Michael Willesee's Australians: episode guide

Les Darcy

March 01, 1987
Written by John Upton
Directed by Kevin Dobson

Explores the short but spectacular career of Les Darcy, rated by many boxing critics as the best fighter Australia ever produced. The program also examines both the tarnishing of Darcy's reputation when his mother twice stopped him from joining the Australian Imperial Forces during World War I (leading to subsequent accusations of cowardice) and his unexpected death in the USA at age 21 from septicaemia as the result of an infected tooth.

Cast: Peter Phelps as Les Darcy

Note: youtube clip

Private John Simpson

March 08, 1987
Written by Roger McDonald
Directed by Henri Safran

Tells the story and examines the legend of English-born A.I.F soldier John (Jack) Simpson and his donkey at Gallipoli during World War I. The pair carried hundreds of wounded soldiers from the frontlines to the beach, usually under intense fire from the enemy. Private Simpson was killed only four weeks after arriving at Gallipoli, but his deeds of bravery, cheerful disposition, and tenderness towards the wounded, all under conditions of enormous danger, made him an iconic representation of Australians at war.

Cast: Robert Willox

Vivian Bullwinke

March 15, 1987
Written by Anne Brooksbank
Directed by Rod Hardy

Vivian Bullwinkel was a volunteer nurse during the Second World War. While being evacuated from Singapore the ship on which she was travelling sank. The small group of survivors washed ashore surrendered to Japanese occupying Banka Island. In a horrific turn of events Japanese troops bayonetted the surviving soldiers and ordered the nurses back into the water. Bullwinkel was shot but miraculously survived. Bleeding and in a state of shock, she drifted ashore and hid in the jungle. Discovering a badly wounded British soldier she realised the only chance of survival was to again surrender to the Japanese troops.

Cast: Rachel Ward, Barry Quin, Jo Kennedy, Julie Hamilton

Mary MacKillop

March 22, 1987
Written by John Misto
Directed by Mark Callan

Examines the life of Mary MacKillop, an exceptionally single-minded and dedicated woman who became Sister Mary of the Cross in the Order of St. Joseph, Australia's first religious order. In 1861, MacKillop, working in South Australia as a tutor, decided to dedicate herself to the education of the poor and devote herself to God. Unlike other orders, her's put itself outside the control of the local bishop, causing much resentment within segments of the Catholic faith.

Cast: Lorna Lesley, Nicholas Eadie

Lottie Lyell

March 29, 1987
Written by Anne Brooksbank
Directed by Ben Lewin

As well as starring in films, Lottie Lyell worked behind the cameras as a script writer, art director, costume designer, editor, and business manager. She worked in partnership with Raymond Longford, Australia's best-known silent-film director with whom she had a long and enduring relationship.

Cast: Odile de Clezio as Lottie Lyell, Robert Coleby

Lola Montez

April 05, 1987
Written by Tony Morphett
Directed by Ian Gilmour

After discovering that she was terminally ill, Lola Montez, the notorious courtesan and internationally known singer and dancer, undertook a world tour in an attempt to provide financial security for her final years. This documentary looks at the Australian leg of that tour, which occurred during the years 1855-1856.

Cast: Linda Cropper as Lola

Clyde Fenton

April 12, 1987
Written by ?
Directed by John Power

Clyde Fenton was a skilled aviator and a brilliant surgeon. Together with fellow doctor, Cecel Cook, the Northern Territories chief medical officer, he pioneered the creation of the Flying Doctor Service. The service was a great medical success but ran foul of the Department of Civil Aviation. Fenton battled with the Department and soon found himself in court fighting to retain his pilot's license and carry on his work. Fenton soon became a folk hero to the people of the Northern Territory.

Cast: ?

Jack Davey

April 19, 1987
Written by Geoffrey Atherden
Directed by George Whaley

In 1954, Jack Davey was arguably the most famous radio personality in Australia. In the same year, he entered the first around-Australia car race, the Redex Trial. This episode examines Davey's life and career, with a focus on the 1954 Redex Trial.

Cast: Rhys McConnochie as Jack Davey

Betty Cuthbert

April 26, 1987
Written by Denise Morgan
Directed by Kathy Mueller

Betty Cuthbert held a very special place in the affections of the sporting world, not only because she could run faster than anybody else, but because of her immense courage, optimism and innate modesty.

Cast: ?

Gordon Bennett

May 03, 1987
Written by John Misto
Directed by ?

General Henry Gordon Bennett is usually remembered as the Australian general who left his troops after Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1942 and fled back to Australia. He later claimed that he left his men to bring back to Australia first hand information about the fighting tactics of the Japanese. After the war a Royal Commission praised Bennett's courage, but concluded that he was wrong to have left Singapore.

Cast: Bill Kerr

Soldier Settlers

May 10, 1987
Written by ?
Directed by George Ogilvie

Following World Wars I and II large parcels of Australian farming land were purchased, divided up into small blocks and given to returned soldiers by the Federal Government. Many of the young soldiers and their families who won the land were inexperienced, untrained and undercapitalised. This is the story of the Durkin Family — their hopes, fears, triumphs and struggles as they make the most of their new lifestyle.

Cast: ?

John Norton

May 17, 1987
Written by ?
Directed by ?

John Norton was one of Australia's earliest and most colourful, if not likeable, press barons. He was an eccentric with a power complex who controlled a chain of newspapers which extended across Australia and New Zealand. Of strong republican views, his lust for power saw him elected to the New South Wales Parliament three times.

Cast: ?

Errol Flynn

May 24, 1987
Written by John Lonie
Directed by Michael Carson

During the 1930s and 1940s, Errol Flynn's natural charm and good looks saw him become a screen legend as Hollywood's greatest swashbuckling lover and matinee idol. This film takes an irreverent look at the 19-year-old Flynn's escapades in Sydney as he sets off on the path to notoriety.

Cast: Christopher Stollery as Errol Flynn, Nell Schofield, Timothy Conigrave, Terence Donovan, Rhys McConnochie, Jeanette Cronin