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Prisoner: Cell Block H (TV Series 1979–1986) Poster

(1979–1986)

Trivia

Jump to: Spoilers (2)
The oft-mentioned Department, the staff's employers, was fully The Department of Corrective Services.
The show also spawned stage productions including 1981's revue "Prisoner in Concert" (taped at HM Prison Pentridge); a 1989 UK-based stage drama which starred Patsy King, Elspeth Ballantyne and Glenda Linscott; a 1989 UK-based stage drama which starred Fiona Spence, Jane Clifton and Jacqui Gordon; and 1995 & 1997 UK-based stage musicals which starred Paul O'Grady as Lily Savage and Maggie Kirkpatrick.
One of the best satires of the show featured in Let the Blood Run Free (1990), where at one point Nurse Pam Sandwich and Matron Dorothy Conniving-Bitch were sentenced to Wentworth Detention Centre. Costumes and possibly some set elements were reused from the original series, as was an establishing shot of WDC. Perhaps unintentionally the obviously-painted 'shoe shop' flat which appeared behind the doors of the first Driscoll House in Prisoner: Cell Block H (1979) also showed up in the comedy spoof.
The prison's address was: Wentworth Detention Centre, PO Box 42, Wentworth 3NS, Nunawading, Melbourne, Victoria 3131.
In some countries, the series was called "Prisoner: Cell Block H" to avoid confusion with the cult UK series The Prisoner (1967). Annette Andre, Terence Donovan and David Nettheim appeared in both shows.
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Cassandra Lehman made an uncredited appearance in a flashback sequence as Bea Smith's daughter, Debbie. Cassandra is the real-life daughter of Val Lehman, who played Bea Smith. Her other daughter Joanne Lehman appeared as Yvonne, a cocky youth Bea encounters on the run.
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The theme song "On the Inside" at the time was acclaimed as "the biggest selling single from a female artist in the history of the Australian recording industry". On 6th May 1989 the single was released in the UK and peaked at number 3 in the charts on 3rd June.
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In 1979 it was Australia's second most popular show, with average audience 1,494,000
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The USA's second most popular show, with 25% of the audience when premiered there on 8th August 1979.
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In 1981, following all this success, the Ten Network commissioned Grundys to produce Punishment (1981) - a male version of the show. But the series was panned by the critics despite featuring Mel Gibson as an inmate and survived a mere 39 episodes before being cancelled.
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After episode 692 was shown in Sweden in early 2000, fans demonstrated outside the building of TV 4 ( which had shown the series), demanding a rerun. It was the first time in Sweden this had happened, and the demonstration convinced the company to air the show again.
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Val Lehman (Bea Smith) was originally considered for the part of Vera Bennett. Maggie Kirkpatrick had auditioned for the role. The other contenders for the role of Bea Smith included Betty Bobbitt (Judy Bryant), Maggie Kirkpatrick (Joan Ferguson), and Carole Skinner (Nola McKenzie).
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The character of Bev "The Beast" Baker (played by Maggie Dence) was originally created as a long-term addition to the cast. However, the writers soon realized that the character of Bev, a serial killer, was too disturbing for the program and wrote her out after only six episodes.
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Several of the major cast all made minor guest appearances in the show before returning to the series to play long-term characters: Gerda Nicolson (Ann Reynolds), Anne Phelan (Myra Desmond), Louise Siversen (Lou Kelly), Kirsty Child (Willie Beecham), Debra Lawrance (Daphne Graham), Babs McMillan (Cass Parker), Billie Hammerberg (May Collins), Jane Clifton (Margo Gaffney), Belinda Davey (Hazel Kent), Maurie Fields (Len Murphy), Christine Earle (Janet Williams), 'Kevin Summers' (Ben Fulbright), Ernie Bourne (Mervin Pringle), Brian James (Stan Dobson), Paddy Burnet (Ida Brown), Nicki Paull (Lisa Mullins), Sue Jones (Kathy Hall), Anne Charleston (Deirdre Kean), Jennifer Ludlam (Janice Grant), Robyn Gibbes (Sam Greenway), and Marilyn Rodgers (Queenie Marshall).
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Colette Mann (Doreen Burns) was originally considered to play either Lynn Warner or Marilyn Mason during the original auditions for the show.
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Janet Andrewartha originally auditioned for the role of Bobbie Mitchell before being offered the part of Reb Kean. Janet had to agree to cut her waist-length hair to a "'James Dean'" style for the character.
