How Carol Raye changed Australian television

Along with Raye, those names represent a golden age during the early years of television in this country, a time when Australians only had a couple of channels to choose from and TV studios were like vaudeville theatres; mini Hollywood dream factories churning out a daily fare of singing and dancing performers on shoestring budgets.

Having achieved considerable success as an actor in England, Raye arrived in Australia in 1964, bringing with her a letter of introduction that led her to Seven’s general manager, James Oswin.

Initially, she was appointed as Oswin’s assistant on “live programming matters” and given an office and assignment to watch local television and brainstorm ideas for new shows.

Inspired by the BBC That was the week it wasRaye suggested a show based on TW3’s current affairs satire format and recruited Gordon talk, Barry Creyton Y Noeline Brown to create The Mavis Bramston Show.

To develop the script, Raye hired a writing team that included James Fishburn, John Mackellar, David Sale (who went on to write the 1970s soap opera). number 96), actor and writer Jon Finlayson, Melvyn Morrow, and Ken Shadie, who later also wrote for number 96 and co-wrote the script for Paul Hogan Crocodile Dundee.

“Television really was a difficult environment for a woman. It was much more of a man’s world back then,” Raye’s daughter Sally Ayre-Smithwho followed in her mother’s footsteps and also became a producer, explained last week.

Carol Raye died last week, aged 99.

Carol Raye died last week, aged 99.

“But mom was incredibly headstrong and had very strong views professionally, that’s the kind of person she was. She had a very strong will, it was impossible to win an argument from her.”

“I remember James Oswin joking with Mom that he could never call her ‘BITC-H,’ but he would often tell her how ‘extremely difficult’ she was to work with. But clearly she was right, the show was a hit.”

Ironically, Raye never considered herself a “feminist.”

“Although that is precisely what she was. She had a bit of a cloying English accent, she was very composed and beautiful, and I think her charm certainly disarmed people who often underestimated her…at her own peril,” Ayre-Smith said.

“She had a few hundred pounds to do the pilot of mavis bramstonand here we are still talking about today’s program.”


Next month, the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival has selected a new film about the early days of the show, pushing the limits: the mavis bramston show, with interviews with Raye and others.

The film will be available to watch online throughout July. through the festival websiteand it is worth seeing.

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