Jeanne Little career highlights

Jeanne Little career highlights
Mike Walsh AM, OBE Hayden Productions
Access fees

Knife throwing, paragliding, singing, dancing and riding an elephant – just some of Jeanne Little's hilarious highlights of working on The Mike Walsh Show from 1974 to 1982.

Jeanne says here she hasn't broken any bones, but in 1985 she did actually break her ribs (and came close to breaking her back) when she rode a motorbike with John-Michael Howson in the sidecar for the first episode of the evening version of The Mike Walsh Show.

The compilation includes an excerpt of Jeanne singing Irving Berlin's 'Heat Wave' (1933). The tempo of her cover is slower than famous versions of the song, originally sung by Ethel Waters for the 1933 musical As Thousands Cheer. The snippet holds up remarkably well given the calibre of those who sang the song previously, including Marilyn Monroe, Ella Fitzgerald, Ethel Merman and Bing Crosby. Rather than being discouraged by being amongst such luminaries, Jeanne relishes the opportunity and gives the track her own style (including the stunning, colourful costume she created).

Jeanne and Mike Walsh sing an amusing duet where she contrasts herself as being more like Sydney and him more like Melbourne. She equates Mike with Camberwell Junction (in Melbourne) and herself with Kings Cross in Sydney. The song seems to be an original written for the show and it's a beautiful vehicle for their characters to shine through. Jeanne speaks in a broad Australian accent and fluffs the words in keeping with her daffy persona. Mike meanwhile looks the part of the high-class host. The two make a fabulous team, having worked together closely for 11 years. It's refreshing to see Mike laugh when the segment goes pear-shaped – he usually plays the straight man to Jeanne.

The reaction of US comedian George Burns to her story about Aunty Lottie falling out of a minibus at her wedding reception is perfect. He can barely understand a word Jeanne says!

Jeanne can be characterised as a relatively rare example of a female larrikin – a rough, uncultivated Australian in a similar vein to Paul Hogan. Like Hogan, she tells funny stories about her life with her broad Australian accent and can laugh at herself.

Other segments in this clip feature Brian Bury, Dr James Wright and Sydney's Centrepoint Tower, which opened in 1981.

The excerpt is from the 2000th episode of The Mike Walsh Show: Episode 2109, broadcast on 7 July 1982. Please note that the sound for this clip is distorted in parts.

Notes by Beth Taylor