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The Sundowners Reviews

A splendid, sprawling saga of Australia. Set in the 1920s, it's the story of a single family, how they interact with the pioneers around them, how they extract a living from the land, how they live and love and cope. Lennart's adaptation of the Cleary novel is full of wit, sly philosophy and solid, motivated action. The title refers to those people who roam the land and live wherever they stop when the sun sets. Mitchum is married to Kerr, and the two travel the land with their son, Anderson. They have no money, just a great love and a continuing hope that things will get better. Still, tiring of this nomadic existence, Kerr and Anderson yearn for a place where they can hang their hats. But instead of settling down, Mitchum takes a job leading more than a thousand sheep on a long trek to Cawndilla in western Australia. Since there are so many sheep to look after, Mitchum has to ask Ustinov, a onetime ship's captain, to help. The journey is arduous and filled with excitement. Along the way, the four stop and visit with another group of Sundowners who have given up the road for a sedentary existence. Kerr and Anderson envy the life led by this family, but Mitchum pays it no mind. Mitchum and company continue on, finally delivering their sheep and collecting their fee. Then the four take jobs on a large station, with Kerr hoping they will be able to save enough money to buy their own spread. Mitchum is splendid and Kerr was nominated for an Academy Award, as were Johns, Zinnemann, Lennart, and the picture itself. Kerr plays with little makeup and her natural beauty shines through all the dust. Johns is also a delight in her small but telling role, and Ustinov does his usual excellent job. Indeed, every aspect of the movie is first-rate, and even the smallest roles are wonderfully cast, including Australia's favorite actor, Chips Rafferty, as the sheep-shearing foreman. (Rafferty was in just about every Australian movie made in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, with his most famous appearance being in THE OVERLANDERS.) Big, funny, tender and humane all at the same time, THE SUNDOWNERS is a true "family" film, without any of the cloying connotations of that term.