Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Sundowners

Another of my recent movie watches was The Sundowners.

Robert Mitchum plays Paddy Carmody, an Irish-Australian sheep drover (a driver of sheep the same way cowboys drove cattle on cattle drives), going around the various sheep ranches of rural Australia in the 1920s together with his wife Ida (Deborah Kerr) and son Sean (Michael Anderson Jr.). It's a lifestyle that Paddy loves, although his wife wouldn't mind settlin down, especially because with an adolescent son they probably should have settled down some time back. So when the next sheep drive starts in Bulinga and Ida sees a farm for sale there, she suggests buying it.

Paddy says no and in any case they have a job lined up and currently not enough money to put a down payment on the farm, so they head out on the next job. The only thing they need is one more assistant drover, which they find in the form of British-born adventurer and raconteur Rupert Venneker (Peter Ustinov). They set out for their destination, Cawndilla, with a good 1200 sheep. They all make it to Cawndilla without that much incident besides a dingo, and Ida gets the brilliant idea of getting jobs for all of them, forcing them to stay a while and hopefully save enough money for that down payment.

The Carmodys and Venneker have various incidents relating to work on a sheep ranch, and often involving money, something which Paddy is singularly irresponsible with. Local innkeeper Mrs. Firth (Glynis Johns) meets Rupert and falls in love with him, while, surprisingly, there's no love interest for Sean. Money remains an issue until Paddy wins a racing horse which could be the family's meal ticket to earning the money for the down payment on that farm back in Bulinga.

The Sundowners is an extremely well-made movie, if you're interested in the subject material. It doesn't help that I'm not a particular fan of Peter Ustinov, even though he's relatively muted here. Mitchum and Kerr are both excellent as the married couple who clearly still love each other despite having a big disagreement on what they want out of life. The cinematography is quite good, since they used a fair amount of location shooting in Australia. The movie is a bit long at 133 minutes and could probaby have been edited down to under two hours.

The Sundowners is available on DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive.

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