In Melbourne Tonight 1957
After six months with only the news as a live studio programme, GTV 9, Melbourne, was in need of something to show that it could make a good entertainment programme of its own.
On the 6th May, 1957, GTV launched a new studio-based programme. It was called “In Melbourne Tonight”. The programme was a sort of variety programme. There was to be a new host. His name was Graham Kennedy. In his mid twenties, he had been a radio programme host and had been chosen to lead the new programme.
We filmed a sort of cod opening in which Kennedy is seen to arrive at Essendon Airport and drive off to the studios. This was the opening film and opening of the first programme. I edited this piece of film and, as was my custom, I cued the voice over reading the accompanying commentary. Because of this, I always regarded myself as the one who kicked the programme off. It ran for many years, Kennedy became a household name and went on to be an accomplished actor.
There was a dance band in the studio. It was led by one Lee Gallagher. The band would sometimes accompany a singer. There were some comedians who weren’t very good, but it was very local in the beginning.
Later, Kennedy was to start a series of comedy sketches captured on film. The Producer/Director was Denzil Howson. He came to me to see what we would do about editing. I said we could and would handle it. I suggested to him that he should “under-crank” the filming to give it a bit more comedy. We did tests at various speeds. 16, 12 and even 8 frames a second were tried.
Howson then started his series which were highly popular and applauded.
One of the features that developed within the show was conversation between Graham Kennedy at his desk and the Producer Norman Spencer in the control room. The conversations were broadcast. This arrangement meant that nothing could go wrong. They would merely talk about the problem between themselves and find some solution, even if it meant going on to the next item. Kennedy would do many commercials live, in which he would endorse a product. He would only do this if he had genuinely sampled the product. On one famous occasion, he denied all knowledge of a product and said he could not endorse it. The advertiser cancelled and never came back.
One of the regular ads, every night, consisted of Kennedy eating a “Four and Twenty Pie”. The pie company would deliver several dozen of the pies which would be taken into the property bay, just off the studio. Members of the staff would wander in to the bay and help themselves to a pie. When they first arrived, they were still hot. I had helped myself to a pie on several occasions.
On the night in particular, a floor manager walked on set and went to Kennedy’s desk to whisper in his ear. This could only happen in “In Melbourne Tonight”. He told him that all the pies had gone. Kennedy made the most of it, saying “Those pies are that good, the staff of GTV can’t resist them”.
Kennedy was victim of practical jokes from time to time. On one occasion he was covered in flour from a bag that opened just above his head. Fortunately it was the end of the programme. On another occasion, he was demonstrating a powdered milk product and some of the wags had exchanged the milk powder for some kind of fizzy sherbet. When Kennedy poured in the water, the mixture foamed up and out and didn’t stop coming until it had totally covered his desk.
The programme was original and, maybe, could only have happened in Australia.
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