Home Television Drama Power Without Glory

Power Without Glory

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.

John West 
Martin Vaughn
Nellie Moran 

Rosalind Spiers
Mrs Moran 

Heather Canning
Mrs West 

Irene Inescort
Piggy Lewis 

Michael Aitkens
Barney Robinson 

George Mallaby
Eddie Corrigan 

Sean Scully
Mick O’Connell 

John Bowman
Paddy Cummins 

Tim Connor
Jim Tracey 

Alan Hardy
Det. Sgt. O’Flaherty 

Peter Cummins
Sgt. Grieve 

Terry Gill
Arthur West 

Tim Robertson
Father O’Toole 

John Murphy

Richard Askew
Sugar Renfrey 

John Wood
Florrie Robinson 

Leila Hayes
Mrs Finch 

Esme Melville
Frank Ashton 

Barry Hill
Tom Trumbleward 

Frank Wilson
Jim Francis 

Telford Jackson
Dick Bradley 

Gerard Kennedy
Rev Joggins 

Jonathon Hardy
Martha Ashton 

Elaine Baillie
Detective Roberts 

Tony Hawkins
Dolly West 

Kerry Dwyer
Frank Lammence 

Terence Donovan
Lou Darby 

Gil Tucker
Dr Malone 

Michael Pate
Ron Lassiter 

Terry Norris
Snoopy Tanner 

Graham Blundell

Rowena Wallace
Ned Horan 

Norman Kaye
Maurice Blackwell 

Tony Barry
Mary West 

Wendy Hughes
Brendon West 

Tony Bonner
Bill Tinns 

Gus Mercurio
Keith Burkett 

Charles Tingwell

Camilla Rowntree