The Shiralee (1957) Poster


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Charming and Strangely Little-known
Handlinghandel28 October 2004
Given the plot line, this could easily have been cutesy or mawkish. It isn't, though. Peter Finch is brilliant in his understated playing and the supporting cast is very fine.

Maybe because I've known men estranged from their wives who have taken their children on their quests through life, I was fascinated and very moved. The last half or gets a little busy and the (anti)hero's leaving his daughter with an unknown wanderer is implausible. But Finch holds the hole together brilliantly. And the actress playing his little girl is a natural. She never tries to charm us. Perhaps that is a credit to the director as much as to the performer.

There are simialrities (if memory serves) between this and the later, better known and lauded "Paper Moon." Of the two, I prefer this by a hundred thousand miles.

It is a charmer and a bit of a heart-breaker -- much like the character played by Finch.
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Rambling outback drama
JohnSeal22 October 2002
Peter Finch is terrific as a traveling swagman, traversing the Australian outback in search of work and shelter. Finding his Sydney based wife shacked up with another man, he takes his daughter (Dana Wilson) and resumes his wandering ways. The film does a good job of keeping a lid on sentiment and features outstanding cinematography by Paul Beeson, who usually worked on less inspired fare like Tarzan Goes to India, Die Monster Die!, and Starcrash. One of the last efforts of Ealing Studios, and a good one, though certainly not on a par with their Alec Guinness comedies.
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Little known Ealing charmer
lorenellroy21 December 2007
While best known for their UK set comedies Ealing Studios also made several movies in Australia and this is one of them .It is based on a fine novel by D'Arcy Niland and revolves around Jim Macauley (played by a genuine Aussie ,the great Peter Finch).He is an itinerant salesman -a swag man in 'Strine (Aussie English)who on returning from his latest walkabout finds his wife (Elizabeth Sellars)is living with another man -one able to offer her the material comforts she seeks .He decides to go on his travels again this time taking with him his daughter Buster (Dana Wilson).she is his "shiralee"-the Aboriginal word for "burden".the movie deals with the way they come to learn from each other and is an emotionally moving look at father-daughter relationships as they work through illness,hardship and threats of separation.

It is free of sentimentality and the Finch-Wilson double act is captivating .the monochrome photography of Paul Beison is superb and the only minor blot is the slightly misfiring comedy sequences revolving around Sid James and Tessie O'Shea -scenes others may well enjoy more than I did An Australian made mini-series ,later edited into a single episode version,starring Bryan Brown is also worthwhile but this little known gem is the better picture
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Touching Aussie classic
tonaluv3 March 2002
A really enjoyable film that shows a mans love for his little daughter and her love for him. He sometimes dismisses her but comes to realise that he is more fond of her than he cares to admit when she nearly dies.

Also the attractive shopgirl reminds us how nice women were in the fifties!! Great film - dated of course - but still wonderful. Just thought it ended rather abruptly and left us wanting more.........
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Hoping he'll mature
bkoganbing29 April 2016
The Shiralee ends on a curious note. Will it's protagonist Peter Finch ever shape up and realize he has responsibilities? After watching it today I kind of wonder.

I doubt during the days of The Code whether a lead character like Finch ever could have been in an American film. He's charming and determined to seed those wild oats until the well runs dry. One of those wild oats became Dana Wilson his little daughter and the two live like vagabonds, not unlike the Carmody family in The Sundowners.

They're not enjoying life like the Carmodys though. Finch takes work where he can find it in the Australian national industry of sheep raising. There's no family unity here as the Carmodys have because Finch is totally estranged from his wife Elizabeth Sellars. He's also not picking things up either with another former flame Rosemary Harris. And another little side dalliance with shop girl Barbara Archer is the cause of some near tragedy.

If Finch can ever stop thinking with his male member there's a chance he might just finally grow up. For the sake of his little girl he'd better.

Despite all these character defects Finch being the great actor that he is does make you have a rooting interest in his hopefully eventual maturity.

The Shiralee is a wonderful picture of Australia in the 50s and even today one of the most optimistic places I've ever visited. This one is a real charmer and don't let it get away.
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A film of many layers
tomsview20 December 2015
This is a brilliant little film that is also something of an archaeological dig.

It is set against a backdrop of Australian culture and attitudes, which are now about as extinct as those of the Hittites. At the time, the lifestyle it depicted was fading fast if not already gone.

