Before 1974, various
times in Australia's history were highlighted in a number of period dramas, but
none centred on the historically significant 1850's gold rush. The 1960 series Whiplash
was set during the gold rush era, but it did not deal directly with the subject (it was in
effect an American western filmed in Australia), and Jonah, produced in 1962, was
set immediately before the gold rush, only just touching on the era.
In 1974 the Australian Broadcasting
Commission took the initiative and produced the high quality, critically acclaimed series Rush.
Two series were made of Rush, and they were effectively two
different programmes. The first series was set in Victoria during the gold
rush of the 1850's, and was produced in Melbourne and filmed in black and
white. A second series went to air two years later, and the period and
location was changed to the 1860's in New South Wales. This time it was
produced in Sydney, filmed in colour and featured an almost entirely new
cast line-up - the only character carried over from the original was that
of Sergeant McKellar, played by
ABC Producer James Davern first proposed the concept of Rush in 1971. Problems
caused by limited finance, together with the large amount of research needed, not to
mention uncertainties regarding the proposed introduction date of colour television,
caused progress to be delayed for two years.
In August 1973 pre-production planning began in earnest. Oscar Whitbread, one of the
pioneer producers for the ABC who had worked on many of their television plays, was
appointed Executive Producer. Scriptwriters Howard Griffiths and Cliff Green, under the
supervision of Script Editor Lynn Bayonas, started researching the 1850's period. They
created characters and added detail to storylines originally suggested by Davern. Howard
Griffiths had previously worked for Crawfords, writing for Homicide, Hunter
and Division 4, and Cliff Green, who had also worked for Crawfords, previously
wrote the ABC mini-series Marion (and collected some awards for it).
Gold was discovered in Victoria in 1851, and sparked of a massive rush as people flocked
to the goldfields to seek their fortune. Settlements sprang up almost overnight, out of
which many towns, including Ballarat, grew and/or prospered.1 Rush was set on the Victorian goldfields in 1852 in the fictitious
settlement of Crockers Gully.
"Uppermost in our minds was the type of series we didn't want to make,"
said Whitbread. "We were strongly against other people's concepts of 'Westernising'
Australian history, and had in mind that horrible disaster Whiplash."2
The ABC went to great lengths to ensure the series was historically accurate.
The drawings and lithographs of renowned goldfields artist S.T. Gill
proved a valuable pictorial reference. Location
Designer Robby Perkins spent five months visiting museums in Ballarat and Melbourne. He
did much research at Sovereign Hill (an authentically reconstructed mining town in
Ballarat), which included copying patterns for the manufacture of props. Many of the props
were actually made by Sovereign Hill staff: "Police and soldier uniforms, picks,
crowbars, lamps, cradles, panning dishes and shovels were all made for us from original
patterns," said Perkins.3
Interior scenes were filmed at the ABC's Melbourne studios. An external set for the
Crockers Gully goldfield was built on a 230 acre property at Lysterfield, on the eastern
outskirts of Melbourne. The whole property was used for filming, but the town itself only
occupied about two acres. Sixty tents were erected, all made in the same manner as they
were during the gold rush. Buildings were constructed using the same type of timber as the
originals, which had to be transported from Buxton, north-east of Melbourne.
The site that was chosen was not quite right, so some modifications were made: "A
bulldozer was used to reshape the hillside on which the police lines stand,"
explained Perkins. "The cattle dam was converted to a creek and a timber bridge built
across it. We used a back hoe to dig dozens of mine shafts and truckloads of quartz and
screenings were dumped around the shafts to simulate the correct type of shingle found in
Logs, bark and saplings were utilised for construction of mine poppet-heads, tent frames,
tethering rails, crude 'bush' furniture and an Aboriginal camp.
A pond was reconstructed to take advantage of expected winter rains. "We have built
banks which we hope will contain the floods, and constructed a dam with sluice gates
1850's style," said Production Manager Frank Brown. "Much of the series is set
in winter months so we want it pretty wet and muddy - but we hope we don't get more rain
than we bargain for!"5
Filming of Rush commenced in March 1974. Thirteen 50 minute episodes were planned,
but this was later packaged as twelve episodes with the first episode being double length
at 100 minutes.
Historical dramas, with their need to recreate period settings, costumes and other
details, are inherently more expensive to produce than contemporary programmes. The budget
for the first series of Rush was around $20,000 per episode, making it the most
costly programme produced by the ABC at that time. Some episodes required up to 90 actors
and extras, as a large number of people were required to 'populate' the goldfields town.
