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Graham Kennedy highlights

Graham Kennedy highlights

Celebrating the life and work of Graham Kennedy, 'The King' of Australian television.

The boy from Balaclava conquered the small screen, and for four decades was Australia's greatest television star.

As well as clips from his all-conquering TV career, this collection features highlights from his parallel professions as a radio broadcaster and film actor.

Also included are the crown and throne that symbolised his TV status, personal letters and photos and his Gold Logie Hall of Fame award. Extracts from oral history interviews with Graham's friends and colleagues reveal something of his private life and what it was like to be part of the inner circle of The King.

Graham Kennedy standing and holding the crown on his head
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Graham wearing his crown

Graham Kennedy wearing the 'King of television' crown presented to him on 23 December 1969 during his last episode of In Melbourne Tonight (IMT)

Encrusted with faux pearls and lined with satin, the crown was a replica of one worn by King Henry IV of England and restored by the IMT production team for Graham's farewell.

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Graham Kennedy Crown
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The 'King of television' crown presented to Graham Kennedy on 23 December 1969 during his last episode of the television show In Melbourne Tonight (IMT).

Click View More to see a 360° view of the crown.

Graham Kennedy sitting at a table smiling to camera holding his crown with a bottle of Brasso in front of him
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Cleaning the crown
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Graham Kennedy polishing his crown with Brasso. He is pictured at his home in Kirribilli, Sydney.

Nine News tribute to Graham Kennedy
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Nine Network
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A segment from a Nine News story about Graham Kennedy's death in 2005. It features footage of Graham, principally from the 1960s and 70s and programs In Melbourne Tonight and The Graham Kennedy Show.

Gold Logie Hall of Fame Award
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Gold Logie Hall of Fame Award
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The Gold Logie Hall of Fame Award presented to Graham Kennedy by TV Week and accepted by Bert Newton at the 1998 awards night.

Graham holds the record for most Gold Logies, having won the award in 1959, 1967, 1969, 1974, 1978 and the Hall of Fame Gold Logie in 1998.

The Hall of Fame award was introduced in 1994 to recognise the outstanding contribution of individuals to Australian television. Other recipients of this peer-voted honour include Hector Crawford, Ruth Cracknell, Bert Newton, Noni Hazlehurst and Molly Meldrum.

Graham Kennedy sitting on the throne as Henry VIII with Bert Newton standing beside him
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Graham Kennedy on the throne
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Graham seated on the throne, performing a sketch (as King Henry VIII) with Bert Newton on The Graham Kennedy Show.

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Graham Kennedy throne
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Featuring in two 1971 Graham Kennedy shows, produced by US company Screen Gems, the throne was built by the GTV-9 props and carpentry department. It appeared in a comedy sketch where Graham played King Henry VIII. Among other antics, he threw a piece of chicken at Bert Newton (playing his court advisor) threatening, 'If you don't pick that up Bert, you won't be in the next series'.

The throne is made of turned and carved wood. The seat and arm rests are covered with plush red velvet and gold buttons, while the head is decorated with a cluster of rhinestone jewels below the mock royal insignia crown, and gold paint finish.

Click View More to see a 360° view of the throne.

Remembering Graham Kennedy

Friends and colleagues share personal recollections of Graham Kennedy from across his long and varied career. Interviewees include Graeme Blundell, Philip Brady, Peter Faiman, Ken Sutcliffe and Joy Westmore. They comment on Graham's professionalism and perfectionism, his comedic talent, his on and off-screen personas and complex personality.

This is a compilation of oral history interviews conducted for the NFSA’s Oral History program. With thanks to: the family of Marion Bednall, Graeme Blundell, Philip Brady, George Donikian, Peter Faiman, John-Michael Howson, Mike McColl Jones, John Mangos, Bob Phillips, Ken Sutcliffe, Joy and Brian Westmore and Crispian Winsor.

