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Vale: Alan Hopgood

Veteran actor / writer, best known for Bellbird, Prisoner and Neighbours, has died.

Veteran actor / writer Alan Hopgood, best known for Bellbird, Prisoner and Neighbours, has died, aged 87.

He died on Saturday following several battles with cancers, surrounded by family.

Hopgood had a long career in Australian stage and screen both as performer and writer.

In 1958 he appeared in the premiere of the Australian musical Lola Montez set on the Ballarat goldfields, under the direction of John Sumner.

In 1963 he performed at the Russell Street Theatre in The Man Who Came to Dinner alongside Frank Thring, Elspeth Ballantyne, Michael Duffield, Carmel Dunn, Marion Edward, and Simon Chilvers.

It led to him pioneering Australian comic play writing with his acclaimed play And the Big Men Fly in June 1963. Written in a week, the work became a huge box office success, memorable for the Aussie Rules character of ‘Achilles Jones’ kicking a bag of spuds bag over a wheat silo. It would become a staple of high school English Literature lists, a telemovie, and a 1974 miniseries with John Hargreaves, Frank Wilson, George Mallaby, Diane Craig and Terry Gill.

Another tall story commissioned by John Sumner became The Golden Legion of Cleaning Women, in which a group of office cleaners use information they piece together from waste paper baskets and overheard telephone calls to establish a business empire. It was followed by Private Yuk Objects (1966) the first play in the world around the Vietnam War.

In Bellbird he played Dr. Matthew Reed from 1972 – 1977. In Prisoner he played Wally Wallace, running a halfway house with Judy (Betty Bobbitt) from 1981 -1984 and in Neighbours he was Jack Lassiter variously from 1986 – 2013.

But there were numerous small screen credits in Matlock Police, Homicide, Cop Shop, Skyways, All the Green Years, The Petrov Affair, The Flying Doctors, Flair, A Country Practice, Phoenix, Law of the Land, Snowy River: The McGregor Saga, State Coroner, Good Guys Bad Guys, Queen Kat, Carmel & St Jude, The Games, Round the Twist, Something in the Air, Halifax fp, The Secret Life of Us, Welcher & Welcher, The Saddle Club, Stingers, MDA, Fergus McPhail, Blue Heelers, Holly’s Heroes, City Homicide, and writing credits on Sugar & Spice, Neighbours, Pugwall, The Flying Doctors, Chances, And Here Comes Bucknuckle, and Barley Charlie.

He also wrote the phenomenon Alvin Purple, sequel Alvin Rides Again and TV series Alvin Purple.

Film credits included My Brilliant Career, The Blue Lagoon, Roadgames, Evil Angels, Knowing, The Cup and The Man from Snowy River II.

In later life his hit play The Carer premiered in Melbourne with Bud Tingwell before two national tours, exploring Alzheimer’s disease. For Better, For Worseaddressed prostate cancer and Weary dramatised the War Diaries of Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop. There were 11 health plays by Hopgood in total.

Hopgood was awarded an Order of Australia in 2005 for his services to the performing arts as an actor, playwright and producer, and to the community through raising awareness of men’s health issues.

Family friend Chris Dekretser recalls toasts to Hopgood at his 80th birthday celebrations in 2015.

“One of the best speeches was by Sam Johnson, who talked about him being so instrumental in teaching him everything he knew about acting,” he said.

“There wasn’t an Australian TV series he didn’t have a role in. Bellbird, Prisoner… He came back into Neighbours and they killed him off and gave the hotel to Paul Robinson.

“But he also did a lot for men’s health in trying to get them to have check-ups. It really gave him a new aim in life. He lived a good life and was very happy to watch his grandsons growing up.”

3 Responses

  1. A very young Alan Hopgood was my English Teacher at South Melbourne Technical School, in the 60’s, before leaving to go to England. He was a good teacher, and have fond memories of him in the classroom.

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