Real-Life Adventures of Walter Brown

A London report from Ad Astra published in the New Zealand TV Weekly. June 19, 1967

From deer stalking in New Zealand to a role as Lady Chatterley's gamekeeper on the stage in London's West End... from wharfie on Sydney;s docks to a starring role as captain of Television's Seaspray

Walter Brown's first television acting in Britain was in Redilfusion's children's serial The Money Mountain a rather ironical title considering that he arrived in London from Australia with only half-a-crown in his pocket.

This was at the end of 1958. I was dumped at Paddington Station after travelling from my ship up to London by train. I had a vast wooden case of books among my luggage and I gave my last half-crown to the porter who helped me with it to a taxi. I optimistically drove oil to a friend's place in Chelsea, found he wasn't in, and had to go off to his Art School to get some money off him to play the taxi.

Walter Brown left London recently with undisclosed financial resources, a pretty Easter bride (formerly Miss Susan Gorely, a British theatre designer) and an assignment in Fiji to make the second 32-episode series of Adventures of the Seaspray, in which he plays the principal role of Captain Dan Wells.

Mr and Mrs Welter Brown will live in Fiji for nine months-some of the time on a floating hotel (a converted small steamer) and in weekends in a house he has rented on Viti Levu (an 8 1/2-acre retreat property accessible only by boat, and with no telephone or electricity).

The first series of Adventures of the Seaspray has been screened in England, Canada and Australia and will be seen in Australia and the United States later this year. The new series has been ordered by a number of countries, and will be shot in colour for American screening (and, maybe, the introduction of colour TV in Britain shortly).

Walter Brown was born at Auckland in 1927. He studied Arts at Auckland University and was a member of the Drama Society. But he left the academic atmosphere to join the Wildlife Branch of the Department of Internal Affairs, and lived the outdoor life for two and a half years-deer culling, taking in supplies and working in trout hatcheries in the winter. For a time he also became a fisherman working on a boat out from Gisborne.

Walter Brown as Mellors, the gamekeeper, in Lady Chatterley's Lover at the Arts Theatre.

In 1948 he went to Australia. In the first year I was a forestry man, timber cutting in the Myall Mountain, near Newcastle. Then I went to Sydney and for 18 months I was a wharfie working on the docks . . . . but I had started to act. Every night after work, seven nights a week, I went alrong to the New Theatre, an amateur left-wing company, which was the only theatre in Sydney at the time staging international cIassics like Shakespetare, Gogol, Molliere, and so on. I worked with Peter Finch at one time, Leo MicKern another . . . . I was with them for two years and then I went professional in 1953, taking part in a Treasure Island TV series for an American company-26 half-hour episodes in colour, made in Sydney. The following year I joined J.C. Williamson's, and toured with My Three Angels and then, Teahouse of the August Moon which we took over to New Zealand (I was Sgt Gregorovitch the drunken US sergeant) . . . . I remember half of us had Asian flu on that tour, but the show had to go on . . . .

After that I did an Australian tour with Jessie Matthews in the American play Janus, with Roger Livesey in The Great Sebalstians and then played the lead in The Shifting Heart by Richard Bynon, a play about the immigration problems of Italians in Australia . . . .Then I decided to try my luck by coming to Britain.

Six weeks of work on The Money Mountain enabled Walter to pay back his friend's loan and put half-crowns back into his pocket. Then he gained parts in other TV plays and appeared on the stage at Ipswich in Little Foxes. Those who saw him were impressed, and he was invited to go to Stratford.

Walter appeared in good TV plays like the BBC's Shadow of Heroe's, and Adventure Story by Terence Rattigan (with Sean Connery and Keith Michell). He also appeared in episodes of the thriller serial The Saint.

Then he gained his entry to the West End stage in a dramatised version of D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover which was produced at the Arts Theatre. - It was unexpurgated, and I was Mellors the gamekeeper-which meant that I was the first man to use THOSE WORDS on the British stage-deliberately anyway!

The dramatisation was the 22nd version submitted to the Lawrence estate and the first to have been accepted. At the time there was a test case over the book in the British courts and the play consequently received world-wide publicity. Newspapers like The Times and The Observer gave Walter good notices for his performance.

He has appeared in numerous films and talked himself into getting the part of Captain Dan Wells in Adventures of the Seaspray with the Australian-based company because it particularly appealed to him. (Certainly as an, accomplished yachtsman, skindiver and out-doorman, Walter is ideal for the role.)

Filming on location in Fiji.

The producer, Roger Mirams, who is also a New Zealander, met Walter when he was visiting London before the first series to arrange contracts for British screening. He had no intention of casting me-there were the fares, and British Equity rates of pay for me would be higher than for an actor hired in Australia-but I talked him into it. He introduced me to the American director of Screen Gems Inc., who back the serial, alt London Airport and they both discussed things on the plane back to New York . . . . then they rang me up and said OK.

Walter enjoyed making the first series tremendously. Six of the 32 episodes were shot in New Zealand But there won't be any filming in New Zealand in this series, because of economy and speed in making the episodes, and also because it has been found that viewers apparently do not like episodes where we leave the boat to go off inland and this is what we did in New Zealand. We left the boat at Milford Sound to go up Mount Cook, we left it at Timaru to go in to a sheep station, and we left it again at Lake Wakaitipu (the Seaspray could only get in there of course by trick photography) and at Lake Rotorua . . . .

Captain Dan Wells was a very interesting all-round part, and Walter is not worried about being typecast in it now that the serial is catching on all round the world. He is a fairly tough character and the script calls for plenty of action but it also calls for him to be a father (and a careful father since as a widower there is no mother to assist him) and to have to deal with a vast number of different situations.

In the new series he will have a new daughter since actress Susan Haworlth is leaving. The youngest of his three children will be sent off to boarding school leaving just a son and a daughter in the script-plus of course that cheerful Fijian character, Lioni LesinawaIi, who is the captain's modern Man Friday.

It is the same basic recipe as before. But my son will have a lot more to do in the stories, because he is older now. . . . Filming began in Fiji on May 1 (1967). When it ends next year, Walter hopes to call with his wife at New Zealand before returning to his flat in Hampstead, London.

Walter Brown, as Captain Dan Wells, with two other stars of the adventure series Gary Grey and Susan Worth. Captain Wells is a journalist on the hunt for magazine stories, and their ports of call include not only exotic Pacific Islands, but New Zealand, New Guinea, and Australia.

Is this slim 83ft-long schooner really the star of the TV adventure series? Seaspray moves to her anchorage at Suva.

Adventures of Seaspray (1965)
Moynihan (1975-77)