Crowds and horses posed problems for the producers: "Crowd scenes often required more
diggers than the budget could afford," explained Oscar Whitbread. "Horses were
always a problem. They wouldn't stand still. Or they wouldn't move when they were supposed
to - and this meant many retakes."6
Terence Donovan was initially offered one of the lead roles as Sgt. Robert McKellar.
Donovan was then appearing in a long-running role as Det. Mick Peters in Crawford
Production's Division 4, but Crawfords agreed to release him for 13 weeks to make Rush.
However, by early 1974 the production schedule had been expanded to 26 weeks, and Donovan
had to reluctantly refuse the role. "Crawfords said they were willing to let me go
for 16 weeks," said Terry, "but for the other 10 weeks the ABC would have to
work in with my Division 4 schedules. The ABC felt there might be too many problems
in this so it was then up to me to choose whether to drop out of Division 4 or
forget about Rush. I chose to stay with Division 4 because Crawfords had
bent over backwards to help me."7
Former Spyforce actor Peter Sumner, who had just completed a role in
the ABC soap Certain
Women, was also considered for a lead role in Rush. He knocked it back:
"It is a very good part and I thought about it for a long time before deciding
against it," he said.8
The role of McKellar finally went to John Waters. Producer Oscar Whitbread cast Waters in Rush
after being impressed by his performance in a guest role in Homicide episode 398,
'Mad Dog Kelly'.
Robert McKellar is the Crockers Gully Police Sergeant, who has a rather colourful past.
McKellar was in the Army in England, until he shot a Sergeant with whose wife he was
having an affair, and was subsequently transported to Australia as a convict. He was
released on a ticket-of-leave after four years and joined the Victoria Police. McKellar is
subordinate to Gold Commissioner Fitzalan, and disagrees with Fitzalan's administration of
the law. McKellar identifies with the miners and their problems, and is often at
loggerheads with Fitzalan - but first and foremost he is a policeman and will do his duty.
Scriptwriter Howard Griffiths said: "McKellar is probably the only character almost
entirely created because we needed somebody sympathetic from the audience point of view,
and he was written to be popular, although Waters' performance was a bonus for us. The
other characters were drawn from material written about people on the goldfields at that
Brendon Lunney plays the other lead role of Edmund Fitzalan, the Gold Commissioner.
Fitzalan comes from a well-heeled family, and is the youngest son of a family of seven. He
has ambitions to obtain a post in the administration of the colony. He keeps order in the
colony with a strict hand, and has little sympathy for the miners. He is an insensitive
aristocrat and has a strong sense of his own superiority.
Lunney had a difficult job portraying the character, who bore no resemblance to his
real-life personality. "Until Rush I had always been cast as the
all-Australian boy anywhere between the ages of 18 and 25," said Lunney, "so I
immediately saw Rush as a big challenge. For a while I thought it was going to be a
disaster because I just couldn't relate to the character. Besides the fact that Fitzalan
was a real bastard and an upper class British one at that, I had to learn a lot of little
things to make the characterisation right. I found the accent difficult to master and I'm
still not happy with it."10
It is interesting to note that John Waters was originally cast in the role of Fitzalan.
When it was decided that a younger Fitzalan was required, Waters was given the role of
McKellar. "I was happy with the change," said Waters, "because I liked
McKellar and felt better suited to play him than Fitzalan. Still, I didn't expect him to
be as popular as he was. I knew he was written to be the most sympathetic of the leads,
one with whom viewers could identify."11
A third major role was that of Sarah Lucas, portrayed by Olivia Hamnett. Sarah is a
well-educated, intelligent young widow who becomes the Crockers Gully correspondent for
'The Ballarat Times' newspaper. Sarah's husband, a lawyer, died on the ship during the voyage to
Australia. As she still has all his legal books, Sarah finds herself becoming something of
a 'bush lawyer' as people turn to her for advice. She becomes more and more involved in
the diggers' cause and the plight of the poor. "Sarah's really quite an emancipated
young woman," said Olivia. "She's even been described as the Germaine Greer of
the 1850's, but let's just say she's not short of a word or two."12
Olivia, who had only recently arrived in Australia from Britain, found she could easily
relate to the character: "I was offered the part of Sarah Lucas only a few months
after we'd come out from England. Although we come from different periods of history, we
had quite a lot in common and I could understand her views."13
Another three support characters rounded out the cast. Peter Flett played David Woods, the
only doctor in the district. Woods came to Australia working his passage as the ship's
surgeon, but he is no longer interested in medicine and instead seeks adventure and gold.
