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Ride on Stranger

1 9 7 9 (Australia)
4 x 50 minute episodes

Location shots of the Blue Mountains outside Sydney, Australia, provided a magnificent backdrop for this superior four-part Sunday evening drama series from the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), set in the 1930s.

The story – adapted from a novel by Kylie Tennant – followed the life of Shannon Jones (Liddy Clark), growing from a girl to womanhood in an Australia which is recovering from the bitter Depression years and learning of Herr Hitler’s rise to power on the other side of the globe.

We first meet Shannon in a small country town. She is a strange girl – a brooding bookworm who reads her novels on the rusty roof (“the book’s banned and I don’t want to offend anyone”), is given to outbursts of cheek, and is a secret smoker.

To her family, she is something of an oddity, and at the age of 16 they ship her off on the train to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains to live with her eccentric Aunt Edith (Barbara Wyndon) who runs a boarding house named Clayton House, on Willow Street. She is as mad as a hatter, but a gentle soul.

Shannon is put to work in the kitchen, waiting on tables, polishing doorknobs and washing the dishes alongside brassy blonde housemaid Beryl (Noni Hazlehurst) – who screeches Aint She Sweet? while doing the dishes, swears like a trooper, and introduces Shannon to the world of boys.

Beryl is a classy dresser and an outrageous flirt but has a heart of gold.

But Shannon is not yet ready for the back row of the cinema or the back seats of cars. The young country girl is more interested in her books and her friendship with a refined young chemist, John Terry (Michael Aitkens).

Later episodes follow Shannon and Beryl’s exploits in the big smoke where Shannon becomes absorbed in working on the radio, becomes involved with members of the idealistic Proletarian movement and fun, friendship – and a few heartbreaks – meet them at every turn.

Henri Szeps appears as charlatan faith healer Vincent Sladder, who preys on Aunt Edith’s neuroses with an eye on her money – which he gets through marriage. There are interesting performances too from Moya O’Sullivan and Ron Graham (as Shannon’s parents), Kevin Leslie (as Uncle Herbie), Bunney Brooke (as Granny Jones), Warwick Sims and John Bluthal.

Shannon Jones
Liddy Clark
Beryl
Noni Hazlehurst
Aunt Edith
Barbara Wyndon
Vincent Sladder
Henri Szeps
Damien Quilter
Warwick Sims
Mervyn Leggatt
Peter Carroll
Joseph Litchin
John Bluthal
John Terry
Michael Aitkens
Ada Jones
Moya O’Sullivan
Darcey Jones
Ron Graham
Uncle Herbie
Kevin Leslie
Reggie
Alfred Bell
George Benson
Don Crosby
Granny Jones
Bunney Brooke
Lucy Rossingdale
Margo Lee
Andy
John Warnock