A television series based on the twenty-nine novels by Arthur Upfield about fictional Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte. Originally broadcast on the Seven Network in 1972 and 1973, the series was titled Boney rather than Upfield's original spelling ('Bony') in order to clarify its pronunciation [all references to the film character therefore retain the alternate spelling].
As described by Upfield, Boney is a foundling, born of an Aboriginal mother and a white father and raised in a mission. An exceptional student, he won scholarships to secondary school and university, but later abandoned the 'white' culture to return to his mother's people and become initiated into their tribe. The issue of living half-way between two cultures lies at the very centre of Boney's existence and provides his character with a rich complexity of attributes: intellect, cunning, arrogance, compassion, and an inherent understanding of the land and of ancient bushcraft. His career as a policeman began after he helped solve an outback murder. Recognising his exceptional skills, the Queensland Police persuaded him to join the force, and he quickly rose to the rank of Detective Inspector. His talents are such that he is often loaned to other states to help solve outback crimes.
Several significant, though not overly problematic, changes were made to the television adaptation. In the Upfield books, Boney is aged in his fifties and married with three sons. He also smokes his own very poorly constructed hand-rolled cigarettes. For the television series, however, Boney is in his early thirties and unmarried. He also doesn't smoke. Another departure from the Upfield books is the inclusion of a regular female offsider, Constable Alice McGorr, who appears throughout most of the second series. McGorr was brought in to help solve an issue that the screen writers had struggled with during much of the first series: finding opportunities to have Boney talk and particularly to explain his reasoning or concerns. The omniscient writing style of Upfield's novels complemented Boney's solo methods of investigation well, but it created problems for the screenwriters in terms of dialogue. The answer was to provide a companion. The producers eventually decided on the character of McGorr, whom Upfield had introduced in the novel Murder Must Wait. The added advantage in this strategy, too, was McGorr provides a strong feminine perspective and, as Boney was now unmarried, a touch of sexual tension.
After several years of searching, both in Australia and England, for an actor who could convincingly play the 'half-caste' detective, the producers went with English actor Jon Finch. The major difficulty they had in locating the right person was that the actor not only needed to have some level of star power, but was also required to have the appropriate physical (if not colour) attributes in order to play the role convincingly. When Finch pulled out of his contract two weeks before production was to begin, the producers were about to cancel when New Zealand actor James Laurenson was brought to their attention. According to Don Storey, Laurenson's 'heavy brow, wide cheekbones and broad nose and mouth, looked and sounded right for the part' ('Boney' - Classic Australian Television). He was still required, however, to undergo extensive make-up sessions for the role, including having tribal initiation scars applied to his chest for some episodes. Although the series was condemed by many Aborigional groups and spokespersons for having a white actor 'blacken up,' Laurensen went on to win two awards for best actor.
Boney was marketed with much success to Great Britain, Europe, and New Zealand, no doubt helped by the fact that the series was filmed in colour (Australian television was still being broadcast in black and white during the early 1970s).
Boney was not telecast in the originally conceived running order, nor did it go to air simultaneously in all capital cities or regional areas. The series premiered, for example, with Episode 7, 'Boney and the Claypan Mystery,' in Melbourne on 27 July and in Sydney on 3 August 1972. Episode 1, 'Venom House,' was first aired in Melbourne on 17 August, Sydney on 24 August, and Brisbane on 17 November 1972.
For further details regarding telecast dates (including some regional centres), see Don Storey's Classic Australian Television website (below).
The Boney series has not been transferred to either videocassette or DVD format, and the producers have no plans to release it commercially in the near future.
While tracking a murderer, Boney comes to a gloomy old house that was cursed by Aboriginal people a long time ago. There he finds two sisters twisted by jealousy and hate, a psychiatric nurse acting as housekeeper, and, locked away in an upstairs room, a powerful man with the brain of a child.Australia : Fauna Productions , 1972
An Aboriginal boxer is released from prison after serving a sentence for killing his tribal brother. Having always maintained his innocence, he sets out to find the real killer and seek revenge. Inspector Bonaparte also sets out to prove the boxer's innocence and bring the guilty party to justice before it's too late.Australia : Fauna Productions , 1972
Inspector Bonaparte and Constable McGorr are sent to investigate the murder of a man who had been travelling by train in the outback. The principal suspect is a woman who is returning to her home town after having spent the previous ten years in gaol for the murder of her husband.Australia : Fauna Productions , 1973
Based on Arthur Upfield's character Bony but not on a specific novel, the narrative concerns a light aircraft that disappears after a forced landing on an emergency airstrip in the bush. Concerns are heightened because the plane was carrying a payroll. While investigating the plane's disappearance, Inspector Bonaparte and Constable Alice McGorr are drawn to a nearby convent. Realising that this 'silent order' (where the nuns are not permitted to speak) may hold the key to the case, McGorr enters the convent undercover. Meanwhile, Boney searches the bush for two kangaroo shooters who prefer human game.Australia : Fauna Productions , 1973