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A sitcom spin-off involving the character of Sandra 'Pixie' Mason (Judy McBurney) was once proposed by the show's writers but Grundys never entertained the idea.
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Billie Hammerberg (May Collins) had previously auditioned for the part of Nola McKenzie.
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Whilst shooting a fight scene, Val Lehman (Bea Smith) accidentally fractured Amanda Muggleton (Chrissie Latham)'s nose.
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During the shooting of a scene where Carol Burns (Franky Doyle) smashes up the recreation room set when Franky flies into a rage, one of the extras started to panic and eventually had to be coaxed out from under a chair.
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Pepe Trevor (Lexie Patterson) is the daughter of "Prisoner" producer Marie Trevor.
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Supposedly, a total of 6480 actors, writers and directors and a total of 784 crew members were employed throughout this series' run.
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A 1984 storyline featuring Vivean Gray as Edna Pearson, a (possible) poisoner, was heavily cut in both Australian and overseas airings following its initial transmission. This was because Grundy was threatened with legal action by Emily Perry, an Australian woman who had been similarly - and recently - imprisoned in reality. The storyline was finally broadcast uncut in Malta in March 2000. It was released (almost) uncut on DVD in the United Kingdom in 2010, as a "stand alone" release besides the ongoing release of chronological episodes.
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Wentworth was a high-security prison. Other jails seen in the series were Barnhurst (aka "The Farm", a low-security country prison farm), Woodridge (a mens' prison) and Blackmoor ("The Black Hole", a maximum-security institution for serious offenders). Real-life prisons Pentridge and Fairlea were occasionally alluded to.
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The warders performing the night-time lock-up during the end-credit sequence are: Anne Yates (Kirsty Child, 1-4), Officer Grahame (Susan J. Arnold, 5-294), Joan Barfield (Delva Hunter, 295-481) and Gail Brown (Geraldine Girvan, 482-692).
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Val Lehman owns Prisoner: Cell Block H (1979) Box Set #1 - the very first of the limited edition DVD run. She has mentioned in an interview that she hasn't watched them as yet, but may auction them.
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In the early stage of Prisoner: Cell Block H (1979), the producers hired an ex-con as a script advisor. To the surprise of the staff, their new script advisor was shot during a bank robbery.
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Elizabeth Latham, Chrissie's baby, was played by Lucas Bradley, son of producer Ian Bradley and script editor/actress Anne Lucas.
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In 1980 Lizzie Birdsworth finds a puppy, Prudence, which had strolled into the Wentworth grounds; Vera Bennett confiscates it and keeps the dog for herself. In real life the dog (a King Charles spaniel named Strudel) actually belonged to Vera actress Fiona Spence: during the scene when the dog was found by its owners, the producers wanted the dog to run up to its owner, but being Fiona's dog it just sat there.
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Elspeth Ballantyne (Meg Morris) is the only lead actress to be in the show throughout its entire run. Extras Barbara Jungwirth (Lorna Young) and Hazel Henley (Tina Murray) also lasted the course.
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In March 2012 Foxtel announced plans to revive the show as Wentworth Prison (2013), focusing on Bea Smith's rise to become Top Dog. This new negotiation with rights owners FremantleMedia followed similar proposals by Ten in 2010 (a broad reworking provisionally entitled "Inside Out") and the 1990s.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

Maggie Kirkpatrick intended to leave the show in the 9th season, so a storyline was planned where she would go to jail (and it being the 8th season cliffhanger) and be killed in the 9th season setting up a "Whodunnit?" storyline. The show was canceled at the end of the 8th season, so the intended cliffhanger was instead changed to the show's resolving.
Anne Phelan, who was leaving at the time, was the one who suggested the hostage storyline and suggested her character be killed protecting her friends.
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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