Selfish, immature and a gambler, Woods only practices medicine when he is forced into it.
Former Homicide cop Alwyn Kurts played Lansdowne, a
wealthy squatter who occupies land near the
diggings, and is involved with the governing of the colony. Lansdowne shares many cultural
values with Fitzalan, but with other values they contrast. Lansdowne cares more about
money than position. McKellar loathes him.
Another regular character is George Williams, a miner played by Max Meldrum. Williams has
a wife and children in England, and he misses them. He is a strict Methodist, a
non-drinker and a lay preacher. He stands on principles and finds himself in a prominent
role as a diggers' representative.
The character of Williams was created when Scriptwriter Howard Griffiths was given some
letters written by a Welshman who migrated to Australia. "The letters covered the
period 1853 - 1880," said Griffiths. "The range of emotions from optimism at the
beginning to resignation at the end is incredible."14
Meldrum thought there was a casting error when he was chosen for the part. "Williams
was described as a big burly Welshman, the complete physical opposite of me," he
said. "However, it turned out that how he looks didn't have much bearing on his
philosophies, so his description was altered to fit me."15
Meldrum also said that Rush was the most important role in his career thus far:
"The character was developing all the time and that, coupled with the depth of his
interactions with other characters, made it the most interesting thing I've done. It's
also the most satisfying part I've played in terms of maintaining the consistency of a
character over a six-month production period."16
The focus of Rush was on the people of the time rather than events. Executive
Producer Oscar Whitbread said the people were paramount to the series: "We were not
after a cops and robbers show in period dressing."17
A lack of colour facilities at the ABC studios in Melbourne caused the series to be
produced in black and white. The short-sightedness of this decision astounded people in
the industry, especially as the ABC in Sydney had already made the historical mini-series Seven
Little Australians in colour. By the time the series was completed only a matter of
months elapsed before the scheduled start of colour television in early 1975. Ironically,
anecdotal reports claim that when the budget for black and white film ran out towards the
end of the first series, colour film held in stock had to be used for exterior scenes.
Indeed, colour footage of the first series filmed for the ABC's Weekend Magazine
went to air in 1996 as part of the ABC's 40 years of television special.
In July 1974, after four episodes had been completed, some media reports suggested that Rush
might be scrapped. The reports said that the series was in financial trouble due to a huge
budget blow-out, and that it probably wouldn't go to air. The reports also suggested that
the first episode was not up to scratch and required heavy cutting down to 90 minutes.
Industrial trouble and the fact that the series was shot in black and white
were also cited as
contributing factors to its premature demise. As it turned out there were some financial
problems, but the series was completed as planned, including the opening episode running
at its full 100 minute length.
Critics were given a preview of the series on location at the Lysterfield set, at was
probably the muddiest media reception ever held. Episode 4, 'Toe The Scratch And Never Say
Die', was shown, followed by a wet and windy barbecue.
Rush had its premiere in Melbourne on August 20, 1974, and was followed shortly
after in other states. Some critics said the show was excellent, while others thought the
first double-length episode lacked pace. By the time the second episode had been screened
the critics were united in their praise, and John Waters' brooding portrayal of Sgt.
McKellar was consistently singled out for favourable comment.
Waters thought McKellar was
easy for the audience to identify with: "He was the one through whose eyes
the viewer saw the story," he said.
"He would be standing there saying nothing while the other characters
waffled on, and he saw right through their little games. The audience knew
he was seeing through them, and because of him they could also see through
the Fitzalans and the Lansdownes, see the way these imperialists were
exploiting the people."18
Most critics were amazed that the series had been filmed in black and white so close to
the introduction of colour television. Their general view was that because the series was
so expensive it would have been better to spend a little more filming in colour with the
hope of recouping money from overseas sales, rather than film in black and white and thus
ensuring almost no foreign sales.
The ABC's Programme Manager in Victoria, Peter Dell, responded to the criticism: "It
would have been a waste of public money to make Rush in colour. Rush was
conceived and written to be produced in the ABC television studios in Melbourne -
equipped, staffed and ready to go. To have left this equipment and staff idle while Rush
was made elsewhere would have been irresponsible. Why did we not postpone Rush
until ABC colour facilities were ready? The ABC is in continuous drama production in
Melbourne. We would therefore have been making a drama series in 1974 for showing in black
and white in any case. A great many people in the ABC share some disappointment that Rush
was not made in colour. However, it is inevitable that the move into colour television
should have produced this sort of situation."19
There were many guest actors of note in the series, among them Mike Preston (formerly of Homicide),
Terry Norris (Bellbird), Terence Donovan (Division 4), Helen Hemingway (The
Box), John Stanton (Bellbird, Homicide), Andrew McFarlane (Division 4),
Rod Mullinar (Hunter, Ryan), Lynette Curran (Bellbird) and Gerard
Kennedy (Hunter, Division 4).
