The Sundowners

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The Sundowners
The Sundowners poster.jpg
film poster
Directed byFred Zinnemann
Produced byGerry Blattner, Fred Zinnemann
Screenplay byIsobel Lennart
Based onThe Sundowners (1952) 
by Jon Cleary
StarringDeborah Kerr
Robert Mitchum
Peter Ustinov
Music byDimitri Tiomkin
CinematographyJack Hildyard
Editing byJack Harris
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • December 8, 1960 (1960-12-08) (USA[1])
Running time141 min.[1][2]
CountryUSA / UK / Australia[1][3]
LanguageEnglish
 
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This article is about the 1960 film. For the 1950 film, see The Sundowners (1950 film). For other uses, see Sundowner.
The Sundowners
The Sundowners poster.jpg
film poster
Directed byFred Zinnemann
Produced byGerry Blattner, Fred Zinnemann
Screenplay byIsobel Lennart
Based onThe Sundowners (1952) 
by Jon Cleary
StarringDeborah Kerr
Robert Mitchum
Peter Ustinov
Music byDimitri Tiomkin
CinematographyJack Hildyard
Editing byJack Harris
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • December 8, 1960 (1960-12-08) (USA[1])
Running time141 min.[1][2]
CountryUSA / UK / Australia[1][3]
LanguageEnglish

The Sundowners is a 1960 film that tells the story of an Australian outback family torn between the father's desires to continue his nomadic sheep-herding ways and the wife's and son's desire to settle down in one place. The movie stars Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum, and Peter Ustinov, with a supporting cast including Glynis Johns, Dina Merrill, Michael Anderson, Jr., and Chips Rafferty.

The screenplay was adapted by Isobel Lennart from Jon Cleary's novel of the same name; it was produced and directed by Fred Zinnemann.[2]

At the 33rd Academy Awards, The Sundowners was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Deborah Kerr), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Glynis Johns), Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.

Plot[edit]

Irish-Australian Paddy Carmody (Mitchum) is a sheep drover and shearer, roving the sparsely-populated back country with his wife Ida (Kerr) and son Sean (Anderson).[2] They are sundowners, constantly moving, pitching their tent whenever the sun goes down. Ida and Sean want to settle down, but Paddy has wanderlust and never wants to stay in one place for long. While passing through the bush the family meet refined Englishman Rupert Venneker and hire him to help drive a large herd of sheep to the town of Cawndilla. Along the way, they survive a dangerous brush fire.

Mrs. Firth, who runs the pub in Cawndilla, takes a liking to Rupert. He takes to spending nights with her, but, like Paddy, he has no desire to be tied down.

Ida convinces Paddy to take a job at a station shearing sheep; she serves as the cook, Rupert as a wool roller, and Sean as a tar boy. Ida enjoys the company of another woman, their employer's lonely wife, Jean Halstead. When fellow shearer Bluey Brown's pregnant wife Liz shows up unannounced, she sees the young woman through her first birth.

Ida is saving the money the family earns for a farm that they stayed at for a night on the sheep drive. Even though Paddy has agreed to participate in a sheering contest against someone from a rival group, he decides to leave six weeks into the shearing season. Ida persuades him to stay. He loses the contest to an old veteran.

Paddy wins a lot of money and a race horse playing Two-up. Owning such an animal has been his longstanding dream. They name him Sundowner and enter him, with Sean as his jockey, at local races on their travels after the shearing is done. Sean and Sundowner win their first race.

Ida finally convinces a still reluctant Paddy to buy the farm she and Sean have their hearts set on. However, he loses everything Ida has saved for the down payment in a single night of playing Two-up. By way of apology, he tells her that he has found a buyer for Sundowner if he wins the next race. The money would recoup their down payment. However, though Sundowner does win, he is disqualified for interference and the deal falls through. Nevertheless, Paddy's deep remorse heals the breach with Ida, and they resolve to save enough money to buy a farm one day.

Cast[edit]

Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr
Peter Ustinov
Deborah Kerr

Production[edit]

Fred Zinnemann decided to make the film at the suggestion of Dorothy Hammerstein, Australian-born second wife of Oscar Hammerstein II.[1] She intended to send him a copy of the novel The Shiralee (later filmed with Peter Finch), but accidentally sent a copy of The Sundowners instead. He immediately bought the screen rights and decided to produce it himself.[4] According to Zimmerman's autography, Aaron Spelling was originally signed to write the screenplay, but was replaced by Isobel Lennart;[1] another source says the screenplay was mostly written by Jon Cleary, in spite of Lennart's screen credit.[5] The ending of the film was a tribute to John Huston's The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.[6] Gary Cooper was hired to play Paddy Carmody, but had to leave due to poor health. He was replaced by Robert Mitchum, who agreed to work on the film for a chance to appear opposite Deborah Kerr, with whom he had become good friends while making Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison together. He also agreed to give her top billing, joking to the production team that they could "design a twenty-four foot sign of me bowing to her if you like".[7] Michael Anderson, Jr. was imported from England to play their son.[8]

