Astute observer of the zeitgeist

BY GAYLE LAKE

John Cornell was a talented writer and a highly respected business visionary. To a broader Australian public, he was perhaps best remembered for his onscreen character Strop in The Paul Hogan Show (1973–1984). 

John rose from a cadet journalist position at the Daily News in Perth to managing the newspaper’s London office, before turning his attention to broadcast journalism as the original producer of A Current Affair (1971–current) where he first met Paul Hogan. Cornell became Paul Hogan’s manager, lifelong friend and creative collaborator.

Cornell went on to co-write and produce The Paul Hogan Show. In that mixture of comedic anarchy, the character of Strop was born. The program became a comedy vehicle for unique talents and enjoyed sky-high ratings and popularity for more than a decade.

During this period John also met his wife Delvene Delaney, a talented actress and television personality who became a regular cast member on The Paul Hogan Show.

You can see Cornell as Strop in this clip from episode one (1974):

Changing the face of Australia

Cornell applied his business acumen to other interests outside of the television industry, including managing several cricketers. When Cornell partnered with Nine’s Kerry Packer to create World Series Cricket, a new form of sports entertainment shook the corridors of the global cricket establishment. 'C’mon Aussie C’mon' reverberated in homes across the country and hot Australian summers were never the same again.

The Cornell-Hogan creative partnership also delivered the ‘shrimp on the barbie’ advertising campaign for the Australian Tourist Commission and then in 1986 Crocodile Dundee boisterously and unashamedly occupied screens globally. With domestic box office recorded at over $47m and $US174m for the North American release, the film screened all over the world grossing $US328m and remains the most commercially successful Australian film ever made.

Here's Cornell with Paul Hogan and Delvene Delaney in another sketch from The Paul Hogan Show (1976):

The NFSA is very proud to be a custodian of early episodes of The Paul Hogan Show (1973–76), original film materials for Crocodile Dundee and its 1988 sequel, plus a vast array of stills, posters, lobby cards, scripts and other documentation relating to the Dundee films, as well as the advertisements made for the Australian Tourist Commission.

We salute journalist, entrepreneur, producer, performer, writer and manager John Cornell, and the indelible imprint he left on the many lives he touched through his generous creative spirit.