Crawford Productions gave Gerard Kennedy leave from his Division 4 role of Det.
Sgt. Banner to appear in one episode, No. 4 'Toe The Scratch And Never Say Die'. "I
was very impressed with the series, the characters are so real," said Gerard.
"It was nice to have a break from Division 4 and try something new, even
though it did mean quite a load with my heavy Division 4 commitments."20
In the episode Gerard plays bare-knuckle fighter Jim Dawson, which included a gruelling
fight scene. "It took eight hours to film," said Kennedy of the fight scene.
"The fellow I fought, Chris Peters, is a wrestler and he was exhausted, so you can
imagine the state I was in at the finish!"21
Rush very adeptly captured the atmosphere of the gold rush era - the miners, the
diggings, the sly grog, the troopers, etc. "We deal with the period leading up to
Eureka, a time when emotions were rising and tension was growing," said Whitbread.
"It's a fascinating period of our history."22
The authentic external sets gave the cast and crew a real insight into the hardships of
the era. "We've had every type of weather imaginable, and when it rains here it
really gets muddy," said Olivia Hamnett. "It's given us a first-hand experience
of the conditions the early pioneers had to put up with."23 Olivia said that physically
it was the toughest role she had ever played: "We worked long hours into the cold
nights out on the site and it was sometimes very muddy and so slippery that you always had
to be on your guard."24
During one scene written to take place in heavy rain, Olivia and Peter Flett spent four
hours being doused by fire brigade hoses. "My costume shrank and we had a dickens of
a job getting it off," said Olivia. "Then there was the scene where Sarah
arrives by boat from England. That was filmed on a beach near Frankston in sweltering hot
weather. I was dressed in layers of period clothing. When we'd finished the scene my
costume had to be peeled off."25
Wardrobe in itself presented a significant hurdle to overcome. Oscar Whitbread said:
"Our wardrobe doesn't go back as far as the minefields era so a complete new wardrobe
had to be created."26
"The costume I had to wear took a bit of getting used to," said Olivia Hamnett.
"It had dozens of petticoats underneath it, which made trying to mount a horse rather
difficult. At one time Brendon (Lunney) had to pull me down from a horse. He stumbled and
I fell on top of him, but you couldn't even see him, he was hidden under my dress!"27
Alwyn Kurts related a story where his character Lansdowne organised a fox hunt for the
local gentry: "They asked me if I could ride, and I said I could sit on a horse. We
had the hunt club crowd there acting as extras and watching the fun. Brendon Lunney and I
were supposed to call up the hunters and lead them off. It sounded simple enough. I
imagined we would just trot a few yards out of camera shot. But not so. The horses took
off like rockets and we had no hope of stopping them. The hunt club crowd are yelling out
'Tally Ho' or whatever it is they yell and they are making a heck of a din. Anyway, one
fellow crashed into a fence and was tossed over. My horse charged under a tree and I was
left hanging on to a bough. One of the cameramen was huddled up on the ground expecting to
be trampled. You've never seen such a schamozzle. Anyway, finally we got it right. But I
couldn't walk for three days afterwards."28
Rush proved to be a very popular programme, in spite of its awkward timeslot - it
went to air in an 8:00 PM weeknight slot, competing against other channels showing
one-hour programmes commencing from 7:30 PM. And in Melbourne it had the additional handicap of being
up against the second half of the top-rating series Homicide.
Oscar Whitbread commented on the success of the series: "I knew if we could entertain
with real people and real situations we could win, but I must admit there were times when
I had my doubts. After about three months production though, I ran across so many people
who knew of Rush and saw so many news stories that I knew the interest was
building. When the second episode went to air and held the premiere ratings I knew we had
There was an undercurrent of romance in the series between Sarah and McKellar, culminating
with their engagement in the final episode. But that was not how it was originally planned
- the ending was altered because the first episodes started screening before the later
episodes had been completed. Howard Griffiths explains:
"We had decided on a doom-laden end, but when we went to air we had only seven
scripts finished, which is just as well because we soon knew from viewer reaction that our
ending wouldn't work. It was obvious from letters and conversation that from about the
second episode viewers had started anticipating the McKellar-Sarah union, and we knew we
had to give them this."30
Theme music for the series was written by George Dreyfus and performed by Brian May and
the ABC Showband. The theme was released as a single and became a national hit,
making the top ten on the pop charts, and won
the National Musical Industry Award for Best Instrumental Performance.
