The Shiralee (1957 film)
|Directed by||Leslie Norman|
|Produced by||Michael Balcon|
|Based on||novel by D'Arcy Niland|
|Narrated by||Charles Tingwell|
|Music by||John Addison|
|Edited by||Gordon Stone|
11 July 1957 (UK)|
August 1957 (Australia)
The Shiralee is a 1957 British film made by Ealing Studios, directed by Leslie Norman and based on the novel by D'Arcy Niland. Although all exterior scenes were filmed in Sydney, Scone (where the film had its Australasian premiere) and Binnaway, New South Wales and Australian actors Charles Tingwell, Bill Kerr and Ed Devereaux played in supporting roles, the film is really a British film made in Australia, rather than an Australian film.
An itinerant rural worker named Macauley —sometimes described as a "swagman" or "swaggie"—suddenly finds himself taking responsibility for his child. Having returned from "walkabout", he finds his wife entwined in the arms of another, and so he takes the daughter, Buster, with him. The child is the "shiralee", an Irish or Aboriginal word meaning "swag", or metaphorically, a "burden."
In their time together, father and daughter explore new depths of understanding and bonding. The barren landscapes of the outback provided both a backdrop to the richness of the relationship, as well as explaining the swagman's love for the country.
Jim and Buster stay with the Parkers, whose daughter Liz was an old lover of Jim's and fell pregnant to him. Jim tries to abandon Buster but she refuses to leave. Buster is injured in a car accident, and father and daughter are reunited.
- Peter Finch as Jim Macauley
- Dana Wilson as Buster Macauley
- Elizabeth Sellars as Marge Macauley
- George Rose as Donny
- Rosemary Harris as Lily Parker
- Russell Napier as Mr. W.G. Parker
- Niall MacGinnis as Beauty Kelly
- Tessie O'Shea as Bella Sweeney
- Sid James as Luke Sweeney
- Charles 'Bud' Tingwell as Jim Muldoon
- Reg Lye as Desmond
- Barbara Archer as Shopgirl
- Alec Mango as Papadoulos
- John Phillips as Doctor
- Bruce Beeby as solicitor
- Frank Leighton as barman
- Nigel Lovell as O'Hara
- John Cazabon as Charlie the Butcher
- Mark Daly as Sam
- Ed Devereaux as Christy
- Guy Doleman as Son O'Neill
- Lloyd Berrell
- Bettina Dickson
- Gordon Glenwright
- Fred Goddard
- Clifford Hunter
- Stuart McWhirter as person placing bet on swagmen
- Betty McDowall as Girl at Parkers
- Henry Murdoch
- Frank Raynor
- Lou Vernon
- David Williams
- Chin Yu
- Bill Kerr
- Ron Whelan
Leslie Norman said he read the book, "loved it" and sent it to Michael Balcon at Ealing. According to Norman, "Mick roasted me, said it was full of foul language and how dare I? I said that it wouldn't be in the film, so he said all right and to get him a script."
Ealing had paid a reported £10,000 for the film rights to the book.
Norman says he wrote a script, showed it to Balcon who "claimed it was a different story, so we called in Neil Patterson to rewrite. He only rewrote one scene but it was enough to appease Mick. I suffered a lot from Mick."
Ealing signed an agreement with MGM for the latter studio to distribute their films worldwide; The Shiralee was to be the first film they made together.
Leslie Norman arrived in Sydney in April 1956 to begin preproduction. Finch arrived in July and an extensive talent search was conducted to find the actress to play Buster. Eight-year-old Dana Wilson of Croydon, Sydney, was cast.
The film was shot in the last months of 1956, first on location in north east New South Wales near Scone, then at MGM's studios in London. Child stars were not encouraged in British cinema so Dana Wilson's presence was downplayed by the studio during the English leg of production.
The film only made $60,000 at the US and Canadian box office. However it was the tenth most popular film at the British box office in 1957 and earned $860,000 outside North America. After costs of production and distribution, the film made a profit of $149,000.
Peter Finch later said the film and his role in it were among his favourites in his career. Norman says Finch "was marvellous... it was great working with him. Of course he was not a Balcon sort of character at all - too wild a lifestyle."
- 'The Eddie Mannix ledger', Howard Strickland Papers, Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Beverly Hills, California. Figures are in US dollars.
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- ""ShirAlee" Film". The Central Queensland Herald. Rockhampton, Qld.: National Library of Australia. 3 May 1956. p. 3. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
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- Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper, Australian Film 1900–1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998, 224. ISBN 0-19-550784-3
- "Film Fan Fare". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 19 December 1956. p. 23. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
- LINDSAY ANDERSON, and DAVID DENT. "Time For New Ideas." Times [London, England] 8 Jan. 1958: 9. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.
- "THE LOCAL FILM SCENE: Young Producer On the Go -- British Cooperation -- Mr. Finch's Story" by HOWARD THOMPSON. New York Times 2 Aug 1959: X5.
- ^ Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper, Australian Film 1900–1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998, 224.
- ^ Albert Moran and Errol Vieth, Historical Dictionary of Australian and New Zealand Cinema, Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2005.