GRAHAM KENNEDY COLLECTION

You owe your audience your best shot.

Graham Kennedy

Navigating the exhibition

You can navigate through this exhibition using the dots and chapter headings left of screen.

The arrow controls at bottom left and right of screen allow you to move back and forward between slides within each chapter.

You can also use the arrow keys on your keyboard to navigate.

We hope you enjoy this exhibition! 

A Tribute

Introducing The King of Australian Television

Graham was the greatest star on Australian television.

He bound generations of Australians together for 40 years.

Mike McColl Jones, scriptwriter

Here's Graham...

Graham Kennedy's unparalleled career in entertainment spanned half a century. From humble beginnings in radio, Kennedy landed his first television gig when the medium was still in its infancy.

In Melbourne Tonight premiered on 6 May 1957 and Kennedy quickly showed that he was headed straight for TV stardom.

Pictured left: Graham Kennedy is crowned 'The King' by Eric Pearce on IMT in 1969
Previous slide: Graham in his Channel 9 caravan

In Melbourne Tonight, 1962

Late night hijinks live on air...

Bert Newton joins Graham to promote Raoul Merton designer men’s shoes.

In Melbourne Tonight, 1965

Controlled Chaos on the Set

Graham and Miffy Marsh promote Nestlé milk powder in a sponsored segment.

The Mike Walsh Show, 1970

ScotTowels Ad premiere

Graham’s return to TV after leaving IMT was this 30-second ad for Bowater Scott.

Blankety Blanks, 1977

Graham’s game show

The celebrity panel game show was a huge success and introduced Graham to a new, younger audience.

Graham Kennedy's Coast to Coast, 1988-1989

Graham’s late night news show

Graham regularly reduced original co-host Ken Sutcliffe to tears of laughter.

It only took me a few days to realise that Graham was

what they call a 'natural'.

Nancy Lee, 3UZ Radio personality

The Early Years

Graham Kennedy began work in 1950 as a panel operator for announcer Clifford Nicholls Whitta (Nicky, pictured left) at 3UZ in Melbourne. He joined him on air and it wasn't long before his popularity grew and Graham became a household name in Melbourne.

His first TV appearance – on a live radio and TV simulcast for the Red Cross fundraising appeal on 31 March 1957 – led to Graham being signed as host of the new late night TV show In Melbourne Tonight (IMT).

In 1956, Graham met another young radio announcer, Bert Newton (pictured on previous slide). Bert and Graham formed a partnership on television and radio that endured for decades. 

In Melbourne Tonight, 1959

The 500th Episode

Graham performs a song he wrote to mark the 500th episode of IMT.

20 Years of Television, 1976

The Right Place at the Right Time

Graham talks with Bert Newton about starting on TV and the early days of IMT.

Graham and Bert on 3AK, 1962

A classic radio stunt

Graham and Bert tune into rival Melbourne station 3UZ and talk to disc jockey Don Lunn as if he can hear them.

Sennitt's Ice Cream Cinema Ad, 1956

Graham's First Appearance on Film

This cinema ad features Graham (as a genie) and Nicky at the height of their radio popularity.

I believe I've always been an actor.

Graham Kennedy

From TV to Film

Australia's King of Television always wanted to be a film actor.

He had a love for sketch comedy, which was the perfect vehicle for his acting talent early in his TV career. But film was what he aspired to - he likened it to 'travelling first class'.

After cameo roles in films like They're A Weird Mob (1966) and The Box (1975), Graham’s breakthrough as a film actor came in Don's Party (1976, pictured left). He followed it with dramatic roles in The Odd Angry Shot (1979, see previous slide), The Club (1980) and Travelling North (1987).

Interview with Ivan Hutchinson, 1979

Graham's Acting Career

Graham talks to Ivan Hutchinson about his transition from TV to film acting.

The Wilsons, 1968

Acting in Early TV Sketch Comedy

'The Wilsons' was a regular IMT sketch featuring elderly couple George and Joyce (Rosie Sturgess). In this brief extract Joyce wants George to buy an electric blanket.

On The Big Screen

Graham's feature film career

A look at four of Graham’s most acclaimed dramatic film roles.

A lot has happened in the last three years.

The cows are not as sacred.

Graham Kennedy

'Aaaaark'

Graham never shied away from controversy and was not afraid to criticise authorities, studio executives and censors.