The first series won two Logie awards - Best New Drama, and Best New Talent for John
Waters. In addition, Olivia Hamnett won a Penguin Award for her role as Sarah Lucas.
There was some talk in late
1974 of making a Rush feature film, even to the point of nominating
July 1975 as a commencement date for production, but the idea never
progressed any further. The educational value of Rush did not go unnoticed, and three scripts from the
programme were included in a textbook for students as book 13 of the Australian Theatre
In spite of the show's success, neither Whitbread nor Griffiths wanted to make another
series. They said that they had made their statement with the first series, and could see
no point concentrating on just one period in Australia's history when there was a wealth
of other material available.32
The ABC had different ideas, and in April 1975 consideration was being given to producing
a second series. By August 1975 it was confirmed that a second series would go ahead, and
filming commenced on September 28. Many changes were made for the new series, partly
attributable to series creator James Davern assuming the position of Executive Producer,
and partly because the first series was seen as a complete concept and
therefore a new direction was needed. Another consideration was the desire to make use of a $100,000 location set constructed for the
mini-series Ben Hall.33
Lack of finance nearly caused the whole project to be dropped, and it was
only saved due to the innovation of the co-production concept by John
Cameron, the ABC head of Television Drama. An international
co-production deal was stitched up with Scottish-Global Enterprises and a new French
television network Antenne 2. The ABC and the two overseas partners split the $24,000 per
episode cost between them equally. 13 episodes were made, bringing the total number
for both series to 25.
The ABC retained artistic control of the programme. "We wouldn't make it with a view to
selling to the States," said Davern. "This has been emphasised right through the
co-production deal. Our first responsibility is to our Australian viewers."34
As the Ben Hall set was located at Belrose in Sydney's north, production shifted to
that city. The setting for Rush became the fictitious New South
Wales mining town of Turon Springs, and the date was moved forward several years to 1860.
The Ben Hall set formed the township of Wheogo in that mini-series, but for Rush
the set had to undergo some drastic alterations to transform it into Turon Springs. James
Davern said: "Although this series is of the same period as Ben Hall, the
township is more developed. It's a mining town established for some time."35
A steam powered gold crusher was required for the set, and although there were some still
in existence, it was not practical to get one to the location. So the set designers built
a replica from wood and glass fibre - and it worked! Horse drawn vehicles were hard to
come by, and what couldn't be hired was reconstructed. Some other props were handed down
from the Ben Hall series, including guns and a Cobb & Co. coach.
The early 1860's were considered an interesting time to dramatise because of the 'class
war', as James Davern explains: "Prior to 1860, an ordinary man, with a bit of luck
and hard work, could attain riches. But the alluvial mining is running out - and
opportunity along with it. Governments know the deep quartz cannot be mined by the
individual because the capital investment is too high. So the big companies are moving in
with their highly organised and capitalised mining set-ups. 1860 marks the turning
In Rush, the drama is heightened by the granting of 200 acres of the richest quartz
to the Great Eastern Mining Company. The grant is of dubious legality, as many Great
Eastern shareholders are also members of the NSW Parliament. Much friction results when
the diggers sink shafts that encroach underground upon Great Eastern land. The storyline
is based on actual events that took place at Clunes in Victoria.
An almost completely new cast was assembled for the second series. John Waters, in his
role of McKellar, was the only cast member retained from the original series.
The story picks up McKellar several years down the track, having left the Victoria Police
following the miner's uprising at the Eureka Stockade, and after his wife Sarah has died
from typhoid fever. McKellar is now a drifter, and takes up a post as security officer for
the Great Eastern Mining Company in Turon Springs. When McKellar realises how corrupt the
Great Eastern is he resigns and plans to move on, but Superintendent Kendall persuades him
to stay, offering him the position of local police sergeant.
McKellar is a bit of a rebel, and the appearance of his uniform reflects this. He never wears
his cap, he never buttons up his tunic, he wears a piece of cloth around his neck, and he
rarely polishes his boots.
"I like McKellar, he keeps you guessing," said John Waters. "You want to
know what makes him tick. If you knew all about him in the first episode, you wouldn't
turn on next week. His sympathies lie with the common man. He doesn't like to see anyone
McKellar's off-sider is a Frenchman, Constable Emile Bizard, played by French actor Alain
Doutey. Bizard is a sailor who jumped ship in Sydney to look for gold. He was
unsuccessful, and joined the NSW police force as a last resort to, as he puts it, 'avoid
starvation'. He speaks English with a marked accent and has a keen sense of humour,
providing a good balance for the more serious McKellar.
