Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Jake Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Stanton Daily. Posted by Jake Frost
Crocodile Dundee, The Wild Duck, Bit Part
Currently Known For:
May 1, 1934
If you’re an Australian, the voice of John Meillon is a very familiar one. Not only had he been part of some very memorable productions during his long career, but Meillon was also the voice of the Victoria Bitter commercials that became a staple of Australian television. Meillon’s career lasted for more than 40 years, but unfortunately he passed at a young age before he could make some more memories.
Meillon was born on May 1, 1934 in a suburb of Sydney, Australia and started acting at a very young age. Meillon was only 11 years old when he got his professional career started, as he was not only appearing on stage, but had a guest appearance in a radio production. For his teenage years, Meillon headed to England where trained in Shakespearean acting before television started to take off in Australia.
In the late 1950s, Meillon made his on-screen debut in the television movie “Rope” and had a trio of additional appearances during the remainder of the decade. In the early 1960s, Meillon had roles in TV movies such as “Chasing the Dragon”, as well as TV roles in “A Chance of Thunder” and was featured in the movies “Jungle Fighters” and “The Sundowners”. Meillon was incredibly busy during this time, adding dozens of credits throughout the 1960s.
The biggest role of the decade for Meillon started up in 1966 when he starred as Wally Stiller in the show “My Name’s McGooley, What’s Yours?” Another regular series role followed with “Rita and Wally”, which was a spin-off from the previous show where he played Wally Stiller. In the early 1970s, Meillon continued his busy career that had plenty of additional roles with one of his most notable coming in the 1971 film “Wake in Fright”.
Regular television roles popped up for Meillon during the 1970s quite frequently. This included long-running roles in the shows “Bellbird”, “The Far Country”, “Over There” and “Lane End”. Much of the same followed for Meillon into the 1980s until the later part of the decade. That was when Meillon landed what would end up being his most recognizable role to date.
It seemed that there were many in “Crocodile Dundee” that were out to get the title character, but that wasn’t true for Meillon’s Wally character. In fact, you could say that the business partners were best friends, and Wally was always quick with a joke. Wally follows around Dundee on his travels, often providing comic relief throughout the film. Two years later, Meillon reprised his role as Dundee’s friend, and played a significant role.
In “Crocodile Dundee II”, Meillon gets taken hostage by gangsters and ends up being used as an Australian tracker. In the end, Walter gets rescued and accidentally shoots Dundee due to a mistaken identity. Thankfully, everyone turned out fine in the end and all of the main characters made it through the ordeal.
In addition to his roles in the “Crocodile Dundee” series, Meillon had also been the voice for the popular Victoria Bitter beer commercials. He had plenty of voice work thanks to his soothing vocals, but the series of commercials was his most famous voice role. Among these commercials was his catchphrase, “you can get it any old how,” which became a staple for the beer company.
Sadly, those memorable commercials and his famous roles have been away for 30 years now. At his home in Sydney, Australia on August 10, 1989, Meillon was found by his family, passed away at the age of 55. At first, the cause of death had not been known, but his family told reporters that he had been battling an illness for an extended period of time before his death. Eventually, it was released that his official cause of death was cirrhosis of the liver.
One of the spots that Meillon frequented during his acting career was at the Oaks Hotel in Sydney. The bar of the hotel is named the John Meillon OBE Bar, as he was one of the popular regulars. Even after renovations, the bar named after Meillon remained untouched, after he made many friends there over the years.
After his death, Meillon’s friend Bill Gardner had mourned the actor’s death and talked about his career. “He was very selective in the roles that he did,” Gardner said. “He refused many because he did not think they were good enough and money never entered his head.” Owner of the Meillon bar, Ben Spencer, said that “Up until (his illness), he had a cutting wit and a satirical manner,” while fellow actor Noel Ferrier added that “I was always a bit in awe of Meillon because he was one of those actors…that when he gets on stage or when he gets in front of a camera, you never felt he was acting. He just was the character. He had a peculiar genius which very few actors present.”
“Dundee” co-star Paul Hogan also spoke out about his friend’s death, choosing not to replace the character for the third film. “I didn’t ‘cause he was so much the character,” Hogan said. “We missed him.”