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United Kingdom/USA 1957
Directed by
Leslie Norman
99 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

The Shiralee

Ex-patriate Peter Finch returns home to play the lead in this Ealing Studios version, co-produced with the British branch of MGM, of a classic Australian novel by D'Arcy Niland. Director Norman, who had been the producer of another Ealing film set in Australia, The Overlanders (1946) had tried to convince the director of that film, Harry Watt, to give the lead to Finch but it instead went to Chips Rafferty who never looked back. Calling the shots this time Norman cast Finch who had since become a British A-list actor and had the previous year starred in the Outback romance, A Town Called Alice.

Finch plays Jim Macauley, an itinerant rural worker saddled with his five year old daughter (Dana Wilson) aka his "shiralee", an Aboriginal word for "swag" or metaphorically "burden". As with Charles Crichton's Hunted (1952) the premise is the awakening of valuable qualities in the adult, a sure-fire sentimental theme and this film does it effectively.

FYI:  Niland's novel was turned into a more stridently Aussie 1987 TV mini-series (it was subsequently edited into a feature film for DVD release) with Bryan Brown in the lead, a touching performance by Rebecca Smart as his daughter and one of Noni Hazelhurst's best screen appearances.




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