Walker Norris: Magicked Away

By | 1 December 2010

“When D’arcy Niland’s novel The Shiralee came out in the mid-fifties, the Australian film industry was in its twenty-five year coma, but such was the book’s popularity that film rights were quickly snapped up by overseas interests and the film version came out barely two years later in 1957. Lead actor in an international cast was Robert Mitchum, then in the heyday of his career. He amazed many of us at home by being the first American actor we’d ever heard get an Australian accent right. It was pure art, of course; an occasional shakiness in vowel quality was magicked away by his relaxed mastery of a dry understated masculine tone. Authentic backgrounds did a lot to offset the staginess of some of the other performers, and forty-odd years later I retain an impression that some of the camera angles were impressively spare and vast. I suspect now, that if I saw the film again I would miss the desolate inner weakness of Macauley, the book’s protagonist, and the book’s real sense of poverty and exhaustion.”

Les Murray in an introduction to D’arcy Niland’s The Shiralee

The taken mile reverts to inch:
That actor, Les, was Peter Finch.


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