Bizard wears his uniform in the correct manner, but he does not wear a cap. This has
nothing to do with the character - Alain Doutey just did not want to wear one. The
producers were adamant that he should wear a cap, and there were
many arguments over this point, but Doutey finally got his way by simply putting a cap on:
"He looked quite ridiculous," said Set Designer George Liddle.38
Doutey's excellent portrayal of Bizard was pure serendipity. As the only concession to
French financing, a condition was imposed that a French actor must have a substantial
role. No-one from the ABC was involved in his casting, and the uncertainty of his
capabilities caused much anxiety amongst the production staff. "We were worried about
Doutey," said Davern. "I wrote a pilot script on which the project was sold and
in it there's a fairly definitive character to be played by Doutey. He was cast in France
and he could have proved to be the weak link. But he's turned out to be superb."39
"I really enjoyed my working relationship with Alain Doutey," said John Waters.
"The character of Bizard made it possible for McKellar to change, by having someone
to bring him out of himself. We've actually seen him daring to laugh at himself from time
to time, which is nice."40
McKellar's immediate supervisor is Superintendent Kendall, based at nearby Bathurst.
Kendall is a policeman from the old school, and regards McKellar's appearance as a bit of
a disgrace to the force, although he has respect for his ability.
Robin Ramsay (of Bellbird and Shannons Mob) was considered for the role of
Captain Richard Farrar, but the part ended up being played by Paul Mason. Farrar runs the
Great Eastern Mining Company, and he is representative of the old class system, which
leads to inevitable clashes with the miners. Mason said he enjoyed playing the part:
"Farrar is very self-centred and arrogant. He feels the town is his. He runs the
Great Eastern Mine and employs many miners. So many people in the town depend on him for a
living. I find it interesting playing a nasty."41
Jane Harders plays Farrar's wife Jessie. There is no love lost between Jessie and her
husband, whom she married in Sydney when she was at a loose end. Jessie came out from England
as a nanny for a family but the children died on the voyage over from fever. McKellar
meets Jessica on the coach to Turon Springs, and a mutual attraction develops between
Dolore Whiteman played the support role of Rosie Morgan, licensee of the local pub, the
'Limerick Inn', which is also the town brothel. She is a hard-boiled, tough old bird who
preys on human weakness, and she and McKellar sometimes use each other to achieve their
own ends. "There's not a soft side to Rosie Morgan," said James Davern. "I
told the writers, Colin Free and Ted Roberts, who have written the bulk of the scripts, to
keep that in mind. She's a bad 'un."42
A minor support role was that of Henry Purchase, manager of the Turon Springs bank. Oddly
enough, the character was played by Max Meldrum, who portrayed George Williams in the
first series. As Purchase was a minor character, and vastly different from Williams, the
use of the same actor went virtually unnoticed by the viewers.
Other minor support roles were Liz, a prostitute in the employ of Rosie Morgan played by
Gretchan Barrie, and Morgett, one of Farrar's henchmen played by James Moss.
Prior to screening of the second series, seven episodes of the original series were
repeated during January 1976 as The Best Of Rush. A short half-hour documentary
titled The Making Of Rush was aired a week before the second series, and featured a
behind-the-scenes preview plus interviews with leading cast members.
The second series premiered on March 1, 1976, except in Brisbane where it was screened the
previous day. It was given a much better timeslot - 8:30 PM Monday. The first episode
(actually No. 13 of the whole series) briefly recapitulated McKellars history. This
provided continuity for those who watched the first series, but also stood alone as an
introduction to the second series for those who did not see the original. This was a
necessary requirement to satisfy both local viewers and the overseas audience that did not
see the first series.
Although the class war between the Great Eastern and the miners was a core
theme of the series, not every episode dwelt on this topic. The
relationship between whites and the Aboriginal people was also explored,
as were the intricacies of human nature in the goldfields setting. And
some episodes were just rollicking good adventure yarns.
Sex and violence in the series was implied rather than highlighted. James Davern said the
reason was personal: "We're playing down the sex angle and I'm not happy at all with
violence. I feel outraged sometimes by things that happen on TV. There'll be no
And the series was all the better for not resorting to stereotype plot devices. Good
writing, excellent direction,
superb camera work and good performances from the actors ensured a quality product.
