Friday, November 02, 2007

Tonight's Movie: The Sundowners (1960)

Paddy and Ida Carmody (Robert Mitchum, Deborah Kerr) have spent their entire married life as sheep drovers in Australia. They have no permanent home, simply a horse-drawn cart and a tent. Ida is tiring of life on the road and longs for a home and a more stable life for son Sean (Michael Anderson, Jr.), while Paddy continues to crave the open road and freedom from obligations other than to his wife and son, to whom he is fiercely devoted.

Mitchum and Kerr are superb as the Carmodys, accents and all. They are extremely believable as an unglamorous, hardworking couple who are deeply committed despite each other's faults and the hardships with which they contend. The immaturity of Mitchum's character is frustrating at times, but that's no fault of the actor, who plays the role very convincingly.

As for the overall film, this was a movie I wanted to love, but although I thought Mitchum and Kerr were wonderful and would watch it again to take another look at their performances, I could only muster up middling interest in the very slow-paced, overlong, and thin plot. I like character studies, but the story plodded along at a glacial pace, and the tinge of melancholy that overlaid the film didn't help. While on the one hand the movie positively depicts a committed marriage and the value of family life -- the Carmodys are raising a charming son -- their overall situation is rather sad, as they lead a challenging life filled with setbacks, self-inflicted and otherwise. The very slow changes in Mitchum's character and the lack of a pat resolution are realistic, if not especially cheerful.

The fine supporting cast includes Peter Ustinov, Glynis Johns, and Dina Merrill. The movie runs 133 minutes and was directed by Fred Zinnemann. THE SUNDOWNERS was nominated for five Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actress (Johns), and Screenplay Adaptation. The lack of a nomination for Mitchum was a sad oversight.

All of the exteriors were shot on location in Australia, with kangaroos aplenty in the background. Particularly in the early scenes, I thought the film had the look and feel of a live-action Disney film of the late '50s or early '60s; so I was amused when my husband mentioned "You know, this has always reminded me of a Disney movie."

THE SUNDOWNERS can be seen on DVD on a single-title release or in the Robert Mitchum Signature Collection.

It's also available on VHS, including a VHS Special Edition release.

THE SUNDOWNERS can also be seen on TCM. The trailer can be seen here.

Glenn Erickson's review of the movie can be read here, and another review is here at (funnily, the latter review also mentions the film's Disney look).

All in all, this is a well-acted movie which is worth a look for the lead performances, particularly if you're a fan of Mitchum or Kerr, but I felt the film as a whole has an overrated reputation.


Blogger Missy said...

I have to admit that I've never made it through this movie because ever snippet I've seen seemed so depressing.


7:45 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Happy Housewife said...

I agree with you and your husband, Laura; I think the movie is over-rated and it does have a Disney feel.

9:32 AM  

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