|Created by||Barbara Vernon|
|Country of origin||Australia|
|No. of seasons||10|
|No. of episodes||1,562|
|Original release||28 August 1967 –|
23 December 1977
Bellbird is an Australian soap opera serial set in a small fictional Victorian rural township of the show's title. The series was produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation at its Ripponlea TV studios in Elsternwick, Melbourne, Victoria. The opening title sequence was filmed at Daylesford, Victoria.
Production and broadcasting
The series was screened from 28 August 1967 to 23 December 1977. Although Bellbird was not Australia's first television serial (the first was Network Seven's Autumn Affair), it was the first successful soap opera and even spawned a feature film and tie-in novel. The show's ratings were modest but it had a devoted following, especially in rural Australia. During most of its 10-year production run, 15-minute episodes of Bellbird screened from Monday to Thursday nights during the lead in to the 7:00 pm evening news bulletin. In 1976, the series was screened as a single one-hour episode each week, before switching to three half-hour instalments per week during its final season.
The show's storylines followed the lives of the residents of the small fictional country town that gave the show its title.
Principal cast members included:
Stars after Bellbird
The cast of Bellbird became household names to the viewing audiences and a number went on to appear in other soap operas. In 1979, two years after Bellbird ended its run, Elspeth Ballantyne, Patsy King and Sheila Florance worked together once again in the iconic series Prisoner playing guard Meg Jackson Morris (prison governor), Erica Davidson and inmate Lizzie Birdsworth respectively. In the later years of Prisoner, Gerda Nicolson and Maurie Fields joined the cast as Governor Anne Reynolds and guard Len Murphy respectively.
Ian Smith and Anne Charleston, who appeared in small roles in Prisoner, went on to appear as the long-term and husband and wife charactera Harold and Madge Bishop in the Australian TV show Neighbours.
Episodes of Bellbird were screened in the UK in 1972. After the initial 52 episodes had been screened, Actors Equity in Australia insisted the ABC increase the price of the episodes so as to pay the actors more. As a result of the price increase, the UK broadcaster purchased no further episodes.
In 2004 it was reported that the ABC taped over the master tapes of the series, something which series cast member Alan Hopgood had complained about in a TV Times article in 1976: "They are just wiped off and another episode run over them ... This failure to preserve the program is criminal, to my way of thinking".
One complete black-and-white episode is available to be viewed at the Australian Mediatheque at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne, while several colour episodes are known to exist in the hands of private collectors.
Film and novel
The series was the first soap opera in Australia to spin-off into a feature film version and tie-in novel, entitled Country Town (1971). It focused on Bellbird's problems during a severe drought. Many future soaps followed suit, spawning their own film versions, including Number 96 and The Sullivans.
In 1971, Bellbird was the fifteenth most popular show in the country.
- "Bellbird". Aussie Soap Archive. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
- Albert Moran, Moran's Guide to Australian TV Series, AFTRS 1993, p. 77.
- Andrew Mercado (27 November 2004). "Soap: It's just what the great unwashed need". The Age. Retrieved 22 September 2007.
- TV Times, 11–17 December 1976, p.10: "Home-Truths From Bellbird"
- "TELEVISION RATINGS". The Canberra Times. 45, (12, 803). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 6 May 1971. p. 8. Retrieved 20 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)