EXPIRED: 02/03/10 – John McCallum, 91, was one of Australia’s best known actors in the 40’s and 50’s and became better known when he married his wife, the English actress Googie Withers. But for Americans of a certain age, we know him best for bringing us the after school TV program “Skippy the Bush Kangaroo.”
The idea for Skippy came to McCallum in 1966, as he and Googie were packing up after a holiday at the Australian beach resort of Pittwater. It had struck him that Australia was the only country on earth with indigenous kangaroos, and when a friend came up with the idea of a TV show about a boy and a pet kangaroo, McCallum put up $5,000 to make the pilot. “Skippy the Bush Kangaroo” ran for 3 years and was shown in 80 countries. It’s theme song is imbedded in my brain.
McCallum was born in Brisbane in 1918 and began his career in theatre in London. As an actor, McCallum almost always worked with his wife. He and his wife, British actress Googie Withers, met on the set of the film, The Loves of Joanna Godden. They headed to Hollywood in the 1940s and he played in films such as Valley of Eagles, Melba and Port of Escape.
After Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, he produced adventure drama Barrier Reef, crime series Boney and The Highest Honour. McCallum continued to act on the Australian and British stages and produced the 1982 war movie Attack Force Z, which gave an early leading role to the young Mel Gibson.
Googie Withers survives him with their three children, one of whom is the actress Joanna McCallum.