A new series in the Underbelly franchise is about to hit Australian TV screens.
Set in Sydney, Australia between 1927 and 1936, according to producers the new crime drama depicts “A time when notorious vice queens, Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh battled for supremacy over a nefarious world built on illegal drugs, gambling, extortion and prostitution. When brothels and sly grog shops flourished and gangs of thugs slashed their opposition into silence until the streets ran with blood.” Sounds fabulous.
“Underbelly: Razor marks an exciting new development in the Underbelly franchise,” said Des Monaghan, Executive Director of Screentime. “The women who battle for control of the underworld are truly incredible characters whose stories are as fresh today as when they occurred. And despite legendary criminal figures, Squizzy Taylor and Norman Bruhn, our story is dominated by extraordinary women such as Kate Leigh, Tilly Devine, Nellie Cameron and arguably Australia’s first policewoman, Lillian Armfield. A truly rich tale with larger than life characters.” - Channel Nine
The two women in question who headline Razor – Kate Leigh and Tilly Devine – certainly are interesting characters. Our two Razor heroines, or anti-heroines as the case may be, are played by New Zealand actress Danielle Cormack as early 20th century prohibition buster and cocaine dealer Kate Leigh, and Chelsie Preston Crayford as brothel madam Tilly Devine.
In 1930, Kate Leigh would have been aged 49 years old. And here is how Cormack appears as Leigh in the TV series.
Here is the real Kate Leigh in a picture from 1930.
In 1930, Tilly Devine would have been 30 years old. Here is Preston Crayford in character as Devine in that era.
And here is Tilly Devine as she really looked in 1929.
To be fair, Cormack is 41 years old. But if you can find out how old Preston Crayford is, I’ll give you twenty bucks.
There were rumours that seasoned Australian actor Jackie Weaver, recently nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Animal Kingdom, was to play Devine. If she had, I’d certainly be watching Razor.
In fact, there are several other excellent actresses who would have been able to play either of these two women without losing credibility, or any of the sexual appeal producers are clearly going for.
My point? Why was it impossible for producers to cast women who looked even remotely, chronologically and physically, like the real Devine and Leigh?
I’m very disappointed, but then I guess real-life was not what the producers were aiming for.