A caricature of Graham Kennedy with crown and sceptre on a 39c Australian stamp
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Graham Kennedy stamp
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A caricature of Graham Kennedy as 'The King' by Melbourne cartoonist Bill Green (WEG).

It featured on a 39 cent postage stamp around the time that Graham was hosting Graham Kennedy's Coast to Coast in 1989.

Blankety Blanks
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FremantleMedia
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An excerpt from an episode of Blankety Blanks (May 1977) with host Graham Kennedy and his regular celebrity panel: Noel Ferrier, Noeline Brown, 'Ugly' Dave Gray, Peita (now Peta) Toppano, Stuart Wagstaff and Marty Rhone.

Graham asks the panel: 'Noeline Brown said, "I remember the first man who proposed to me. I would have accepted, except he was [blank]."' He then asks the contestant and panel for answers.

Front and back cover of album Graham Kennedy Sings the Shows
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Graham Kennedy Sings the Shows
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Warner Music Australasia
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Kennedy's love of stage musicals manifested in his first and only album as a singer. Released during his successful return to hosting his own evening show, Graham Kennedy Sings the Shows features selections from popular Broadway and West End musicals. Graham's encyclopedic knowledge of the genre saw him select lesser-known tunes from hit shows like Cabaret, My Fair Lady and Jesus Christ Superstar.

The 10-song album was recorded at Bill Armstrong Studios in South Melbourne with the assistance of GTV 9 Musical Director, Brian Rangott. Graham was again heard on vinyl four years later when selections from early Blankety Blanks episodes were released on a compilation soundtrack album, issued on Laser Records in 1977.

The Wilsons - complete sketch
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Nine Network
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A complete sketch featuring 'The Wilsons', a regular In Melbourne Tonight (IMT) sitcom sketch featuring elderly married couple George (Graham Kennedy) and Joyce Wilson (Rosie Sturgess). In this episode, George surprises Joyce with a Mother's Day gift.

Graham Kennedy and Bert Newton - live ad for Raoul Merton shoes
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Nine Network
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Bert Newton joins Graham Kennedy on the couch to sell the latest Raoul Merton designer men's shoes, during a live advertisement on an episode of In Melbourne Tonight, circa 1962.

Statue of David censorship
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Nine Network
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On a 1973 episode of The Graham Kennedy Show, Graham reacts to the Victorian Vice Squad's censorship of Michelangelo's 'David'. He fills the set with reproductions of the famous male nude sculpture (completed in 1504) and makes joke about the fuss.

Handwritten thank you note from Graham Kennedy to Mike and Val McColl Jones
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Handwritten thank you note
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A handwritten thank you note from Graham Kennedy to Mike and Val McColl Jones. 

Mike started as a personal writer for Graham on In Melbourne Tonight in 1963. They were friends for the rest of Graham's life and Mike wrote the book Graham Kennedy Treasures: Friends Remember the King (with Steve Vizard) in 2008. Mike cites Graham's thank you notes as illustrative of his impeccable manners.

King of Moomba
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Network Ten
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Graham Kennedy waves to the crowd gathered near Flinders Street train station in Melbourne, as he parades along Swanston Street as King of Moomba. This brief footage derives from an Eyewitness News bulletin report on the incumbent Queen of Moomba, local 18-year-old trainee speech therapist Michele Worsley, telecast by ATV0 Melbourne on 12 March 1979.

Summary by Simon Smith

Sennitt's Ice Cream cinema ad with Nicky and Graham (edit)
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Roy A Driver for the Herschell Driver Collection
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A clip from a cinema advertisement for Sennitt’s Ice Cream featuring the popular Melbourne radio announcers Nicky (Clifford Nicholls Whitta) and Graham (Kennedy).

Sculpted orange wax candle of Graham Kennedy's head.
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Graham Kennedy candle
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A wax candle crafted in the shape of Graham’s head. It was made in the early-mid 1970s by freelance TV scriptwriter Roger Dunn for an internal promotion by Melbourne TV station GTV 9.

