My Memories of Denzil Howson

My first recollection of Denzil (although I was not aware of his name) was of this very athletic young man pounding up two flights of stairs to the 5th floor of the Argus building clutching a sheaf of copy paper and disappearing into a half glass door with Argus broadcasting services 3UL Warrigul, 3YB Warrnambool and 3SR Shepparton lettered on it.

Yes that was Denzil racing to meet the deadline for the 6 o’clock broadcast to The Argus radio network.

At that time I was a Cadet Photographer and was often assigned to assist the Pictorial Editor, which meant racing the latest news pictures from the darkroom on the fourth floor to the news conference on the third floor — hence Denzil and I would often dash past each other on the stairs since the lifts were notoriously slow and never there when needed.

Then along came Television and Denzil, myself and another old Argus staffer, Peter Hansford joined the fledgling Channel Nine. My next vivid recollection of Denzil was at Channel Nine in late 1957 or early 1958.

In those early years, as well as his other production responsibilities, Denzil directed the Saturday afternoon programmes, which were on film, but were regularly interrupted to bring the viewers the latest sporting updates. These sporting updates were sponsored by Malvern Star Motor Scooters and compered by Geoff Corke, dressed as Superman (Superman being one of the programmes aired during the afternoon.)

One particular Saturday afternoon, in between sporting updates, the other cameraman, Peter Hansford, and I were sitting on our pedestals with cameras out of focus and locked off having a few laughs when all of a sudden through my earphones came the measured, relaxed tones of Denzil’s voice “Bill I think you had better focus up because you are ON THE AIR”. All hell broke loose whilst I scurried to unlock the camera, frame and focus up. I wonder what our viewers thought.

When IMT came along with Graham at the helm, Denzil with his wonderful laid back sense of humour produced a series of three minute comedy films under the generic title of “The Amazing”, one of which was “Golf Discovery” in which IMT regulars like Joff Ellen, Bill McCormack, Evie Hayes and Joy Fountain acted out the hackneyed phrases of that particular sport. For example in the “Amazing Cricket Discovery”, Joff Ellen would bowl a ball at the batsperson, in this case Joy Fountain and knock her over. The voice-over told everyone that Joff had “Bowled A Maiden Over” and so on. Eventually, as Denzil became more involved with his Childrens’ programmes and Pantomimes, and after some Howson Tutelage, I was handed the task.

Denzil was not only a seasoned actor, producer and director, but also the master of broadcasting and record production. I still have several 16 inch acetate recordings made by “Actuality”, Denzil’s recording label. These include all the themes from the Channel nine programmes at that time, e.g. Wyatt Earp, Highway Patrol, Tombstone Territory, etc, as well as some risqué evergreens including The Admirals Daughter, Over Sexteen, The Contest, Bloopers Soap and Silent George. Denzil also produced some ten inch acetates of Hal Todd’s famous Coles Commercial, which I also still have, but a little worse for wear.

Denzil is no longer with us, but he will never be forgotten. I will never forget “Bill you had better focus up because you are on the air”. Fortunately for us and future generations a large amount of Denzil’s life’s work has been catalogued and will be kept and displayed in the archives in Canberra.

Bill Beams
November 2005

Bill Beams worked with Denzil at GTV9. His career in Australian television spanned over 30 years.