had its genesis in an episode of Dynasty, the successful ABC
(Australian Broadcasting Commission) series about the intrigue and power
struggles of the Mason family, owners of a media empire responsible for a
metropolitan daily newspaper and a television channel. Episode 2 of
Dynasty, titled ‘Catwalk’, concerned the staff of a glossy women’s
magazine, ‘Lilith’. The success of ‘Lilith’ was threatening the Mason’s
own magazine, ‘Homemaker’, and they approached the independent owner with
a takeover bid.
During filming of
the episode, it became apparent that it would form an excellent basis for
a spin-off series. John Wood, who had a guest role in the episode, said, “I was pretty inexperienced and I was only on the
periphery of it.
People were talking about how great this episode was and how it would
make a wonderful spin-off, and most of the time I had no idea what they
were talking about.”1
The ABC was very happy with
Dynasty, to the point where they would commission a second series,
but they did not show much enthusiasm for Catwalk. The Seven Network,
however, was interested. Seven was having a change of direction to try and improve on their
consistent second place in the ratings. Bruce Gyngell, a former Nine
Network executive, was appointed Programme Manager, and he introduced a
number of innovations that collectively were dubbed the ‘Seven
Seven already had the
highest rating drama series (Homicide), so a logical step was to
increase local drama content. Submissions were invited from outside
packagers, and five pilots were produced, one of which was Catwalk,
filmed in December 1970. The other four were: The Group, a sit-com
about a group of young people sharing a flat; Kill And Cure, a
suspense anthology; View From Beyond, a comedy about a ‘liaison
officer’ for people about to go to heaven; and The Undertakers, a
comedy set in a funeral parlour.
The five pilot episodes went
to air in January 1971. In an unusual promotional campaign, viewer
response direct to the Network was sought to decide which pilots would go
into production. The viewers voted for Catwalk and The Group,
and this, together with the success of Dynasty on the ABC,
convinced the Seven Network to go ahead with the Catwalk series.
Seven episodes of
Catwalk were ordered, and filming of the series commenced on July
4, 1971. Like Dynasty, Catwalk was packaged by
Davies-Morphett Productions and, as Dynasty used the resources of
the ABC studios, Catwalk was filmed using the facilities of ATN-7
principals of the company, Tony Morphett and Glyn Davies, were the
creative force behind the series. Tony Morphett was an accomplished
novelist and scriptwriter, and his book ‘Dynasty’ became the basis for the
television series of the same name. Glyn Davies worked on many British shows as a writer
and script editor before coming to Australia and devising The Link Men
for TCN-9. He then teamed up with Tony Morphett for Dynasty, and
the two formed Davies-Morphett Productions. ATN-7 stalwart
David Cahill was both Director and Producer of Catwalk.
Some changes were
made from the Dynasty episode to the Catwalk pilot. ‘Lilith’
magazine was renamed ‘Catwalk’, and most of the character names were
changed. Publisher Jason Werner became Saxon Wells, photographer Danny
Bernac became Ricky Novak, and model Georgina Clausen became Cornelia
Heyson. Only secretary Jenkins kept the same name. These changes were retained
for the series and consequently Catwalk was a
stand-alone entity, and was not part of the continuity of the Dynasty
Although in a
similar vein to the Dynasty series, Catwalk is not as
intense. The setting of a top women's fashion magazine provides plenty of intrigue
and tension, but it is a lighter drama with touches of comedy and more of
a human-interest approach. Each episode was 30 minutes in length, and
in black and white.
The guest cast
that took part in the Dynasty episode were retained for the
Catwalk pilot and the series. John Forgeham played the lead role of
Saxon Wells, owner and publisher of ‘Catwalk’. Wells is flamboyant, eccentric
and somewhat arrogant, but can be gentle and understanding whenever necessary. He is
also a skilful manipulator, and usually manages to orchestrate people and
events to his own ends.
British actor, came to Australia on tour with a Shakespearian company.
Glyn Davies remembered Forgeham as a broke, unemployed and hungry actor
from his days in England as Script Editor on No Hiding Place. “We
gave this bloke a part because he seemed good and also he seemed to need
the money,” said Davies. “Well, there was one scene in which he was having
breakfast. But, just before he finished his bacon and eggs, he kept
blowing the part. So we had to keep getting him more food from the
canteen. That must have happened four times before we realised he was out
of work, hungry, and had been deliberately engineering re-takes. He was
such a superb actor I never forgot him. And when he turned up here in
Australia while we were casting Catwalk, he was the one for the
John Wood played
photographer Ricky Novak in his first regular television role. Novak is
good at his job, and is not adverse to standing up in the face of one of
Saxon's rages. John Wood has
subsequently become a well-known actor and writer, and had major roles in
Power Without Glory, Rafferty’s Rules and the long-running
part of Tom Croydon in Blue Heelers.