See more unusual artefacts in our Graham Kennedy highlights curated collection and explore all things Gra Gra in our extensive online exhibition, Graham Kennedy: The King.

Graham's Hideout - 'Chatting about nothing'
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An extract from 3AK's morning radio program ‘Graham’s Hideout’ from November 1961. It’s the day after the 1961 Melbourne Cup and co-presenters Graham Kennedy and Bert Newton compare notes on their winnings. They bicker in a good-natured fashion and Graham speaks intimately to the listening audience while Bert pops off to the kitchen to make tea. Graham explains there are no on-air commercials this morning because they forgot to bring them!

Graham Kennedy's Order of Australia medal in presentation box
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Graham Kennedy Order of Australia
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Graham was posthumously awarded the Order of Australia in the Australia Day 2006 Honours List. He had been nominated for the honour by Mike McColl Jones.

Mike started as a personal writer for Graham on In Melbourne Tonight in 1963. They were friends for the rest of Graham's life and Mike wrote the book Graham Kennedy Treasures: Friends Remember the King (with Steve Vizard) in 2008.

Mike Willesee interviews Graham Kennedy about IMT
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Seven Network
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During an interview with Mike Willesee about his recent return to radio with 2Day FM in Sydney, Graham Kennedy recalls some of his memories of working on In Melbourne Tonight (IMT). He discusses the frequent attempts by GTV9 staff to blow him up and drop objects on him during the show. He also expresses a genuine love of working with sketch comedy.

Content warning: this clip contains blackface and racist stereotypes.

Wedgwood china tea cup, saucer and plate
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Wedgwood china tea cup, saucer and plate
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Items from a tea set of Wedgwood and Duchess bone china belonging to Graham Kennedy.

Graham collected the fine china used in the first-class cabins of Qantas Airlines and British Airways domestic and international flights. He was very serious about his collection and corresponded with the management of Royal Doulton Australia to obtain information on new releases of tableware, specifically that used on aircraft.

At home Kennedy was very particular about the use of the china and took polaroid photographs of how it was to be arranged and presented to him by his housekeeper, Sally Baker-Beall, and other staff.

Graham Kennedy's Coast to Coast - highlights
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The clip includes highlights from Graham Kennedy’s popular five-night-a-week evening news show, Coast to Coast. Characterised by TV writer Barbara Hooks as 'Kennedy offer[ing] news leavened with wit' (The Age, 25 April 1988, p 12), the program was created by the Nine Network to combat the success of Seven’s late night news show, Newsworld, hosted by Clive Robertson.

Nine News - Graham Kennedy funeral
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A news report covering the funeral of Graham Kennedy, a celebration of the performer's life attended by a who's who of Australian past and present show business personalities. Hosted by newsreader Mark Ferguson, this Sydney Nine News bulletin was broadcast on 31 May 2005.

Graham Kennedy in Europe and India, 1961
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Gabrielle Beams and Nine Network
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Excerpts from film footage featuring Graham Kennedy enjoying a three-week overseas working holiday at the expense of Australian shirt-maker Glo-Weave. Graham is seen at the start of his journey answering questions for a possible future edition of In Melbourne Tonight; during refuelling in Darwin; stopping in Madras (now Chennai) and meeting people in Bombay (Mumbai), India; then sightseeing in Rome and visiting London. Locations visited include the Colosseum and The Forum in central Rome and the Cecil Gee clothing store in the west end of London. The footage includes occasional cut-aways to Glo-Weave shirts, in reference to the sponsor of the trip.

Graham Kennedy in India with a young mother and her baby girl. The baby girl is chewing on Graham's glasses.
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Graham Kennedy in India
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Bill Beams / Nine Network
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Graham Kennedy had a stopover in India en route to Europe in 1961. He meets a mother and her baby girl, who has taken a liking to Graham's sunglasses. 

The European trip was a three-week overseas working holiday at the expense of Australian shirt-maker Glo-Weave. 

