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Australian TV

A Town Like Alice (Channel 7 1981, Helen Morse, Bryan Brown)



Period drama serial. During World War II English Jean Paget, living in Singapore, is (along with a whole party of women and children) taken captive by the Japanese, forced to trek across Malaya she meets and falls in love with POW Aussie Joe Harman, after losing contact she mistakenly believes him to have been killed by the Japs but later after the war he tracks her down and the pair start a new life in the Australian outback.

Henry Crawford had a great deal of trouble raising the cash to make the serial. The BBC expressed an interest in co-funding but didn’t commit although they later bought the British rights.

production details
Australia / Channel 7 – Crawfords – Marriner – Victorian Film Corporation / 3×120 minute episodes / Broadcast July 1981

Writers: Rosemary Anne Sisson, Tom Hegarty / Novel: Nevil Shute / Camera: Russell Boyd / Design: Larry Eastwood / Costume: Ron Williams / Music: Bruce Smeaton / Producer: Henry Crawford / Director: David Stevens

HELEN MORSE as Jean Paget
BRYAN BROWN as Joe Harmon
GORDON JACKSON as Noel Strachan
YUKI SHIMODA as Sgt Mifune
ANNA VOLSKA as Sally Wilson-Hayes
DONALD MacDONALD as Derek Wilson-Hayes
JENNIFER WEST as Mrs Horsfall
PAT EVISON as Mrs Collard
MANDY BOOCOCK as Marlene Collard
RICHARD NARITA as Captain Sugamo


1. ONE
When Jean Paget learns she has inherited the estate of her uncle she begins telling her solicitor, Noel Flashback, about her time during World War II (Flashback to…):- Kula Lumpa 1941:- People are beginning to worry about the approach of the Japanese but before they can leave Malaysia Jean and her brother Donald (along with many others) are taken prisoner by the Japs, later the men are separated from the women and children. The women and kids then have to travel by foot to a camp at Kuala Lumpa but when their plans are changed they face walking hundreds of miles to a camp on the East Coast.

The women then meet Australian POW Joe Harmon who is driving a truck for the Japs. Joe decides to use a bit of trickery (making his truck break down) to try and help the women. Joe likes Jean but thinks she is married because she is looking after an orphan child. Joe later manages to get the group some precious medical supplies and Joe begins to grow close to Jean. Joe then oversteps the mark with the Japanese by stealing some chickens – he is terribly disciplined by the Japs who crucify him (by nailing him to a door). Jean is then convinced he is dead.

guest cast
MELISSA CRAWFORD as Robyn / LUCY BELL as Jane / SEAN HINTON as Freddie / DEBBIE BAILE as Audrey / REBECCA MARSHALL as Rita / MANDY BOOCOCK as Marlene / CRISPIAN ASHBY as Johnny / CECILY POLSON as Eileen / JOHN LEE as Lester / JOHN HOWARD as Jean’s Brother / JOHN ALLEN as Bill Holland / DONALD MaCDONALD as Derek Wilson Hayes / HATSUO UDA as Captain Koniata


2. TWO
After leaving behind the horror of what happened to Joe the group have reached the coast without finding a camp, when their last remaining guard falls ill and dies the women make arrangements to stay in a nearby coastal village, after being accepted into the village they begin working in the paddy fields and manage to sit out the rest of the war there. Back home in the UK the now wealthy Jean tells her solicitor Noel that she plans to travel back to Malaya to build a well for the village she stayed in during the war. In Malaya Jean is amazed to learn that Joe Harmon didn’t die at the hands of the Japanese and decides to travel to Australia to try and track him down, Joe meanwhile has decided to travel to England to try and find Jean.

Joe is stopping with Noel Strachan (who hasn’t told him that Jean is in Australia – mainly because he himself is in love with Jean). Jean meanwhile is still travelling around Australia searching for Joe, she learns he has settled in Willstown but once there she learns he is in England. Joe then decides to return to Australia, Jean is forced to remain in Willstown until the plane arrives to take her home.

guest cast
MELISSA CRAWFORD as Robyn / LUCY BELL as Jane / SEAN HINTON as Freddie / JOHN LEE as Lester


Joe travels back to Australia, Noel’s solicitor finally informs her that he is on his way home and Jean decides to wait to meet Joe the pair then have to spend a bit of of the getting to know each other. After spending the night together Joe asks Jean to marry him, she says yes. Jean then hits upon the idea of starting two businesses, one an ice cream parlor and the other a shoe making factory, she faces difficulty getting the building material together she also faces a bit of hostility from some of the locals, then after an argument with Joe she calls the wedding off.

Jean makes it up with Joe who shows her the improvements he has made to the farm where they will be living; whilst there Joe is called away to the bush (a fellow farmer has broken his leg), Jean then has to help with the rescue attempt and ends up in hospital with exhaustion for her trouble, the event, however, does help to get the people of the town on her side. Noel Strachan then flies out to Willstown to learn Jean and Joe are to be married in a few days (although he had intended to ask Jean to marry him he settles for giving her away instead).

guest cast
MAURIE FIELDS as Al / MAGGIE DENCE as Mrs O’Connor / JOHN LEE as Lester / PETER COLLINGWOOD as dr Kennedy / TIM McKENZIE as Pete / STEVE BISLEY as Tim / TOMMY LEWIS as Bourneville / ED TURLEY as Police Sgt / LORNA LESLEY as Rose / ANNE HADDY as Aggie Topp / JOAN LORD as Miss Carter / PETER PAULSEN as Flying Dr Pilot / DEREK WYNESS as Don Curtis / GERTRUDE TRELOAR as Palmolive / FATHER GARY PRIEST as Bush Brother / FRED PETER as Mr Watkins / LOFTY CANNARD as Crocodile Shooter