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Australia 1976
Directed by
Donald Crombie
106 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars


A commercial and critical hit in its day, making back nearly $3m on a budget of $400,000, this story of a strong-willed woman (Helen Morse) living in Sydney in the 1920s and 30s and bringing up 2 children alone after her husband runs off with her best friend is one of the signature works of the 1970s Australian film renaissance.

Although a well-designed film that impressively captures the look of the times, Caddie tends to over-indulge in the historically descriptive whilst failing to come to grips with the dramatic aspects of Caddie’s story, rather ploddingly relating one significant event after another in Caddie's life like turning the pages of a picture book.  Although this may be true to the original text and in turn truer to reality, which after all does not have the neatness of narrative cinema, this linear sequentiality deprives the film of a dramatic dynamic. The characters appear and dutifully disappear with no evident consequence on Caddie who remains the only constant narrative thread, something which is most noticeable with Jack Thompson's Ted who makes such an impact early in the film, never to be seen again, whilst the lengthy section involving Caddie's Greek lover (Takis Emmanuel), after a major build-up is simply reduced to a framed photo on a mantlepiece.

Helen Morse who won the Best Actress AFI (which she had also won the previous year for Picnic At Hanging Rock) as well as the San Sebastian Film Festival award for the same, gives a sympathetic performance as Caddie, albeit a little too genteel for the character, unlike Jackie Weaver and Melissa Jaffer who provide convincing support as her rough-and-ready behind-the-bar buddies.

The male members of the cast fare less well, with Takis Emmanuel a rather one note character, John Ewart turning in an exaggerated performance as an SP bookie and Jack Thompson still building up steam in an uneven performance (at one stage he seems to have an Irish accent). Based on real events, the story of Caddie was written by Dymphna Cusack as Caddie, The Story of a Barmaid (1953), the real “Caddie” having been her maid. The film was made with the assistance of the Australian Film Commission’s Women's Film Fund. 

DVD Extras: Audio commentary by Crombie with producer, Anthony Buckley; Making-of featurette; Theatrical trailer.

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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