1 9 8 5 (Australia)
10 x 50 minute episodes
This 10-part series from Australia’s ABC-TV was set in the early 1930s when Australia was in the grip of the Depression. To ease his family’s burden, young country boy Tom Raynor (Michael O’Neill) left the farm in Gundagai, joined dozens of others who had also been driven off the land, and hopped on a train bound for Sydney, where he dreamed of making his mark as a writer.
But Tom had more pressing business than penning the great Australian novel – he needed a job, food and shelter.
Armed with the name of a family friend, Tom headed for the Dundee Palace, an inner Sydney pub. But the publican his father knew had moved on long ago, and the Dundee Palace was now run by a cheerful and appealing character called Mick Mendel (Henri Szeps), who headed a family of Russian Jewish emigres.
Tom made the place his base for a few days while he wore his shoe leather and optimism thin, looking for work. By the time his money ran out, he had developed an enduring affection for the Mendels and they for him, but pride forced him to lie about his circumstances and leave the hotel, telling them he had found a job in another part of the city.
Events conspired to reunite them, however, and their lives would unfold against a backdrop of political unrest, union agitation and economic hardship. But there were good times too, and triumphs to share with this close-knit family and their friends.
Tom fell for Mick’s eldest daughter, Miriam (Linda Cropper), who dreamed of becoming an actress and escaping the constraints of her family life. Her younger sister, Ruth (Susie Lindeman), wanted to study music at the Conservatorium. Mick and his young son, Joseph (Durand Sinclair), just longed to be accepted in the new country.
Mick’s wife, Chana (Deidre Rubenstein) and her father (Severyn Pejsachowicz) were at the family’s heart and the most concerned with maintaining traditional links.
Palace of Dreams was a warm, sometimes amusing, sometimes sad, but largely appealing drama, innovatively presented and played out by a collection of easily likeable – or enjoyably unlikeable – characters. Henri Szeps won the “Best Actor in a Miniseries” Penguin Award (an annual award given for excellence in broadcasting by the Television Society of Australia) for his portrayal of Mick Mendel.
Producer Sandra Levy used her own family as inspiration for the series.
Myra De Groot