In the Australian Outback, the Carmody family--Paddy, Ida and their teenage son Sean--are sheep drovers, always on the move. Ida and Sean want to settle down and buy a farm. Paddy wants to keep moving. A sheep-shearing con... more »test, the birth of a child, drinking, gambling and a race horse will all have a part in the final decision.« less
NOTE: Two years after I wrote this review, I am delighted that a DVD version is finally available. Hopefully, this film will now receive the recognition and appreciation it clearly deserves. I have nothing to revise in the review which follows.
I saw this film when it was first released in 1960 and saw it again recently, charmed as before by the story line and the superb acting under Fred Zinnemann's brilliant direction. Here's the situation: Ida (Deborah Kerr) and Paddy (Robert Mitchum) Carmody and son Sean (Michael Anderson, Jr.) are sheep drovers in Australia in the 1920s, proceeding from one job to the next. Ida and son yearn to settle down permanently somewhere (anywhere, really) whereas Paddy prefers itinerant roaming. Along the way, they encounter Rupert Venneker (Peter Ustinov), a former sea captain with aristocratic sensibilities. Most of the film focuses on their tenure on the Halstead ranch during which they become friends with Mrs. Firth (Glynis Johns), an innkeeper to whom Venneker is coyly attracted. During the course of the film, not much happens, really. Its considerable charm is generated by the developing relationships between and among the lead characters.
Others have praised this film for excellent reasons of their own. Here are mine. First, there is substantial and authentic human interest in the differences between Ida's and Paddy's contradictory definitions of "home." For lack of better terms, between settling down and moving on. Also, in collaboration with Zinnemann, Jack Hildyard enriches the development of the narrative with cinematography which is compellingly, indeed exquisitely appropriate to that time and place. Finally, all of the lead actors seem perfectly matched with the roles they play...especially Mitchum.
Briefly, I now share some thoughts about him, first because he invests Paddy with a wholesome appeal which was for me unexpected, given the Mitchum persona as in Night of the Hunter (1955) and Home from the Hill (also 1960) and then, years later, in his portrayals of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe in Farewell, My Lovely (1975) and The Big Sleep (1978). His understated, highly-disciplined portrayal of Paddy is comparable with Jack Nicholson's portrayal of Warren Schmidt. Although Kerr and Johns received an Academy Award nomination, Mitchum did not. I have always thought he was under-appreciated as an actor."
The ups and downs of an itinerant family
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 06/20/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Set in the 1920s and about a family of Irish itinerant sheepherders, this film has panoramic views of Australia (cinematography by Jack Hildyard), a good script, and a diverse and interesting cast; the sheep also are terrific, and there are many glimpses of kangaroos, koalas and more, all set to an upbeat score by Dimitri Tiomkin. The film also shows the backbreaking labor of shearing the sheep, and the hard life and hard drinking of the people who do it.
It has its share of drama, poignancy, and humor, the latter usually thanks to Peter Ustinov, who puts in another memorable performance as a British wanderer who is always able to extricate himself from romantic entanglements.
Deborah Kerr shines as Ida, the tough but sensitive wife who stands by her man through thick and thin (mostly thin). Robert Mitchum is good as her irresponsible husband, as is Michael Anderson Jr. as their son, and Glynis Johns adds her irrepressible charm as a pub owner.Though not quite on the level of director Fred Zinnemann's best work (like "High Noon", "A Man for all Seasons", and "Day of the Jackal"), it still has his masterful touch, and is a fine film, well worth viewing.
It was nominated for Best Actress, Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, and Supporting Actress (Johns), losing out to Elizabeth Taylor in the first category, and "The Apartment" and "Elmer Gantry" in the rest.
"The Sundowners" is solid entertainment from one of the great directors of the 20th century, and total running time is 133 minutes."
Wonderful and life affirming
John McCormack | Liverpool, England | 09/06/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Some films and some books just make you glad to be alive, for me The Sundowners is a lovely, life-affirming experience, beautifully acted, warmly funny and intelligent.Everytime I see this film, the temptation to join the Carmodys is irresistible. This is not a sentimental story, but the film has a genuine warmth and exuberance as well as a young boy on the point of making his own life, working out the path he wishes to follow.There is great love and deep affection shared by the Carmody family, a bond which is one of the few fixed points in their wandering life. This love is not saccherine romance but realistic emotion; it is not always easy, it does not prevent anger, exasperation and pain, but at the end of things their family genuinely cares for each other.Sundowners is a film full of sunlight."
Frist Rate film for Mitchum fans
Alejandra Vernon | 09/26/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Sundoners is probley one of Mitchum's finer performences he's probley the most under rated actor of his time. Gives a solid performance as a roving Australin sheep herder who in his own robost way tries his best to be husband an father, Deborah Kerr is excellant as the wife who binds the family together who hopes somday there roving life style will end, so they as a family can have a home to settle. This film has a litle bit of everything comic relif, drama an action with good solid back up performances of Peter Ustinov, Glynnis Johns. Again if your a Mitchum fan then buy this video,an watch an actor who style owns every scene he's in.Thank you N. Skyles"
Bring It On!--To DVD
Kevin Killian | San Francisco, CA United States | 08/13/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Forty-five years later, and most of the participants have passed on. Surely we can honor their memory by bringing out a DVD version of THE SUNDOWNERS?
Back in the day, THE SUNDOWNERS was regarded with skepticism. Viennese-born director Fred Zinnemann had established a reputation with a series of prizewinning films which flitted back and forth between American locations and European ones, like his counterpart and occasional rival Billy Wilder. But never had he selected Australia as a location for a film. What did he know about Australian life? Setting the movie in the distant past (the 1920s) was seen as hedging his bets, but the Australian landscape--so recently seen in Stanley Kramer's preachy, yet exciting ON THE BEACH--was still a big question mark. Would audiences go there? Would even Aussie audiences appreciate a big Hollywood studio trying to tell them their own story? Remember, this was eons before THE THORN BIRDS, and films about sheep were getting fewer and fewer as the machine age wore on and Americans were moving to the cities and off the farms.
And yet Zinnemann's track record was so stellar that Jack Warner was pretty much ready to approve just about anything that didn't bust the budget. He had made THE NUN'S STORY, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, THE SEARCH, HIGH NOON, OKLAHOMA and THE MEN. THE SUNDOWNERS revels in family feeling--among the sheep as much as among the Carmodys--unlike any other Zinnemann film which usually take up the theme of connection between strangers or even enemies. Here it's family--Mitchum, Kerr and company, Irish and joyful, rueful and stoic. It's like a John Ford movie with Euro sophistication and gorgeous Oz scenery.
Ustinov, Mitchum, Zinnemann have died. Dina Merrill isn't much good in the film, but she could tell a lot of stories for a DVD commentary. Deborah Kerr and Glynis Johns, two flowers of the postwar British cinema, shine here, and although both are still alive, they are silent now, pretty much.
Bring THE SUNDOWNERS to DVD! And while you're at it, how about a DVD of A HATFUL OF RAIN too? That's getting to be a super rare film, and it was one of Zinnemann's most provocative."