Although made to showcase female singers, late 60s series A Girl to Watch Music By is possibly best remembered for the moment Ray Columbus became a puppet. In this episode host Columbus played ventriloquist's dummy, sitting on Max Cryer's knee. Wrote Cryer later in his book Town Cryer: "it looked very funny and we knew it and set to work on the choreography immediately." The song is called 'Where Would You Be Without Me'. The ventriloquist idea, which would be repeated again on rare "special occasions", was the brainchild of broadcaster Cherry Raymond.
Created by Fiona Samuel, The Marching Girls follows a Taita social marching team who decide to have a crack at the North Island champs. In the first episode of this feminist-Flashdance-in-formation 80s classic, young whippersnapper Leonie tries to modernise the girls' routine by getting them to march to the heavy metal tunes of Ironlung ("they're really big in Australia!"). This proves too much for Mahara (Patupatu Ripley), who's got enough on her plate with her new role as hesitant union spokesperson for her fellow workers down at the factory.
Go Girls starts from a twist, a beach and a promise. The twist is that this femme-dominated tale is narrated by a male (Jay Ryan). The promise involves four friends having a drink on the beach, and agreeing to make a major life-change within a year. Amy (Anna Hutchison) wants to be rich; whacky bartender Britta (Alix Bushnell) seeks fame; straight-talking Cody (Bronwyn Turei) wants a hubbie. The intentionally "optimistic, kind" hit show stretched to five seasons. In the backgrounder, co-creator Rachel Lang writes about the show's origins and difficult, rain-sodden birth.
After being spotted by television producer Christopher Bourn at the 1966 Loxene Golden Disc Awards, Maria Dallas was asked to star in series Golden Girl, grooving and bopping through country and crossover numbers. On a WNTV-1 stairway to nowhere set, she duets on Loxene winner ‘Tumblin’ Down’ with the song’s writer Jay Epae. Her other four numbers include ‘Rustle Your Bustle’ (by Kiwi Sam Freedman), and ‘Engine Engine No 9’. Guests The Dallas Four make their TV debut with a version of doo-wop classic ‘Stay’. The band went on to provide backing vocals for pop show Happen Inn.
Sixties teen sensation Allison Durbin featured on an episode of this early music show, shortly after her version of 'I Have Loved Me a Man' topped the Kiwi charts. Durbin sings ballad 'Looking Through a Tear', before swapping the dress, probably reluctantly, for a polka-dot pantaloon ensemble. As she sings the hip-swinging 'Eso Besso' (That Kiss), a small group of pseudo-Mexicans attempt to show a sombrero can make a viable dance prop. Durbin relocated to Melbourne around the time this was shot, where she would be triple crowned 'Queen of Pop'.
Nola Luxford was one of the first Kiwi actors in Hollywood and a fondly remembered wartime club hostess. This documentary — made before renewed attention thanks to Carole Van Grondelle's definitive bio Angel of the Anzacs — sees Luxford bypass troubled times and adoration from author Zane Grey to recall decades in America. These encompassed pioneering radio work in the 30s and 40s, a film career, and most poignantly, her legendary World War II Anzac club that welcomed 35,000 soldiers to New York. There are also clips from her 1925 silent film The Prince of Pep.
In this 'peeping tom rom-com' Toby (Richard Falkner) gets a little carried away un-obscuring the object of his desire — SPCA worker Phoebe (Scarlet Hemmingway). His dating guru Carl (comedian Jonathan Brugh) doesn't help. The inaugural winner of the Make My Movie Feature Film Competition was made in six months for $100,000. The Wellington team behind Distance proved that you don't need a big budget and years of development to make a crowd-pleasing feature. Following successful screenings at the 2012 NZ Film Festival, it was picked up for theatrical release.
A Girl to Watch Music By was a six-part series, with each episode showcasing a popular female singer or singing act. Among those featured were recent chart-topper Allison Durbin, perennial Pat McMinn, Yolande Gibson, Eliza Keil from the Keil Isles, and The Chicks. Hosted by Ray Columbus — by 1969, already well on the way to becoming a television veteran — the series also featured a fondly remembered sketch where Columbus played puppet to a much taller Max Cryer. The show's title was likely a variation on 60s instrumental hit 'Music to Watch Girls By'.
'Ship girls' are the subject of this episode of the NZBC’s Probation Service drama. Hapless Janice (Freda Costley), a 19-year-old with a father who moved to Whakatane and a mother she doesn’t see if she can help it, is looking for love in the wrong places: sneaking onto the wharves to party with sailors in the hope she’ll find a boyfriend. Now the police have arrested her and, if she’s not careful, she’ll end up in borstal. Will the Probation Officers (Ewen Solon and Glynis McNicholl) be able to "stop her gangway habit becoming an addiction"?
The Marching Girls is the seven-part story of a Taita social marching team who decide to have a crack at the North Island Championships. This pioneering series was conceived by actor-writer Fiona Samuel out of frustration over the dearth of challenging female roles: she declared that it was about time the Kiwi "alienated macho dickhead" shared some screen time with women. Synth-rock soundtracks, ghetto blasters, Holden Kingswood taxis and chain-smoking abound in this feminist-Flashdance-in-formation 80s classic.