Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Sundowners (1960)


Written by Tim Dirks

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Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Sundowners (1960)

In director Fred Zinnemann's lengthy epic western drama of 1920s Australia about a hard-working pioneer family of migrant drovers or "sundowners" (Australian slang for someone whose home was where the sun went down every evening):

  • the continuing tension in the Carmody family of nomadic sheep-herders and sheep-shearers, between head-strong yet long-suffering, loyal wife Ida (Deborah Kerr) and her teenaged son Sean (Michael Anderson, Jr.) who wanted to settle down on a farm in Bulinga vs. wanderlusting, vagabond Irish husband Paddy (Robert Mitchum)
  • the stunning cinematography of on-location exteriors of rural Australia, including the 'crown' tree-top firestorm that threatened a flock of sheep being herded to market at Cawndilla, and various scenes of wildlife (koalas, kangaroos, dingos, emus, kookaburras, etc.)
  • the character of bachelor friend, hired hand and bearded British drifter Rupert "Rupe" Venneker (Peter Ustinov) and his on/off relationship with Cawndilla's feisty, marriage-seeking hotel barmaid/owner Mrs. Firth (Glynis Johns)
  • the well-acted scene of an unglamorous Ida, sitting in a covered wagon near a train unloading passenger at a station, where she covetously observed a rich, well-dressed female passenger in an open car window applying face-powder
  • the marathon sheep-shearing contest pitting Paddy against frail and elderly Herb Johnson (Wylie Watson) - who easily exhausted and defeated him
  • the scene of Ida's joy at seeing a stove in the kitchen of the farm-house that she thought the family could now acquire with a 400 quid downpayment
  • the scene of Paddy's confession to Ida that he had spitefully and drunkenly gambled away and lost 400 quid (the family's entire savings stored in a glass jar) in a game of two-up: ("I've done something, Ide. I lost the money. Two-up...I wrote IOUs. I lost it all. I don't know what to say. I looked at you both, you and Sean. You were just like strangers. I wanted you to have what you wanted, but God forgive me, I must've hated you both. I just wanted to get away from you, get drunk, get the taste out of me mouth. That's all I meant to do, darl, was just get drunk. That's all I meant to do. I'll make it up to you, darl. I promise you. I'll get ya a place"); the money was enough for a down-payment on a 2,000 quid farm (a property for sale in Bulinga viewed across the river in the opening scenes)
  • the final horse race at a bush-country track when the Carmody's horse Sundowner won - and then was disqualified for interference, turning the fate and fortunes of the family back to a nomadic lifestyle (Ida: "There goes both our chances to be noble")


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