His imitation of a crow call on live TV landed him in hot water with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, because it sounded too much like a certain expletive that was still taboo in 1975. The stunt led to Graham having to pre-record his shows instead of performing them live.

Left: Graham is given a drawing of himself as a crow by an audience member on The Graham Kennedy Show

The Don Lane Show, 1983

The Crow Call

Graham recounts to host Don Lane the infamous ‘crow call’ incident.

The Mike Walsh Show, 1970

The Politics of Winning a Logie

A few months after leaving IMT, Graham explains why he did not win a Logie that year.

The Graham Kennedy Show, 1973

The Statue of David: Uncensored

Graham reacts to the Victorian Vice Squad’s censorship of Michelangelo’s statue of David.

A lot of people say he was a recluse. He was private and he was shy but that doesn't make someone a recluse.

Bert Newton

The 'Real' Graham

Close friends say the TV legend loved by audiences was a far cry from the private and somewhat shy person they knew. 

In the book Graham Kennedy: Treasures, close friend Tony Sattler says of Graham, ‘The naughty boy persona was an elaborate facade. Graham in his life was conservative, fastidious, ultra polite to women. In fact he hardly ever did tell dirty jokes.’

Previous slide: Graham at his home in Frankston, Victoria
This slide: Graham with Bert Newton

People would drive him mad

Graham didn't like going out

Joy Westmore (cast member, The Graham Kennedy Show) explains why Graham fiercely protected his privacy.

Engaged?

In 1973 the Sunday Observer printed a story announcing that Kennedy was set to wed Australian-born singer Lana Cantrell.

The news sparked a media frenzy and Cantrell appeared on The Graham Kennedy Show the following week to perform and talk about the engagement. 

Not surprisingly, it was later revealed that their 'engagement' was a stunt, orchestrated by Kennedy to see how far he could manipulate the press and, some say, to shut down rumours surrounding his sexuality.  

Graham's Personal Life

A Closed Book to Work Colleagues

Bob Phillips (Producer, The Graham Kennedy Show) discusses Graham's sexuality.

Our friend Graham loved a lot of things.

I just wish that he'd loved himself as much as we loved him.

John Mangos

Farewell to The King

Friends and former colleagues pay tribute to Graham Kennedy.

Celebrating a Legend

Graham’s funeral service was attended by the who’s who of Australian show business.

Did You Know...

1
Graham was colour blind. The wardrobe department at Nine placed notes on his clothing selected for each night’s show to correctly match his outfits.
2
Graham’s dog Rover reportedly held a contract with Pal dog food worth more money than the General Manager of GTV 9 was earning at the time. The document was signed using Rover's paw print!
3
Graham used to make his own jam using recipes from an Australian Women's Weekly recipe book for jams and preserves.

More Graham?

For more on Graham Kennedy, explore our curated collections.

You'll find rarely seen footage, artefacts, documents, audio excerpts and photographs from his amazing career.

Acknowledgements

With special thanks to Nine Network; Seven Network; Network Ten and Mike McColl Jones. Thanks also to Brian Abel; Phillip Adams; Gabrielle Beams; Richard Berriman; Graeme Blundell; Philip Brady; Noeline Brown; Henry Crawford; Roy A Driver for the Herschell/Driver Collection; FremantleMedia Australia; Henry Gay; Herald & Weekly Times Pty Ltd; Chris Keating; Kimberly-Clark Australia; Mark Knight; Judy Leech; Damien Lovelock; Macquarie Media Limited; Sue Milliken; Mission Australia; Bob Phillips; RSN – Racing & Sport; Gary Reilly; Jill Robb; Tony Sattler; Pete Smith; Southern Cross Austereo; Mike Walsh AM, OBE and Hayden Productions and Brian & Joy Westmore.

 

  • Exhibition producer: Mel Bondfield, Stephen Groenewegen
  • Curatorial: Chris Arneil, Bronwyn Barnett, Jennifer Coombes, Maryanne Doyle, Simon Smith, Helen Tully
  • Film Compilation: Richard Carter
  • Video: Richard Carter, Terry Stuetz
  • Audio: Viktor Fumic, Ross Garrett
  • Oral History: Bronwyn Murphy
  • Conservation: Shingo Ishikawa
  • Document and artefact photography: Tony Rowley, Darren Weinert