Pioneering screenwriter Eleanor Witcombe, who wrote The Mavis Bramston Show, Number 96, and My Brilliant Career has died.
She was born in Yorketown, South Australia, but left in 1939 to live first in Brisbane and then in Sydney. She studied at the National Art School, and then joined the Mercury Theatre School when it was founded in 1946.
She began writing plays for children in 1948, and was writing for radio at the time of her departure to England in 1952. While there, she studied youth theatre and worked for the BBC.
On her return to Sydney in 1957, she wrote for radio, co-wrote two stage shows, and in 1963 adapted Smugglers Beware (1963) for television.
This was followed by a long spell with The Mavis Bramston Show and its sequels. Other television credits include Pastures of the Blue Crane, Seven Little Australians, Number 96,Water Under the Bridge, Jonah and The Harp in the South.
One of her first film scripts was The Getting of Wisdom (1977), followed by the adaptation of My Brilliant Career (1979).
Eleanor was one of the first members of the Australian Writers’ Guild, having joined in 1966, where she fought for writers’ rights, fees and royalties in the newly resurgent Australian film and TV industry.
Angela Wales Kirgo, former Executive Director of the Australian Writers’ Guild, said, “Eleanor Witcombe’s place in the history of Australian screenwriting is assured not just by her wonderful screen adaptations of a series of Australian iconic classics, but by her outsize personality and fierce passion for the rights of writers. And she knew whereof she spoke, since aside from the prestigious adaptations, she worked right across the spectrum – radio plays, children’s theatre, The Mavis Bramston Show and Number 96, for starters.
“Whether she actually was a founding member of the AWG or not I’m not sure, but she was certainly a very early member and had she had a full proprietary interest in it.
“She was a feisty and outspoken member and a character to be reckoned with. Whenever she appeared at the door of my office, I knew we were in for a wild ride. I loved her and loved her company.”