Vale: Denise Morgan

Prolific screenwriter Denise Morgan, who helped Prisoner become the icon it is today, has passed away after a long battle with cancer.

Prolific Australian screenwriter Denise Morgan passed away on Saturday following a long battle with cancer.

Morgan has over thirty years in the Australian industry, especially in television drama.

She boasts a long list of credits including Matlock Police, Solo One, Bluey, Chopper Squad, Young Ramsay, Holiday Island, Prisoner, Taurus Rising, A Country Practice, Five Mile Creek, Home and Away, Embassy, The Flying Doctors, Phoenix, Murder Call, Stingers, Water Rats, Blue Heelers, McLeod’s Daughters and the feature adaptation of Colleen McCulloch’s An Indecent Obsession. She was also script producer on All Saints.

Morgan got her break in TV at Crawfords with no formal training in a “sink or swim” debut. Along with writers Reg Watson, Michael Brindley and producer Ian Bradley, she helped shaped the early days and charactersations of Grundy’s Prisoner, from episodes 1-200. These episodes have recently been replaying on Foxtel. Along with Phoenix and Murder Call it was one of the credits of which she was most proud.

A Prisoner Facebook page published a message from her family: “With a huge heartfelt regret I am delivering the sad news that our beloved, talented friend and colleague, Denise Morgan sadly passed away on the morning of Saturday 26th of June, 2011.

Former Prisoner writer Coral Drouyn tells TV Tonight, “It was seeing an early episode of Prisoner written by Denise that made me want to write for television. She was a fine writer and had already cut her teeth on shows like Bluey. Though Reg Watson created Prisoner and wrote the first two scripts – it was Denise who worked the characters and truly gave us Bea, Lizzie, Doreen and Vera…icons of Australian television.

“Even though she moved on to other shows – some far more ‘top end’ – it was partly her doing that Prisoner has achieved iconic status for over 30 years.

“I knew her only as a colleague but at our one meeting, after I took over the helm of Prisoner, I told her I was taking care of her baby. She generously said…’No, No, it’s your baby now’ and so it was for nearly five years.

“Denise spent many years writing All Saints and moved In House to be associate script producer. She was deeply committed to finding the ‘truth’ in character, and cared deeply about all the characters she wrote for. That’s what made her a fine writer.

“She mentored other writers and was a staunch and generous friend. The writing community is a lesser place without her work and presence, and I would not have had a writing career at all had it not been for her inspiration.”

Morgan was active within the Australian Writers’ Guild and took the fight up to the networks on behalf of younger screenwriters. She also taught Screenwriting at RMIT University, and was also one of my lecturers. I will remember her most for instilling in us that issue-based adult drama had its roots in medical, legal or policing for both economic reasons and for story generation. We threw every TV title in the book at her and she still managed to convince us the shows all came back to these basics.

Trent Roberts, a writer on Winners and Losers, tells a story of how a friend was amazed at how much Denise loved encouraging young writers.

He said, “The friend said to Denise, ‘You know if you keep doing that one of them’s going to take your job.’

“Denise replied. ‘Brilliant. That means I taught them well!'”


14 Responses

  1. I went to school at Ipswich Girls Grammar School with my best friend Denise Morgan. Every lunchtime Denise would drag me to the library and we would read aloud every scriped part of Shakespear’s plays. After school and at weekends we would dress but and create the most drmatic scenesThis Denise left Ipswich with her family (I think her father was a bank manager. I have always wondered if the talented screen writer was the same girls who inspired me to become an amateur actress and I returned to our old school as a Drama teacher and writer and director of school plays. I regret that I never found out if she was the same Denise Morgan as I always longed to tell her how she inspired me to act and write. I broke down and cried when I heard the sad news of her death only recently. Can anyone tell me if Denise Morgan lived in Qld and went to Ipswich Girls Grammar School in the 1960?

  2. Denise cut her script editing career under my watch as producer on Matlock Police, Young Ramsay and Solo One. I loved working with her. She had more integrity than most in the business. This news is sooo sad – she was a beauty.

  3. Thank you for honouring such a prolific and significant Aussie screen writer. Our writers do not get the recognition they deserve. How sad it is that only when a Lynn Bayonas or Denise Morgan passes do we realise how many great shows have been driven by them. I’m sure there are many industry folk in mourning over her death – what a resume.

  4. Really sad to hear about this. I was lucky enough to meet Denise when doing an attachment to ‘Water Rats’ – very down to earth person who just loved to write. Also very encouraging to up and comers.

    The Australian TV industry won’t be the same without her. Thanks for the news David.

    RIP Denise.

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