Incidental music was kept to a minimum, and the series thrived on typical ABC
understatement. Partly because of the period setting, the show has hardly dated at all and
stands up well alongside contemporary products.
A new version of George Dreyfus' theme tune was recorded by the Melbourne Symphony
Orchestra for the second series. The opening theme is faster, the closing more in keeping
with the original.
There were many guest actors of note in the second series, including Pamela Stephenson,
Wendy Hughes, Michael Craig, Jacki Weaver, Peita Toppano and Robert Coleby.
Breaks for advertisements were edited into the series for screening on overseas commercial
channels, but of course the ABC, as per usual, showed the episodes straight through without
Following completion of filming in April 1976, Alain Doutey returned home to France. One
of his first jobs upon his return was to help dub the show into French.
Like the first series, the second series won a number of awards: John Waters picked up a
Penguin and a Sammy award for Best Actor, and the final episode, 'A Shilling A Day',
scored a Logie, Awgie and Sammy award for Scriptwriter Colin Free, and a Logie and Sammy
award for guest actor Hugh Keays-Byrne.
A script from the second series, episode 22 'The Kadaitcha Man', was included in Zoom In,
a textbook for students.44
There was serious talk about making a third series of Rush, after
three episodes shown at the Cannes Film Festival attracted great interest.
Filming was to commence in October 1976. "If it comes off
I'll be very happy to go along with it," said Waters. "I'm still enjoying it and
there's lots of room for developments. It's rare for an actor to get a chance to really
stay with a character and develop him - I'm learning new things about him all the
Producer James Davern had spoken to Alain Doutey in France, and he
indicated that he would be available for a third series. Paul Mason was to
appear in another ABC serial, Pig In A Poke, but it was thought
that schedules could be arranged so that he could appear in Rush as
well. Scottish-Global Enterprises were again willing to be financial
partners in the project, and some finance was also to come from German
it was not to be. Following the dismissal of the Whitlam Labor government, the new
conservative Fraser government was making some radical and unprecedented changes to the
ABC, which eventually led to the resignation of Chairman Henry Bland. Included in these
changes was a hefty budget cut which caused, amongst other things, the
cancellation of the third series of Rush. "Just like everyone else in the cast I was terribly disappointed
that Rush has been indefinitely postponed," said John Waters. "But I've
been in this business long enough to know you don't count on something happening until you
begin the first week's work."46
The second series of Rush proved very popular, both in Australia
and overseas. It became an instant hit in Paris, causing James Davern to
speculate that the third series might eventuate after all. "The French are
waving cheque books at us," said Davern. "I think we'll almost certainly
be making another co-production with a French company this year. The
French were enormously pleased with Alain's performance and the way he and
John Waters worked together so well."47
Unfortunately, the ABC management did not share his viewpoint, and a third
series of Rush was never made.
In 1975, during the break between the first and second series of Rush, the Seven
Network achieved great success with another 1850's adventure series - Cash &
Company. Produced by Homestead Films, Cash & Company and its successor Tandarra,
unlike Rush, were conceived purely as escapist adventure, and did not deal directly
with the gold rush.
The first series of Rush was not repeated after colour television became well and
truly established in the mid-to-late 1970's, however the second series was re-screened
fairly regularly until the mid-1980's, sometimes in prime time slots. The first series
gained prominence again in the 1990's as a send-up on The Late Show titled 'The
Olden Days', in which the 'D-Generation' comedy team dubbed new voices over the original film. The
gold fields became the mud fields, Sgt. McKellar became Sgt. Olden, and Fitzalan was
renamed Frontbottom. One scene showed Alwyn Kurts notifying Brendon Lunney that he had
received an offer from Crawford Productions to feature in a lead role in a new police
series 'set in the future' - referring of course to Homicide.
All of the second series of
Rush still exist, however it is believed that 3 or 4 episodes of
the first series are missing. Nonetheless, Rush is an excellent
series by any standard, and one can only hope that someday all available
episodes will be
screened again or released on DVD.48
It is far too good to be languishing unseen in the ABC archives.
RUSH EPISODE DETAILS
1. One more
major gold rush occurred later during the
1890's in Western Australia, out of which the town of Kalgoorlie was founded.
