The Grey Nurse Said Nothing

The Grey Nurse Said Nothing is a television play written by Sumner Locke Elliott. It was based on the Shark Arm case.


A shark is captured and throws up an identifiable human arm, with a tattoo. It is presumed the arm belongs to a boatman. A local tycoon is arrested for murder.

Witnesses at the trial include the tycoon's alcoholic wife, whom the boatman tried to seduce, and a local school teacher in love with the boatman.

1959 Playhouse 90 version

"The Grey Nurse Said Nothing"
Playhouse 90 episode
Episode no.Season 4
Episode 5
Directed byRon Winston
Teleplay bySumner Locke Elliott
Produced byFred Coe
Original air date26 November 1959[1]
Running time90 mins

The play was screened in the US in 1959 as an episode of Playhouse 90.


  • Ann Todd as Laura Mills
  • Angela Lansbury as Hazel Wills
  • Paul Comi as Patrick Aherne
  • Gary Crutcher as Lynch mob leader
  • Patricia Cutts as Mavis Greenop
  • Michael David as Herbert Wills
  • Don Dubbins as Bluey
  • Hugh Griffith as Rev. Light
  • Tony Haig as Boy


The Los Angeles Times called it a "suspenseful telecast" in which the cast "gave universally good performances."[2]

The Chicago Daily Tribune called it "thoroughly enjoyable".[3]

1960 Australian television version

"The Grey Nurse Said Nothing"
The General Motors Hour episode
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 1
Directed byDavid Cahill
Teleplay bySumner Locke Elliott
Produced byDavid Cahill
Cinematography byM. J. Cleary
Doug Hampson
K. Burton
Original air date28 May 1960 (Sydney, Melbourne)[4]
28 June 1960 (Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide)
Running time90 mins

The play was performed live on Australian television in 1960. It was produced and directed by David Cahill.

It was made by Channel Seven who later called "the most ambitious dramatic production ever attempted in Australia... [written by] one of the world's foremost authors of television plays and the cast is Ihe largest ever assembled for an Australian television dramatic production.... the greatest care has been taken to achieve the maximum possible standard in the production of the play which covered a total period of approximately eight weeks."[5]


  • Guy Doleman as murdered man
  • Lyndall Barbour as the accused's sister
  • Frank Waters as man on trial
  • Pamela Page as the accused's wife
  • John Fegan
  • Reg Lye
  • Nigel Lovell as narrator
  • Gordon Glenwright
  • Nancye Stewart


In February 1960, ATN 7 announced they were making a new show, General Motors Hour, sponsored by General Motors, in conjunction with GTV 9, Melbourne, QTQ9 Brisbane, and NWS 9 Adelaide, starting in May. It was to be presented by Harry Dearth and consist of two drama specials and one documentary. Their first production was to be a production of The Grey Nurse Said Nothing.[6] ATN purchased the rights to the play in February 1960 - they had the right to broadcast it for 60 days from the premiere.[5] It was the first time a script from Playhouse 90 had been adapted for Australian television and involved the largest cast ever assembled for an ATN 7 teledrama, with 20 speaking parts and 40 extras.[7]

Director David Cahill and set designer Geoff Wedlock flew to Cairns to take photographs and sketches of the courthouse where the trial took place in the story. The courthouse was reproduced at ATN 7's studios in Epping. The scenes outside the courtroom were filmed before small mobile sets such as a barroom, a bedroom, a schoolroom and a beach picnic. The lighting in the courtroom was dimmed when these scenes were reached in the play and the small sets were spotlighted. The cast had a month of rehearsals, including three weeks of "dry runs" in a city rehearsal studio, before it was finally recorded on videotape on 23 April 1960.[8] The dress rehearsal was played back to the cast and crew to give them a chance to correct any possible mistakes.[7]

The cost of the play was over £4,000, £3,500 of which was provided by the advertiser. The cost of buying the rights to screen a film at this time was estimated at £500.[5]

Patrick Brady, who was tried and acquitted in the actual Shark Arm case, sought an injunction restraining ATC Channel 7 from televising a court scene from the play.[9] The scene had been shown in advertisements, in which a witness being examined by a barrister was describing how a shark that had been caught and placed in an aquarium had disgorged a human arm. Mr Brady argued that the scene was not a fair and accurate and recent report of his trial. He also argued that the fact the accused in the play was found not guilty by the jury would further defame him.

ATN 7 Sydney argued that it would cost them £403 if the telecast did not take place and would lose £3,500 if the play was not telecast on any of the other stations upon which it was proposed to be telecast on 28 May 1960, including stations in Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.[5]


The show aired on ATN at 9 pm on Saturday night.

The critic for the Sydney Morning Herald thought "the conventional materials of courtroom melodrama are worked over neatly, but without special distinction in talk or characterisation" in the play which featured "a cast that was not only huge in numbers but rich in talent." He added that director Cahull's "management of these big numbers, and the inventiveness by which he managed 'flashbacks' from courtroom to various Queensland scenes within a single studio, were an exciting break through the usual space and time limitations confining any live television play. The play itself... was generally very secure, though lacking the final polish needed to minimise the superficiality of much of it."[10]

See also


  1. Television Preview The Washington Post, Times Herald ]26 Nov 1959: D23.
  2. TV Review: Murder Trial Is Basis for Suspenseful Show Shanley, John P. New York Times 27 Nov 1959: 59.
  3. Staccato Format Is Still Bad Anderson, Robert. Chicago Daily Tribune 1 Dec 1959: b10.
  4. "TV Drama on ATN Tonight". Sydney Morning Herald. 28 May 1960. p. 3.
  5. "Application for injunction denied by court". Sydney Morning Herald. 28 May 1960. p. 7.
  6. "New Project Planned for ATN 7". Sydney Morning Herald. 19 February 1960. p. 21.
  7. "Shark Arm Mystery". Sydney Morning Herald. 23 May 1960. p. 13.
  8. "Play based on Shark Arm Mystery". Sydney Morning Herald. 15 May 1960. p. 111.
  9. "Application To Stop T.V.. Play Rejected". The Canberra Times. 34, (9, 613). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 28 May 1960. p. 7. Retrieved 19 May 2016 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  10. "The Grey Nurse Said Nothing". Sydney Morning Herald. 30 May 1960. p. 5.

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