It had that excellence of writing and scope that makes a television series. I think the secret of success is the support of the ABC and the excellent team spirit in the whole unit. With writers of the calibre of Tony Morphett we were able to take the characters from the book and build round them new and dramatic situations which suited television production. The result in my opinion was the first Australian TV series based on character and dialogue more than on violent action.”6

Notwithstanding, there was still plenty of action in the series, and resident stuntman Bob Woodham was kept busy being flung through windscreens, driving cars into rivers and jumping off cliffs.

The success of the first series inevitably led to ideas for a second series. “I’d love to go into a second series,” said Tony Morphett. “I’ve picked up the characters again and I’ve developed them into new situations but I’m only starting to scratch the surface. I’m fascinated by it.”7

A second series was produced in 1971, with a few changes. John Tate was not available to appear in the series due to previous work commitments in England. Consequently, the character of Jack Mason was written out by being killed in a plane crash. Of course, this led to a shifting of the balance of power within the Mason empire, with concomitant intrigue. Anne Haddy also had theatre commitments, and so the role of Kathy Mason was not as prominent. Greater emphasis was placed on activities outside the boardroom with more location filming, and the opening titles were greatly improved with various scenes of the different actors. Thirteen episodes were made of the second series, bringing the total number of episodes to 23. Tony Morphett again wrote about half of the episodes, with scripts for the other half coming from a number of writers including Peter Schreck and Glyn Davies. The second series went to air in August 1971.

Tony Morphett won a Penguin Award for the script of episode 12, ‘The Killing Ground’. The lead guest role was that of a female journalist who was captured by the Viet Cong, and returned to Australia pregnant by her captor. Morphett was convinced that the role was ‘unplayable’, but Director Eric Tayler suggested that Kerry Maguire would be a good choice; Morphett remembered seeing her earlier in an episode of Riptide, and she got the part. Because of her good performance, Kerry was subsequently cast as the female lead in Devlin, a pilot for a proposed series produced by Davies-Morphett for the ABC.8 Coincidentally, while ‘The Killing Ground’ was in production, in real-life Australian journalist Catherine Webb was captured and held in Cambodia, and was believed dead until she was dramatically released.

Morphett also picked up a Logie Award for Best Scriptwriter for the second series, and Penguin Commendations were given to Kevin Miles for acting and Alan Burke for production.

The abilities of stuntman Bob Woodham inspired Tony Morphett to write episode 14, 'Corrida For A Stuntman', which concerned the difficulties faced by a television stuntman making a comeback following an accident. Woodham had his work cut out for him in the episode, which required a number of stunts to be performed.

Episode 18, ‘Whatever Happened To Jamie Brooks?’, was a sequel to events from episode 7, ‘Second Pressure’, from the first series. Gerard Maguire played the lead guest role in both episodes. “Tony Morphett, who wrote Dynasty, got me to play a character named Jamie Brooks, who tries to assassinate a visiting dictator,” said Maguire. “It sounds like a pretty run-of-the-mill story idea, but the difference was that the story investigated sanity in a fairly in-depth way. It looked at the fine line between sanity and insanity.”9

In June 1971 there was talk of a third series of Dynasty, with the possibility of a shift into colour production. It was proposed that the last episode of the current series be filmed in colour to interest overseas buyers. By September, it had become apparent that the ABC was not in a position to finance a third series in the first half of 1972. As there was strong interest from commercial networks, as well as a likely sale to England, the ABC had agreed to relinquish its rights to the series if another buyer could be found. Although it would prefer to retain the series, the ABC did not wish their financial constraints to deny continuity of employment to the cast and crew who had established the series. “The ABC has not dropped Dynasty,” said John Cameron, head of the ABC Drama Department. “If the commercial negotiations prove fruitless we shall certainly consider a third series for the next financial year.”10

The Seven Network in particular was very keen to screen Dynasty and offered a substantial amount for the planned third series, and there was strong interest from British television. Negotiations had progressed to a point where it was thought that production of a third series in colour could commence as early as November 1971. As it happened, the planning came to nothing and a third series of Dynasty did not eventuate. The total number of episodes stood at 23 (24 including the play).

Tony Morphett’s next project was devising and writing the successful serial Certain Women for the ABC. Morphett has continued to be involved in television production, his credits including the long-running series Blue Heelers. Dynasty has not been screened since the advent of colour television in 1975 - a regrettable fate for a series of this calibre.

 

DYNASTY EPISODE DETAILS

 

1. TV Times, Nov 4, 1970.
2. TV Week, Sept 19, 1970.
3. TV Times, Nov 4, 1970.
4. Don Reid, Frank Bladwell, Close-Up - Scripts From National Television's Second Decade, (Macmillan Australia 1971)
5. TV Times, Nov 4, 1970.
6. TV Week, April 3, 1971.
7. TV Times, Nov 4, 1970.
8. Devlin did not go into series production.
9. TV Times, May 15, 1976.
10. TV Times, Sept 18, 1971.

 


The principal cast of Dynasty: (back, l to r) Ron Graham, Kevin Miles, Nick Tate; (front) John Tate.


"This paper has written a history of this city - one day at a time. It is my voice." Jack Mason makes a point waving a copy of his beloved 'Standard'.


Ron Graham as John Mason.


Kevin Miles as David Mason.


Owen Weingott as Jacob Goldberg.


Lyn James as Maggie Tench, Jack Mason's secretary.


Tony Ward appeared as Nigel Dayton, trouble-shooter and hatchet man for Coriolan Motors.


Anne Haddy as John's wife Kathy Mason.


The unimaginative opening titles for the first series.


John Tate, Nick Tate and Ron Graham.


Ben Gabriel as 'Unk' Martel, editor of 'The Standard', with John Tate as Jack Mason.


Serge Lazareff as Christopher Mason (left), with Ron Graham as his father John Mason.


John Tate and Nick Tate.


Pat Bishop as Peter's wife Pat, and Nick Tate as Peter.


Nick Tate as Peter Mason and John Tate as Jack Mason in a boardroom scene.


The improved opening titles for the second series.


Pat Bishop, Ron Graham and Anne Haddy in a party scene.


Stuntman Bob Woodham goes flying through the air after crashing a motorcycle into a VW for a Dynasty episode.


Anne Haddy and Nick Tate.


Anne Haddy and Pat Bishop.


Producer Tom Jeffrey (left) talking with Nick Tate.