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Kangaroo (1952 film)

Directed by Lewis Milestone
Produced by Robert Bassler
Written by Martin Berkeley
Starring Maureen O'Hara
Peter Lawford
Music by Sol Kaplan
Cinematography Charles G. Clarke
Edited by Nick DeMaggio
Release dates
  • 1952 (1952)
Running time 84 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget ₤800,000[1]
Box office $1.25 million (US rentals)[2][3]

Kangaroo is a 1952 American Technicolor film directed by Lewis Milestone. It is also known as The Australian Story (American subtitle). The first Technicolor movie filmed on-location in Australia. Strong winds on location forced Milestone to re-dub much of the exterior dialogue.[4]

Kangaroo was remade in Africa as The Jackals in 1967.[5]


  • Plot summary 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Release 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Plot summary

An Australian "Western" set at some vague time perhaps a century ago. Richard Connor (Peter Lawford) is a desperate young man in Sydney, Australia, trying to find the money to return home. While staying at a boarding house, he is mistaken by the drunk Michael McGuire (Finlay Currie) for his long-lost son, Dennis, whom McGuire had abandoned to an orphanage as a child, a deed for which he now deeply blames himself. Later that night, Connor attempts to rob John Gamble (Richard Boone) outside a gambling house, but after he finds him equally broke, he is talked into assisting him in robbing the establishment, during which the owner is shot. Connor and Gamble make off with the loot, stopping at the boarding house to get Connor's gear, whereupon McGuire, still drunk, pursues his "son" down the street until he collapses. They find on him information on his extensive station (for which he was trying to secure loans in Sydney) and his boat ticket, and decide to pose as his business partners to get on the boat and away to hide out with him in the Outback.

The next day, the now sober McGuire does not remember anything, and is at first suspicious of them, until he finds he has the ₤500 they claimed to have paid him for cattle (planted on him from the stolen loot). Along the way (first by boat, then by horse) they subtly drop hints that Connor (now calling himself Dennis Connor) may be his lost son, without letting on that McGuire himself had talked about him, in this way hoping to gain possession of the station.

Arriving at the station, they are both smitten by his daughter Dell (Maureen O'Hara), but held in some suspicion by the local trooper Len (Chips Rafferty), who has been Dell's local beau. Gamble does his best to scotch a budding attraction between Dell and Connor, because it will spoil the plan to pass him off as her lost brother. Biding their time both to develop their plan and hide out from the law, they end up helping the station get back on its feet, rescuing stray cattle, heading off a stampede, and culminating in a daring repair of an out-of-control windmill during a windstorm. McGuire is finally convinced that Connor is his son, and seeing the romantic interest of his daughter in him, tells her his conclusion. Overhearing her despair at this news, Connor feels he must confess, and Gamble sees their plan fail on the brink of success because of the annoying conscience of his partner.

Having confessed not only to not be Dennis, but to be wanted in the murder of the gambling house owner, Connor and Gamble flee the station, with trooper Len in hot pursuit. When he catches up to them, Gamble is about to shoot him when Connor pulls the gun away with a bullwhip. The two partners in crime now have a vicious bullwhip fight. Gamble retrieves the gun and shoots at Connor, but Len fatally shoots Gamble. Len then takes Connor back to the McGuire station, where he recovers from his injuries, being promised clemency for saving Len's life, and with the promise of a future with Dell.



20th Century Fox had originally announced they intended to make The Bushranger in March 1950, produced by Robert Snody and written by Norman Reilly Raine about a family running a cattle station in the northwest circa 1895-1900.[7] Other titles to the story were The Australian Story, The Land Down Under and Sundowner.[8]

An early draft of the film reportedly featured reference to hordes of kangaroos wiping out a town, but this was deleted after input from the Australian crew.[9]

In July 1950 it was announced that Lewis Milestone would direct the movie. It was to be financed by money "frozen" in Australia due to currency restrictions, with the recently devalued Australian pound helping save money.[10][11]

Tyrone Power was originally to play the male lead[12] but he dropped out to appear in a stage version of Mister Roberts in London.[13] Milestone expressed interest in also casting Richard Widmark (the hero), Jean Simmons (female lead) and Errol Flynn (as the bushranger).[14] He had been told about Chips Rafferty and wanted to test him, estimating that there were about 25 roles available for Australians.