Graham Kennedy aims his camera at a tourist sight in Paris, with the Arc de Triomphe in the background.
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Graham Kennedy in Paris
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Bill Beams / Nine Network
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Graham Kennedy plays tourist in Paris, with the Arc de Triomphe in the background. This shot was taken during Graham's 1961 three-week promotional tour of Europe, sponsored by Gloweave shirts.

Interview about 1961 Europe trip
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TCN9 reporter John Godson interviews a relaxed Graham Kennedy on 9 August 1961. Graham has arrived in Sydney after a three-week overseas trip, sponsored by Australian shirt manufacturer Glo-Weave. Kennedy mentions his interest in European fashion, visiting a Rome television station (RAI) and attending various live shows in Paris and London.

Image of a letter on GTV letterhead from Graham Kennedy to Mike McColl Jones' wife Val thanking her for dinner
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Typed thank you letter
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Typed letter from Graham Kennedy to Mike McColl Jones' wife, Val, thanking her for dinner.

Mike McColl Jones started as a personal writer for Graham on In Melbourne Tonight in 1963. They were friends for the rest of Graham's life and Mike wrote the book Graham Kennedy Treasures: Friends Remember the King (with Steve Vizard) in 2008. Mike cites Graham's thank you letters as illustrative of his impeccable manners.

Graham Kennedy interview: 'I've always been an actor'
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Seven Network
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Graham Kennedy discusses acting with film critic Ivan Hutchinson in an interview to promote the release of The Odd Angry Shot (1979). Graham mentions his first film role, as an extra in On The Beach (1959), and his cameos in They're a Weird Mob (1966) and the movie of The Box (1975). His acting breakthrough came the following year in Don's Party (1976).

Ivan Hutchinson was Seven Melbourne's (HSV7) 'Mr Movies', presenting the midday movies and interviewing actors and industry figures promoting their films.

They're A Weird Mob
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Graham Kennedy's short cameo in They're a Weird Mob (1966) is his first feature film appearance, although he was an uncredited extra in On the Beach (1959).

Nino Culotta (played by Walter Chiari) is an Italian migrant who has recently arrived in Australia and is looking for work. When Graham Kennedy (playing himself) pulls up in his car and asks for directions, Culotta is unable to help.

A nearby man from Sydney recognises Kennedy and speaks up. At first Kennedy is flattered at being recognised before being told in no uncertain terms that he’s not welcome in Sydney and should keep driving all the way to Cape York! 

Kennedy is a notable Melbourne celebrity and the clip entertainingly demonstrates the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne, to Culotta's bewilderment. 

The filming of this scene cleverly keeps the three men – Kennedy, Culotta and the Sydney bystander – in separate frames, highlighting that they are distanced from each other because of their different places of origin.

It’s a delightful piece of scripting, cinematography and editing that captures an awkward, but humorous, three-way exchange. Filmed on a busy sidewalk, it reinforces the casual informality of the Australian lifestyle.

Kennedy's resignation at being dismissed so decisively also highlights the Australian disdain for celebrities. In just 50 seconds, this short clip conveys a lot about Australian identity.

They're a Weird Mob was directed by Michael Powell and based on the novel by John O'Grady, writing under the pseudonym ‘Nino Culotta’.

Notes by Stephen Groenewegen and Adam Blackshaw

Graham Kennedy - feature film actor

A look at four of Graham’s most acclaimed dramatic film roles: as Macka in Don's Party (1976, directed by Bruce Beresford); Harry in The Odd Angry Shot (1979, Tom Jeffrey); Ted Parker in The Club (1980, Bruce Beresford) and Freddie in Travelling North (1987, Carl Schultz). Three of the films - Don's Party, The Club and Travelling North - were based on David Williamson plays.

Letter to Noeline Brown from a Graham Kennedy fan with cigarette butt of his attached.
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Graham Kennedy cigarette butt
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Tony Sattler and Noeline Brown
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Letter to Noeline Brown from a 64-year-old fan of Graham Kennedy who attaches a cigarette butt she collected from Graham 50 years earlier, in 1958.