The Golden Cobweb: Episode 1
The Golden Cobweb, a drama series in which Interpol agents unravel an attempt to rule the currencies of the world’s most powerful nations, was produced by Grace Gibson Radio Productions and first broadcast in 1956.
This series was inspired by real-life events such as Operation Bernhard, the code name for the Nazi operation to forge British currency during the Second World War, as well as the intrigue surrounding the British spies, Burgess and MacLean.
The series features major talents in the world of Australian radio drama – actors Lloyd Berrell, Guy Doleman and Lyndall Barbour – together with the veteran theatre and radio drama director Lawrence H Cecil.
Image: the staged dramatic photo includes (left-right): an unidentified woman, actor Lloyd Berrell, Warren Paine (a studio panel operator) and Valerie Vine (production manager for Grace Gibson Radio Productions). A cut-down version of this photo was used to promote the series in The Age newspaper on 6 April 1956. NFSA title: 1124056. Courtesy: Grace Gibson Productions.
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Celebrated author Peter Yeldham was the scriptwriter for The Golden Cobweb as well as others for Gibson. In the late 1950s, Yeldham headed to Britain where he wrote for television and feature films as well as plays for the stage. He returned to Australia in the early 1970s and continued his successful career with television mini-series, feature films and novels. He received numerous awards for his writing including an Order of Australia Medal in 1991.
Lloyd Berrell, who was of Maori heritage, plays the role of special correspondent Jeffrey Allison. Berrell was a popular and successful actor who started in theatre aged 12 in Bryant’s Playhouse in Sydney in the 1930s. In 1941 he joined the Youth Show which was initiated by Robin Ordell in 1940 for the Macquarie Broadcasting Network, to showcase radio talent under the age of 21. His colleagues included Betty Bryant, Joy Nichols, Michael Pate and Reg Johnson.
Berrell also worked in film and his credits include The Shiralee and Long John Silver. He appeared in the pilot Al Munch, Grace Gibsons Productions’ short-lived foray into television in 1952. His career was cut short when he died of a heart attack aged only 31 on his way to England in December 1957. His son, Saban Lloyd Berrell, is also an actor.
New Zealand-born radio, television and film actor Guy Doleman arrived in Australia in 1946. A former member of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, he starred with Charles Tingwell, Betty McDowell and Queenie Ashton in the Royal Australian Navy film Always Another Dawn in 1948. Other early film credits include The Kangaroo Kid, The Phantom Stockman and Strong is the Seed.
His radio roles included parts in the Lux Radio Theatre, A Story to Remember, The First Hundred Years and Actor’s Choice, for which he won the best acting performance in the half-hour play The Coward. He made his name on radio, initially with a role in the series Hagen’s Circus, but his most well-known role was as Demetrius in the series Dossier on Demetrius which was written by his friend and drinking buddy Lindsay Hardy for Grace Gibson Radio Productions.
Lyndall Barbour, a household name in Australian radio during the height of her career in the 1940s and 1950s, had begun her career on stage at the Sydney University Dramatic Society. Her radio work included productions for the ABC, where she first worked with producer Lawrence H Cecil, as well as the Lux Radio Theatre. Producer Donovan Joyce organised her travel by plane to recording sessions in Melbourne in the late 1940s as he regarded her work highly.
She won numerous awards during her career and co-starred with Peter Finch in the series Crossroads of Life. Barbour starred in numerous serials for Grace Gibson including performing the role of Portia Manning for nearly two decades in Portia Faces Life. In 1951 Barbour was the first woman to produce an ABC drama when she worked on the production of Winterset, starring Alan White and Rosemary Miller.
Lawrence H Cecil was one of Australia’s most experienced radio producers. Beginning as an actor, his early career saw him perform in Sydney, then England followed by 12 years in New York where he performed on Broadway with some of the leading lights of the day including John Barrymore, Helen Hayes and Frederic March.
He worked for New York radio station WEAF as an actor and producer where he was part of the genesis of the development of dramatic productions for radio in the mid-1920s. On his return to Australia he was appointed senior drama producer with ABC radio and during the Second World War was the Commander of the ABC Field Unit. Prior to working for Grace Gibson Productions as a senior producer in the 1950s, he worked in drama production for the Macquarie network.