1 9 7 6 (Australia)
26 x 60 minute episodes
Power Without Glory is probably among the two or three finest drama series ever produced in Australia.
The series was, in effect, a local equivalent to The Forsyte Saga and told the story of John West, his wife and family from the 1890s when he was an impoverished youth in the depression-stricken city of Melbourne to his death around 1950.
By that time, he has become a millionaire although he is tainted by shady political and business dealings. The series was based on the novel of the same name by Australian author Frank Hardy, which had been published in 1949.
At the time, it was widely believed that Hardy had based the figure of John West on the real-life Australian businessman John Wren. The Wren family took legal action against Hardy, accusing him of libel. Hardy successfully defended the case, however, on the basis that his novel was fiction.
Subsequently, the book sold extremely well, no doubt because the public believed that in fact it was based on the Wren story.
Power Without Glory should have been a natural adaptation for either radio or television in the 1950s or 1960s but no broadcast producer was willing to take on the material for fear of further legal action from the Wren family. It was not until 1974 that such a project was undertaken.
That year the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), decided that the novel should be brought to the television screen. After all, despite the timidity of ABC management, the court case had happened over 20 years earlier and had, in any event, been lost.
Moreover, under a federal Labour government, the ABC was expected to be progressive and innovative in its productions and its revenue, coming directly from the government was, in real terms, at an all-time high. The book was split into a projected 26 hour-long episodes and the series began on-air nationally on the ABC in June 1976.
Power Without Glory starred Martin Vaughan as West and Rosalind Spires as his wife. Other well known Australian actors in the series included Terence Donovan, George Mallaby, and Michael Pate.
Like many television miniseries’ – especially those with such a long screen time –Power went well beyond the domestic drama of the couple and included the developing lives and careers of their children and their acquaintances.
These mostly private dramas were stitched onto a larger historical canvas that included political and national events such as the formation of the Australian Labour Party, the conscription debates of World War I, and the impact of the Great Depression and WW II.
The quality and integrity of the production effectively sustained audience interest over its 26 hours, and Power was to prove enormously popular and prestigious for the ABC.
Det. Sgt. O’Flaherty