6 Productions Rick Dalton Might Have Wound Up Doing in Australia After Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

April 3, 2020
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is now available on Foxtel and Prime… and that’s all the excuse a self-isolating Stephen Vagg needed to come up with a hypothetical list of productions that Rick Dalton might have made in Australia after the events of that movie.

1) Headlined his own adventure series

Ty Hardin was a Rick Dalton-esque actor – who, like Rick, leapt to fame starring in a TV Western, in his case Bronco. Also, like Rick he popped up in a few features: Palm Springs Weekend, The Chapman Report, Berserk, etc before his career went into decline. In the late ‘60s Hardin accepted an offer to play a charter boat owner in an Australian adventure series called Riptide. Shot in colour, it only ran for 26 episodes but offered invaluable experience to local actors and crew prior to the ‘70s boom. Guest stars included Michael Pate, Rowena Wallace and Helen Morse – and you can easily see them hanging around Rick, listening to his stories, trying to persuade him to the benefits of Australian beer.

Hardin was a colourful character who wound up associated with a lunatic anti-tax group called the Arizona Patriots which got in trouble with the FBI – I’d like to think Rick would have avoided a similar fate. However, Hardin also worked in Australia as a star attraction in Tommy Hanlon’s circus… (Thanks to Paul Harris for this particularly obscure piece of trivia.) I would love to have seen Rick perform at the circus.

An excellent web resource on Riptide is here.

The credits are below.

2) Guest starred on The Evil Touch

American Mende Brown came out to Australia and got a few things going in the local scene including a horror anthology TV series aimed at the international market called The Evil Touch (1973-74). This guest starred imported actors like Leslie Nielsen, Julie Harris, Darren McGavin, Vic Morrow, Ray Walston, Robert Lansing, Kim Hunter, Harry Guardino and Carol Lynley. It was pure Rick Dalton territory.

Here’s an episode.

3) Guest presented on the Logies

This is far and away the most likely thing Rick Dalton would have done in Australia. The Logies had a rich history of importing overseas guests to present awards, sometimes with legendary results – for instance Michael “Mod Squad” Cole swearing on one occasion. Have a look – it’s not hard to imagine Rick Dalton doing this:

4) Starred in a Transatlantic Enterprises TV movie

Heard of them? In 1976-77, this company made six TV movies in association with the ABC using imported stars and directors but local crew and support cast: you had Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss in No Room to Run, Lloyd and Beau Bridges in Shimmering Light, Sid Caesar and Juliet Mills in Barnaby and Me, Keir Dullea and Karen Black in Because He’s My Friend, James Franciscus in Puzzle, and Tony Lo Bianco and Sally Kellerman in She’ll Be Sweet. The films are little remembered today – I once met Prentiss and Benjamin and mentioned No Room to Run; they said they had a wonderful time during the shoot in Sydney and that no one ever asks them about the movie but they had very fond memories because they got to act together and loved hanging around Sydney. Rick Dalton would have been completely at home.

Here’s a clip from No Room to Run.

5) Toured the country in a stage production of The Odd Couple with Stuart Wagstaff as Felix

This was a suggestion of Mark Hartley, who pointed out theatres of Australia in the ‘70s and ‘80s – in addition to putting on all that cutting edge David Williamson and Alex Buzo – were also fairly packed with overseas stars treading the boards in light comedies. Ron Randell (Australian raised but overseas based) for instance toured in There’s a Girl in My Soup, Richard O’Sullivan was in Boeing Boeing, Derek Nimmo in Shut Your Eyes and Think of England and Hywel Bennett in Wife Begins at Forty. Rick Dalton as Oscar and Wagstaff as Felix in Neil Simon’s classic comedy would have genuinely been a fun night at the theatre.

6) Appeared in a Tony Ginnane film

Few Australian producers displayed more enthusiasm for importing overseas stars into Australian and New Zealand films than Tony Ginnane in the 10BA era. Over the years he gave jobs to actors as diverse as Susan Penhaligon, David Hemmings, Steve Railsback, Robert Powell, Broderick Crawford, Henry Silva, Olivia Hussey, George Peppard, Ken Wahl, Jenny Agutter, Joseph Cotten, Lesley Ann Down, Michael Murphy, Louise Fletcher, Tatum O’Neal, Jodie Foster and John Lithgow. With this sort of history, it’s extremely likely Ginnane would have been open to using Dalton in one of his films.

I asked Mr Ginnane himself for his thoughts. He got into the spirit of the thing (few producers are bigger film buffs) and came up with the following hypothetical scenario:

“Henry Silva, who had been in Australia in 1978 for Thirst, went back to Italy and worked with Rick on one of the westerns and Henry told him what a great time he had. With the success of Harlequin worldwide in 1980, we went immediately into production on a sequel The Minister’s Magician from a script by Everett de Roche with David Hemmings directing. Rick and David had met at Cinecitta when David was filming Dario Argento’s Deep Red. Rick became the new head of security, replacing Broderick Crawford who had passed away. Rick brought menace, slickness and a physical vitality to the production and thoroughly enjoyed his time in Perth.”

So, Rick, if you haven’t drunk and smoked yourself to death by now, give Tony a call. I’m sure he’s got that Harlequin sequel script lying around somewhere…


Thanks to Mark Hartley, Paul Harris and Tony Ginnane for their contributions to this article.



  1. Cara Nash

    Another incredibly imaginative and in-the-know piece from Stephen Vagg! Brilliant!

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