Behind-the-scenes of The Sundowners

Behind-the-scenes of The Sundowners
Access fees

This home movie was shot by Rhonda Grogan, a member of the production crew working on the film The Sundowners (Fred Zinnemann, 1960).

Growing up, Rhonda loved films and knew she wanted to travel. She secured a job with Southern International Films, the production company of Lee Robinson and Chips Rafferty, working primarily for continuity doyenne Joy Cavill.

Rhonda recorded home movies while learning roles on Walk Into Paradise (Lee Robinson, 1956), Dust in the Sun (Lee Robinson, 1958) and The Sundowners.

Through The Sundowners home movie, we now have unique footage of cast members Deborah Kerr and Peter Ustinov, candidly interacting with Rhonda and posing for the camera while on location for the horserace scenes at Cooma, New South Wales.

Then the cast and crew are at the Snowy Mountains (Cooma) Airport, including actors Robert Mitchum and Glynis Johns – the latter visible in a pink Chanel-style suit. The mother of Glynis Johns, Alice Maude Steele (nee Wareham) was born in Ballarat, Victoria and travelled the world as a pianist.

The cast and crew of The Sundowners were relocating by plane to Port Augusta, South Australia. Here and the nearby surrounds provided the second outdoor location, which included filming another horserace.

The British crew then flew home to film the interior scenes at Elstree, Borehamwood Studio, then known as ABPC Studios.

Rhonda Grogan acknowledged in an oral history recorded with the NFSA in 2003 that her footage was not expertly shot. Her camera was pretty basic and she said she could be a bit casual about the exposure required. 

But Rhonda's past experience and industry connections placed her in a unique position within this international production, one that helped shape her career path: 'From a personal point of view, working on this film gave me the confidence and desire to work in the film industry overseas which I did from early 1960 to the end of 1970'.

The NFSA holds other home movies shot by Rhonda Grogan, including her overseas trips. 

Notes by Heather Gill