Zinnemann was determined to film The Sundowners on location and vetoed Jack Warner's plan to shoot in Arizona to save money.[citation needed] Interiors were shot at Associated British Pictures Corp. Elstree Studios in England;[1][9] exteriors were shot in Australia at Cooma, Nimmitabel, and Jindabyne of New South Wales and in Port Augusta, Whyalla, Quorn, Iron Knob, Hawker and Carriewerloo in South Australia.[1][7] The "for-sale" property in the film was actually called "Hiawatha" and was on the Snowy River just north of Old Jindabyne (now under the waters of Lake Jindabyne).[citation needed]

Filming began in 1959.[10] Zinnemann spent 12 weeks filming scenery and sheep herding before the cast arrived in October. The weather made location filming difficult, fluctuating from hot and humid to cold and rainy. This delayed production by several weeks and caused some irritation among the cast and crew. Mitchum was constantly harassed by fans and eventually had to move onto a boat to avoid them. Filming eventually wrapped on 17 December 1959.[7] A significant number of Australian actors appeared in the supporting cast.[11]

Ray Austin was the stunt coordinator. Nicolas Roeg, who would later direct films such as Walkabout, was a second unit camera operator.[12]

Reception[edit]

Bosley Crowther called the film an "especially appropriate entertainment for the Christmas holidays"; according to Crowther:[2]

What is nice about these people and valid about this film, is that they have an abundance of freshness, openness and vitality. The action scenes are dynamic—the scenes of driving sheep, shearing them, racing horses at a genuine "bush country" track and simply living happily in the great sky-covered outdoors. And the scenes of human involvements—those between the husband and the wife, of a woman having a baby, of a footloose housewife looking at a stove—are deeply and poignantly revealing of how good and sensitive people can be.

The Sundowners, marketed as a "newer version" of From Here to Eternity, was a financial failure in the United States.[7] The film reached the top ten at the UK box office and was the third highest grossing film of 1961 in Australia.[13]

Awards[edit]

33rd Academy Awards[edit]

Other awards and honors[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g The Sundowners at the TCM Movie Database (including notes and other AFI catalog data). Retrieved on 2013-04-15.
  2. ^ a b c d Crowther, Bosley (December 9, 1960). "Film on Australians Opens at Music Hall". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-04-15. "What is nice about these people and valid about this film, is that they have an abundance of freshness, openness and vitality. The action scenes are dynamic—the scenes of driving sheep, shearing them, racing horses at a genuine "bush country" track and simply living happily in the great sky-covered outdoors. And the scenes of human involvements—those between the husband and the wife, of a woman having a baby, of a footloose housewife looking at a stove—are deeply and poignantly revealing of how good and sensitive people can be. The Sundowners—that's what the Australians call a migrant, a wanderer without a home—is an especially appropriate entertainment for the Christmas holidays." 
  3. ^ The Sundowners at AllMovie
  4. ^ "THE WEEKLY ROUND.". The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982) (1933 - 1982: National Library of Australia). 29 January 1958. p. 2. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  5. ^ Sinyard, Neil (2003). Fred Zinnemann: films of character and conscience. McFarland. pp. 116–121. ISBN 978-0-7864-1711-7. 
  6. ^ Nolletti, Arthur (1999). The films of Fred Zinnemann: critical perspectives. SUNY Press. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-7914-4225-8. 
  7. ^ a b c d Capua, Michelangelo (2010). Deborah Kerr: A Biography. McFarland. pp. 123–28. ISBN 978-0-7864-5882-0. 
  8. ^ "Children of 'The Sundowners'.". The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982) (1933 - 1982: National Library of Australia). 7 October 1959. p. 5. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  9. ^ Phillips, Gene D. (1998). Exiles in Hollywood: major European film directors in America. Lehigh University Press. pp. 160–2. ISBN 0-934223-49-1. 
  10. ^ "BIG STARS FOR 'SUNDOWNERS'.". The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982) (1933 - 1982: National Library of Australia). 13 May 1959. p. 9. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  11. ^ "A team of Sundowners.". The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982) (1933 - 1982: National Library of Australia). 14 October 1959. p. 5. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  12. ^ Nowra, Louis (2003). Walkabout. Currency Press. p. 77. ISBN 0-86819-700-9. 
  13. ^ a b c Reid, John Howard (2006). America's Best, Britain's Finest: A Survey of Mixed Movies. Lulu. p. 236. ISBN 978-1-4116-7877-4. 

External links[edit]