Peter Finch plays Jim Macauley, who rescues his young daughter, Buster, from her mother's unsavoury lifestyle in a Sydney noticeably devoid of high rise buildings. He takes her with him on his journey as an itinerant worker, a swaggy, around rural Australia.

"The Shiralee" is a British film from Ealing studios (one of five made in Australia) with Australian and English actors; even Syd James is in it. Peter Finch plays Jim Macauley. At the time, his character would have been seen as the quintessential Aussie male: forthright, independent, scrappy, game for anything and with a well-developed sense of fairness. He had played just about the same character as Joe Harman in "A Town Like Alice". Jim and Joe are close relatives of George Johnston's "My Brother Jack".

I saw this film in 1957. Back then we were amazed to see Australia depicted on the screen at all, especially by British studios and Hollywood. We were decades away from Australians regularly picking up Oscars at Academy Award ceremonies.

Many of the characters have Australian accents as yet uninfluenced by decades of overseas television, and Dana Wilson as Buster Macauley delivers a performance that would be hard to beat from any child star; sadly she died this year (2015) aged only 66.

It's a poignant story in many ways with complex characters and situations, but it also has a broad vein of humour. One troubling aspect of the story is that Jim seems overly trusting when he leaves Buster in the care of others. However, most of the characters are honourable and well-intentioned.

This was Peter Finch's favourite among his films. Superbly photographed in black and white, in many ways "The Shiralee" is like opening a time capsule.

In that Australia, you could go a long way before encountering any kind of body piercing let alone a woman with a tattoo, and ice was something you had with your scotch and soda. The 1957 version is probably hard to find today, but let's hope it doesn't disappear altogether.
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Realistic and believable!
JohnHowardReid13 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
An M-G-M release, not copyrighted or theatrically distributed in the U.S.A. Released in the U.K. on 18 August 1957. Australian release: 29 August 1957. Sydney opening at the St James: 22 August 1957. Australian running time: 103 minutes. Cut to 99 minutes in the U.K.

SYNOPSIS: Itinerant swagman snatches his young daughter, taking her along, as he hunts for jobs in the Australian countryside.

COMMENT: The screenplay tends to over-do the Aussie "She'll be all right, mate," lingo, especially in the first half of the picture, but despite this, and episodic plotting which lessens the overall dramatic impact of its later more heart-tugging stages, The Shiralee is both an attractive and appealing little yarn.

Mind you, it does have other minor distractions, besides all its sports, nippers, booze artists and fair cracks of the whip. Finch is perhaps a little too intense and too intellectual an actor for Niland's carefree swaggie, but the support players, led by young Dana Wilson, are a joy.

I particularly liked Russell Napier's fine study of a torn-each-way grazier with a conscience, Elizabeth Sellars as the tramp's vengeful wife, George Rose as her criminally vindictive partner, and Frank Leighton (star of Thoroughbred and Tall Timbers) as a sympathetic barman. True, some of the support cameos are little more than caricatures (Sid James and Tessie O'Shea are the worst offenders), but this is a fault in the writing, rather than the playing.

However, one member of the cast I would describe as less than adequate and that is the too bland and less than striking Rosemary Harris in a key part as the swaggie's former love.

However, the movie's main problem lies in the unrealistic broadness of the script's characterizations and dialogue. Two things overcome this potentially fatally flaw. The first are some fine performances, as already noted. The second is Paul Beeson's marvelous location photography in places like Coonabarabran and other outback settlements in NSW. These genuine glimpses of rugged Oz countryside not only give flavor and color to the story but set it up firmly as realistic and believable.

Norman's direction has moments of drama and inventiveness, but generally rates as unobtrusively skillful. (Number twelve at Australian ticket-windows for 1957, yet it is the only one of the Top Twenty Box-office Hits unavailable on DVD).

OTHER VIEWS: "The Shiralee" cries out for color, yet it was lensed in black-and-white. Nonetheless, the now-nostalgic scenes of 1957 Sydney and dusty countryside are still worth a look. Despite Norman's mostly flat direction, enough happens to keep interest alive; while the winning playing of Dana Wilson in the pivotal title role helps overcome technical deficiencies such as obvious process screen and day-for- night lensing (neither noticeable on TV) and the deliberate over-use (and miss-use) of Oz idiom in the dialogue. - JHR writing as George Addison.
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