Mossman’s famous Fred exits
Fred Greenwood 1928-2013
MOSSMAN lost one of its colourful identities when Fred Greenwood - actor, stunt man, market stallholder, farmer - passed away recently.
He was a large man and he lived a life to match.
Fred’s long road from his birth in Proserpine took in life on the land and also the big smoke.
He was a character in real life and on the film and TV screen. During the 1970s he was quite a mainstay of the local television industry, appearing in popular series that included Divison 4, Matlock Police, Homicide, Rush, Cash & Co, Thousand Skies, Power without Glory, The Sullivans and Bellbird. His films included The Irishman, Mad Dog Morgan, The Sentimental Bloke, End Play, Eliza Fraser and more.
His niece, Sharon McLean, remembers a charismatic, impressive man. ‘‘The Uncle Fred from childhood was a big, mysterious man who used to show up out of the blue every so often. He always drove a Holden station wagon which was either blue or brown and towed a caravan. He would show up with presents for my sister, brother and myself.
‘‘I used to wonder where my mysterious uncle would go after he left us. Then he would appear on our TV and it all felt normal again.’’
Fred was born into a farming family - cattle and cane - and his early years as a rural kid included a lot barramundi fishing.
He left school at 12 years old to cut cane in the war years. Later on he founded a camera club and a car club in Proserpine and his talents at both were recognised.
In the 1960s he sold his farm land and set off around Australia with a caravan. In Melbourne he saw an ad for actors and decided to give it a go. He met TV impresario Hector Crawford and talked his way into acting lessons.
‘‘ Crawford started an acting school and asked Uncle Fred to be part of it,’’ remembers Sharon McLean. ‘‘He attended the school along with many others, many of whom dropped out along the way. They were looking for the top 10 actors and Uncle Fred made the list.
‘‘He told us this year that he would go out dancing until midnight and then go to Melbourne Printing, who printed the paper, and search it for acting jobs.’’
That’s how he found his first acting job and from there his career took off.
‘‘He told us ‘acting was easy, it was the best thing I ever did and it was good fun’. Fred met John Wayne and reckoned he was a good bloke. The English actors were better to work with than the Americans though. He classed many of the local actors including Gus Mercurio, Leonard Teale and Maurie Fields as his friends.’’
One of Fred’s sidelights was the stunt business he set up with some friends. Trailblazers Stunt Team worked in movies, TV and country shows. Fred had two horses as part of his stunt team which he had trained to a high level of proficiency, including ‘‘falls’’. One time, they were in Adelaide and needed to get to Melbourne to appear in a bushranger film. They set out from Adelaide riding the horses and taking turns at driving the car towing a trailer, taking 22 days for the trek. Fred reckoned it was good training for the horses.
The stunt crew were also trained to crash motorbikes, fall off buildings, smash cars head on, fight with knives and create mayhem in bar brawls, fight with whips, and get hit by cars. ‘‘Fred never got hurt doing any of this,’’ says Sharon McLean.
‘‘I remember as a kid it was a normal thing to see my uncle on TV. I don’t think the kids at school ever believed me that he was an actor.
‘‘In later years when I got married he would ring me up and write letters and we had great conversations. He told me about his acting, his market gardens and how much he loved living in Mossman. To the people of Mossman that accepted my uncle Fred into their lives, thank you.’’