"If necessary we will rewrite the play to fit Australian conditions," said Milestone. "I want Kangaroo to be a true dramatic portrait of life in Australia in the 1880s."[14]

Eventually the lead roles were given to Peter Lawford, Constance Smith and Richard Boone.[15] Then Smith was assigned by Fox to star in The 13th Letter (1951) and her role was taken by Maureen O'Hara.[16] Finlay Currie was the last of the four principals to be cast.

The movie was originally budgeted at £900,000[17] and the region around Port Augusta was selected for filming.[18][19] Interiors were shot at Pagewood Studios in Sydney.[20]

Shooting was to commence on October 15, 1950 but this date had to be pushed back to November due to unexpected rain, lack of material and contractual requirements of Finlay Currie.[21][22] In addition, the script was being rewritten and the action was relocated from the 1880s to 1900.[23]

All these delays caused costs start to mount. Shooting started in Sydney in November, then the unit moved to Port Augusta. Filming was closely monitored by the local media, with several galas held for the film stars.[24][25]

There were further problems as the movie went on: the producers were unable to source enough kangaroos,[26] Maureen O'Hara's make up man fell ill,[27] temperatures were very high in Port Augusta,[28] the script was constantly being rewritten, the isolated unit (dubbed "Zanuckville") had trouble sourcing materials,[29] and rain kept occurring at inopportune moments.[30][31]

Australian heavyweight champion Jack O'Malley played Finlay Currie's stand in.[32] An aboriginal dance was especially recreated for the film.[33]

In her 2004 autobiography "'Tis Herself", Maureen O'Hara recalled that Richard Boone and Peter Lawford were arrested in a gay bar in Melbourne, but the studio managed to prevent this from being reported by the press.[34]


When the movie was released in Australia, initial box office performance was strong, but reviews were bad and business soon tailed off.[35]

See also


  1. ^ Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper, Australian Film 1900–1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998, 214.
  2. ^ Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p224
  3. ^ 'Top Box-Office Hits of 1952', Variety, January 7, 1953
  4. ^
  5. ^
  7. ^ 14 Jan 1950: 5 Supplement: Sunday MagazineThe Mail (Adelaide, SA)"February start on "Kangaroo Kid"." accessed 28 Dec 2011
  8. ^ Drama: Ruth Roman Will Star as Doctor; Power May Miss 'Australian Story' Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 08 May 1950: B11
  10. ^ "Hollywood man to direct here.".  
  11. ^ "U.S. Films May Be Made Here.".  
  12. ^ Australia Beckoning Power, Others; Andrews to Portray Evans' Father Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 07 Nov 1949: B7. Turn on hit highlighting for speaking browsers
  13. ^ "Milestone To Direct "Kangaroo".".  
  14. ^ a b "Plans For Film Here.".  
  15. ^ "NOTES ON FILMS.".  
  16. ^ "Maureen O'Hara To Star In Australian Film.".  
  17. ^ Kangaroo' may aid film-making here."'".  
  19. ^ "Site For Film Homestead "Pin—Pointed".".  
  20. ^ "The studio for indoor filming of 'Kangaroo'.".  
  21. ^ "Later Start On Film In S.A. Likely.".  
  22. ^ "Shooting Of New Film Postponed.".  
  23. ^ Kangaroo" Story Again Changed.""".  
  24. ^ Kangaroo" Stars To Have Short Stay Here.""".  
  26. ^ "Hollywood Insists On Kangaroos.".  
  27. ^ "Drinking tea as they make film.".  
  29. ^ "Film Work Delayed On "Kangaroo".".  
  30. ^ Kangaroo" Shooting Postponed.""".  
  31. ^ "Hollywood Sees A Never-Never Land.".  
  32. ^ "First "Kangaroo" Scenes Filmed In Sydney.".  
  33. ^ "Rain-making ritual shown in "Kangaroo".".  
  34. ^ O'Hara, Maureen 'Tis Herself: An Autobiography p. 141 (2004)
  35. ^ "Brilliant Scene At Opening Of "Kangaroo".".  

External links

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