Fans of The Sullivans can rejoice because the final two DVD volumes of the series have just been released in the UK, and when you buy Volume 22, you’ll automatically receive Volume 23 free.
This means that the entire series, all 1114 episodes plus the spin-off telemovie The John Sullivan Story, are now available for you to own and enjoy once again. Crawford DVD have certainly done fans of the programme proud, in this, its 40th anniversary year.
In these dramatic final episodes Dave (Paul Cronin) gives up his job with the army, and Grandpa Sullivan (Gerry Duggan) moves in following the death of his wife. Grandpa then proceeds to try and help Geoff (Jamie Higgins) achieve his dreams. Norm Baker (Norman Yemm) begins training a young boxer, and Jim (Andy Anderson) shoots through to New Zealand to help a cobber in need leaving a heavily pregnant Alice (Megan Williams) behind. Alice has no choice but to give birth whilst he’s away.
Meanwhile its wedding bells for Horrible (Nick Waters) and Maureen (Fiona Paul), unfortunately wedded bliss soon fades when Maureen foolishly begins running up hire purchase debts. Things are looking brighter for Kitty (Susan Hannaford) who embarks on a new career in advertising, but when the troublesome Terry (Richard Morgan) escapes from prison, tragic consequences will result for the entire Sullivan family in the final nail biting instalments of this ground breaking series.
Paul Cronin as Dave Sullivan
The Sullivans became an instant hit when it launched in Australia on 15th November 1976. We were soon hooked as Dave and Grace Sullivan (Paul Cronin and Lorraine Bayly), their family and friends had to come to terms with the outbreak of the Second World War. We followed their ups and downs as they lived through a momentous period in history, with the programme focussing not only on the horror of the war torn battlefields but on the impact the conflict had on domestic life back in Melbourne. After experiencing the devastation in places as far afield as the jungles of South-East Asia, North Africa, Holland and Greece, some of the brave boys of Camberwell would return home and had to try and adapt to life in peacetime.
The programme proved equally successful in the UK when ITV acquired it in 1977, this was the first time that a major Australian television drama series had been sold to the entire ITV network. Prior to this programmes such as Bellbird had only been sold to individual ITV regions. The Sullivans was then sold to the USA, in total it was seen in 45 countries around the world.
Accuracy to historical detail was always of major importance to the production team who went to great lengths with their research, and viewers were known to send in household items from the war years which were sometimes used by the props department as set dressing.
Vivean Gray as Mrs Jessup
A number of performers who were to become major stars of the future had early breaks in The Sullivans including Mel Gibson who can be seen in Volume 8, Sam Neill who can be seen in Volumes 11 and 12, and a young Kylie Minogue who appears in Volume 13.
Throughout its run The Sullivans received countless awards including the Logie Awards for Best New Drama Series (1977), Best Drama Programme (1978, 1979 and 1980), and the Special Logie Award for Sustained Excellence (1981).
One of the series most memorable characters was the local gossip, Mrs Jessup, played throughout the programmes entire run by Vivean Gray who died recently aged 92. Vivean was born in the UK and served during the Second World War with the Women’s Land Army but her acting career didn’t get off the ground until she moved to Australia in 1952. She landed work on stage in productions such as A Fortunate Life, Uncle Vanya, and the musical whodunit It Happened in Tanjablanca which was written by the late Don Battye with the lyrics and composition by Peter Pinne.
Norman Yemm as Norm Baker and Vikki Hammond as Maggie Hayward/Baker
Vivean appeared in movies such as Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Last Wave, A City’s Child and Libido: The Priest directed by Fred Schepisi. She found regular work on television starring in productions as diverse as Solo One, Power Without Glory, Prisoner: Cell Block H and Anzacs. Her big break came in 1976 when she was cast as Ida Jessup in The Sullivans, a role which secured her three Logie Awards, and the 1980 Penguin Award for Best Sustained Performance by an Actress in a Series. She went on to play another busybody, the legendary Mrs Mangel in Neighbours. Unfortunately Vivean was forced to give up her acting career and retired back to England after she suffered awful abuse from some unhinged Neighbours ‘fans’ in Melbourne who seemed to believe that she actually was Mrs Mangel in real-life.
If you’d like to revisit some of Vivean’s work she can be seen in a number of recent Crawford DVD releases. She appears in Volumes 1-23 of The Sullivans; Bluey; All The Rivers Run; Carson’s Law Volume 5; Matlock Police Volumes 2 and 3; Division 4 Volumes 3-5, 7, and 10; and Homicide Volumes 8, 11-13, and 15.
Volumes 22 and 23 of The Sullivans, along with the rest of the series and a host of other Australian television classics can be ordered in the UK exclusively from Eaton Films. Those of you who are based in Australasia can obtain your copies from Crawford DVD.