2. TV Times, Feb 1, 1975.
3. TV Times, Aug 17, 1974.
5. TV Times, March 23, 1974.
6. TV Times, Aug 17, 1974.
7. TV Times, Feb 9, 1974.
9. TV Times, Feb 1, 1975.
12. TV Week, Sept 7, 1974.
13. TV Times, Feb 1, 1975.
17. TV Times, Aug 17, 1974.
18. TV Times, Oct 26, 1974.
19. Melbourne Sunday Press, Sept 1, 1974.
20. TV Week, Sept 21, 1974.
21. TV Times, Sept 7, 1974.
22. TV Times, Aug 17, 1974.
23. Melbourne Truth, Aug 24, 1974.
24. TV Week, Sept 7, 1974.
25. TV Times, Feb 1, 1975.
26. TV Times, Aug 17, 1974.
27. TV Week, Sept 7, 1974.
28. TV Times, Aug 3, 1974.
29. TV Times, Feb 1, 1975.
31. Neil Fuller, Rush, (Heinemann Educational Australia, 1975).
32. TV Times, Feb 1, 1975.
33. Ben Hall was a 1975 historical mini-series produced by the ABC in Sydney as a
co-production with the BBC.
34. TV Times, Feb 28, 1976.
35. TV Times, Dec 6, 1975.
36. TV Times, Feb 28, 1976.
37. TV Times, Dec 6, 1975.
38. TV Times, Feb 28, 1976.
40. Australian Women's Weekly, May 19, 1976.
41. TV Week, May 8, 1976.
42. TV Times, Feb 28, 1976.
44. Don Reid & Frances de Groen, Zoom In - Television Scripts Of The Seventies,
(McMillan, Australia, 1977).
45. Australian Women's Weekly, May 19, 1976.
46. TV Week, Aug 7, 1976.
47. TV Week, March 26, 1977.
48. The Olden Days has been released on DVD by the ABC (R-107463-9).
The cast of the first series: Max Meldrum, John
Waters, Olivia Hamnett, Brendon Lunney and Peter Flett.
A concept drawing for a Crockers Gully hut (above),
and the interior set of the completed hut (below).
Extras portraying miners on the Crockers Gully set of
Filming of the final episode
of the first series with Brendon Lunney,
Olivia Hamnett and John Waters.
John Waters as Sgt. Robert McKellar.
Olivia Hamnett, who played Sarah Lucas.
Rod Mullinar, Martin Harris and Max Meldrum in a
scene from episode 3, 'They Faced All The Dangers, Those Bold Bushrangers'.
Brendon Lunney as Gold Commissioner Edmund Fitzalan
with John Waters as Sgt. McKellar.
Alwyn Kurts in a support role as Lansdowne.
Peter Flett as Dr. David Woods.
Max Meldrum as George Wiliams.
Mike Preston in a guest role in episode 4, 'Toe The
Scratch And Never Say Die'.
John Waters as Sgt. McKellar.
Above and below: Mike Preston on the Crockers Gully
First series opening titles.
Gerard Kennedy was given special leave from
4 to make a guest appearance in
Rush. He is seen here with Olivia
Hamnett in a scene from episode 4.
Another scene from the same episode. Gerard
Kennedy is seen with Brendon Lunney.
One more scene from episode 4, 'Toe The Scratch And
Never Say Die'. Left to right: Debbie Nankervis, Mike Preston, Gerard Kennedy and
Terry Norris made a guest appearance as the
proprietor of a sly grog house.
Peter Flett as David Wood and Oliva Hamnett as Sarah
Brendon Lunney as Fitzalan and Alwyn Kurts as
Sarah Lucas and Sgt. McKellar became engaged in the
final episode of the first series.
The second series of
Rush was filmed on the
set constructed for the mini-series
Ben Hall, which became the town of Turon
Sgt. McKellar was the only character from the first
series that also featured in the second series.
Filming a scene for episode 15, 'Romany Gold'.
John Waters with French actor Alain Doutey, who
played Const. Emile Bizard.
Phil Ward, one of the extras in the series, has a
quick touch-up from make-up girls Pamela Mullins and Susi Clemo.
Vincent Ball as Supt. Kendall with Dolore Whiteman as
Paul Mason as Capt. Richard Farrar, head of the Great
Eastern Mining Company, with Jane Harders as his wife Jessie.
Dolore Whiteman as Rosie Morgan, proprietor of the
Max Meldrum had a support role in the second series
as Purchase, the local bank manager.
John Waters and Alain Doutey with Louis Wishart in a
scene from episode 16, 'The New Golden Mountain'.
Second series opening titles.
as Const. Emile Bizard.
The set of the Turon Springs township.
John Waters and Alain Doutey.
A fight scene on the goldfields set.
John Waters and Alain Doutey.
Another scene set on the main street of Turon
John Waters and Alain Doutey.
John Waters in a scene from the first episode of the
second series, 'Welcome Back Sergeant McKellar'.