played model Cornelia Heyson, a sophisticated, determined lady who is a
bit of a loner. “She is so similar to me in so many ways that I have had
no trouble playing her,” said Cornelia, who credits Tony Morphett for her
ability to portray the character. “He has modelled her character on my own
- as he seems to have done with the others - so that a lot of me comes
Glyn Davies considered Cornelia a natural for the role: “She appeared in
the Dynasty episode from which the series stemmed and there was no
doubt in my mind that she was perfect for the role.”4
missed out on the role, as she was three months pregnant when the pilot
was made. “I was trembling because I didn’t think I would be able to take
the part. There was talk of Cornelia being introduced into the series
being pregnant, but it wasn’t necessary. The series started three weeks
after our son was born.”5
Cornelia later became well-known for a bitchy role in the soap opera
The Young Doctors, and as host of a quiz show (“You are the weakest
link - goodbye”).
long-suffering secretary is known only as Jenkins. Easy to get along with, reliable and
efficient, she is usually referred to in affectionate terms
such as ‘good old Jenkins’. Well-known New Zealand actor Cecily Polson
played Jenkins, in her first regular role since arriving in Australia two
episode was enlarged upon for the series of Catwalk, and another
character was introduced - Paula Healy, the talented editor of ‘Catwalk’,
played by June Salter. Paula has been in the business for a long time, and
has become adept at cooling the intense atmosphere that Saxon generates
around him. Tony Morphett was pleased to have June join the
cast. “In the Dynasty episode the cast was sufficient,” he said.
“They were a small group in an overall thing, but for series production
the characterisation had to be expanded.”6
officials viewed the first two completed Catwalk episodes, they
were so impressed that they commissioned another six, making a total of 13
episodes. Filming of the first seven episodes had been completed by
September, and after a short break production resumed in October.
John Wood did not
appear in the ‘new’ episodes, resigning after his initial contract for
seven episodes was fulfilled. “I just wasn't enjoying it,” said Wood. “I
didn't like the process of working on television constantly, I didn't
really get on with the director, and I found John Forgeham a pain at times
- he had amazing arrogance.”7
Wood’s character of Ricky Novak was not written out - he was simply no
longer seen. Occasionally his character was referred to, sometimes
accompanied by older footage of a fashion shoot.
Christopher Cary, who had a lead role in the U.S. series Garrison's
Guerillas, was visiting Australia in 1971 and appeared in two
Catwalk episodes. Glyn Davies and Tony Morphett were
sufficiently impressed with his first performance in ep. 8, 'There Is No
Business Like No Business', that they wrote his part
into a second episode, No. 12, 'The Bramblebush Technique'.
premiered in February 1972, a year after the pilot had gone to air. The
last episode was shown first, probably because it included scenes which
gave a concise description of the characters and the ‘Catwalk’ magazine
setting. As there was little or no ‘soap’ content, and the established
characters did not develop over such a short run, the episodes were screened
mostly in random order with no detrimental effect - this in
spite of the fact that John Wood appears in only seven episodes. In fact,
there was only one episode, No. 12 'The Bramblebush Technique', that had
any continuity from previous episodes, and it was shown as the final
Catwalk was an entertaining series with clever writing,
and it attracted moderate ratings. However, no attempt was made to
continue production beyond the completed 13 episodes. Following Catwalk, and
after a projected third series of Dynasty failed to eventuate, Tony
Morphett and Glyn Davies returned to the ABC, where their next project was
the mini-series Certain Women, which in turn spawned a long-running
serial of the same name.
1. TV Eye No.
6, Sept 1995.
Times, March 11, 1972.
TV Week, March 11, 1972.
TV Week, Jan 2, 1971.
TV Eye No. 6, Sept 1995.
John Forgeham and June Salter in a scene from the pilot episode. Forgeham
was sporting a different hairstyle than he wore during the series.
A scene with all the cast members inside the 'Catwalk' office. Photos of
models adorn the walls in the background - one of which is actor Delvene
John Forgeham as Saxon Wells and June Salter as Paula Healy.
Saxon Wells and Jenkins in the 'Catwalk' office.
John Wood as photographer Ricky Novak.
Cecily Polson as the 'Catwalk' secretary, known only
Cornelia Frances as model Cornelia Heyson.
John Forgeham as Saxon Wells and John Wood as Ricky
Novak during a fashion shoot for 'Catwalk'.
John Wood as Ricky Novak and Cornelia Frances as
Cornelia Heyson in the 'Catwalk' office.
Catwalk opening titles. When John Wood left
the series, his credit was simply omitted from the sequence. For those interested in such minutia,
some episodes had the
Catwalk title in inverted commas.
Cecily Polson as Jenkins.