Cast & Crew
In the midst of a years-long drought in 1910 Australia, rancher Michael McGuire goes from his cattle station near Port Augusta to Sydney to seek a bank loan. McGuire's request is refused, and he spends a drunken evening at a harbor flophouse. There, he meets recent English stowaway Richard Connor, and in his alcoholic haze, mistakes Connor for his long-lost son Dennis, whom he abandoned in an orphanage when the boy was only four. After sending McGuire to bed, Connor lurks outside a gambling house owned by Fenner and there attempts to rob another Englishman, John Gamble. Gamble has lost all of his money, however, and taunts Connor with the prospect of robbing the rich Fenner. Connor agrees to the dangerous scheme, but during the robbery, the hot-headed Gamble shoots Fenner. Mistakenly believing Fenner to be dead, the pair run away, although Connor stops at the flophouse to retrieve his belongings. With the still-drunken McGuire in pursuit, Connor leaves with Gamble, and when they discover that McGuire is a rancher, they escort him to the boat taking him back to Port Augusta. In the morning, Connor and Gamble, who want to trick McGuire into believing that Connor is his son, convince the old man that they are would-be ranchers who purchased five hundred head of his cattle while he was drunk. During the horse ride to the McGuire station, McGuire reveals that he owns 10,000 square miles of land, but due to the devastating drought, is near bankruptcy. Upon their arrival, McGuire is greeted by his beautiful daughter Dell, who immediately wins the heart of Connor. The pragmatic Dell informs Connor and Gamble that they cannot guarantee delivery of the cattle, and tries to return the money they gave to McGuire. Connor and Gamble insist on staying, however, and as they continue to convince McGuire that Connor is his son, they also help Dell to inspire him to save the station. Finally persuaded that he should stop wallowing in self-pity, McGuire orders the station hands to round up the remaining cattle and bring them to the ranch, where they have a month's feed left. Before they leave, police constable Leonard brings poacher Matt to the station, but Dell insists that Matt be allowed to work off his debt rather than be incarcerated. Unaware of Matt's true connection with Leonard, Connor and Gamble suspect that Matt is a policeman sent to spy on them. During the roundup, Gamble is bitten by a snake, and when Matt helps him, he sees scars from leg irons on Gamble's ankle. Connor orders Matt to keep silent about his discovery, and as the journey continues, his attraction to Dell grows. Gamble warns Connor against his feelings, as he is pretending to be her missing brother, and McGuire, who has not told Dell his suspicions, also worries. During the arduous trip back, many of the weakened cattle die and a raging brush fire threatens them all, but McGuire is satisfied with the surviving herd. Upon their arrival, the group finds a tribe of thirsty aborigines, who offer to perform a ceremonial rain dance in exchange for water. Instead of the rain, however, a fierce dust storm springs up, and everyone rushes to protect the station. The ferocious winds are about to destroy the windmill, an essential piece of equipment, when Gamble grudgingly volunteers to climb the tower and tie down the rotating blades. After Gamble is knocked unconscious by the blades, however, Connor rescues him and saves the windmill. As he recovers, Gamble tells Connor that he is tired of watching the younger man wrestle with his conscience and tells him to inform McGuire about his identity, thereby paving the way for his romance with Dell. Before Connor can talk with McGuire, however, he tells Dell that Connor is her brother. Dell, who has fallen in love with the handsome stranger, is horrified, but her anguish turns to joy when Connor enters and confesses not only who he is, but that he is wanted for robbing Fenner. Although Dell is relieved and embraces her beloved, McGuire castigates him for his deception. Dell in turn chastises McGuire for his obsession with the past and gullibility, then storms out. Connor leaves with Gamble, but during their attempted escape, Leonard, who has deduced their identities, chases them. Connor stops Gamble from shooting Leonard, although he is injured in the fray, and Leonard shoots Gamble to death. A heavy rainstorm begins as Leonard returns Connor to the McGuire station, where Dell tends to his wounds. Connor apologizes to Dell for his earlier behavior, and she readily forgives him. McGuire also forgives Connor and assures him that the grateful Leonard will testify on his behalf at his trial. McGuire then puts Dell's hand in Connor's and the happy couple beam at each other, while in town, the delighted citizens celebrate the rain.
Charles G. Clarke
Harry M. Leonard
The first Technicolor movie filmed on-location in Australia.
Strong winds on location forced Milestone to re-dub much of the exterior dialogue.
The working titles of this film were The Land Down Under, The Bushranger and The Australian Story. The title of Martin Berkeley's original screen story was "Sundown." Before the opening credits, a written acknowledgment states: "We are grateful to the Commonwealth of Australia for their aid in making this picture which was photographed in its entirety in the city of Sydney and the Flinders Ranges of South Australia." The title card reads "Twentieth Century-Fox presents Kangaroo The Australian Story."
According to a June 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item, Dudley Nichols was originally signed to write the film's screenplay, while a November 1949 Los Angeles Times article lists Norman Reilly Raine as the screenwriter. The extent of Nichols' and Raine's contribution to the completed picture has not been determined, however. In November 1949, both Hollywood Reporter and Los Angeles Times reported that Tyrone Power would be starring in the picture, and a June 1950 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that Louis King had been signed to direct. According to an August 1950 Hollywood Reporter news item, Constance Smith was cast in the picture but was re-assigned to The 13th Letter (see below).
Peter Lawford was borrowed from M-G-M for the production, which was the first American film shot on location in Australia. In addition to Sydney and Flinders Ranges, portions of the film were shot at and near Port Augusta. Several contemporary sources note that the film's headquarters, which were constructed in a Port Augusta suburb, were named "Zanuckville," after Twentieth Century-Fox production chief Darryl F. Zanuck. After filming was completed, "Zanuckville" was to be used as a permanent housing project, according to a December 1950 Hollywood Reporter news item. In a July 1952 American Cinematographer article, cinematographer Charles G. Clarke reported that the only "studio-built set in the entire production" was the flophouse set, located at the Ealing Studios in Sydney.
Kangaroo marked the American film debut of popular Australian actor "Chips" Rafferty. According to March and October 1951 Hollywood Reporter news items, the picture, which was to be shown in Australia in October 1951 as part of a 50th anniversary celebration of the Commonwealth, would not contain footage of the Corroboree, the rain dance performed in the film by aborigines. Hollywood Reporter noted that the studio had been allowed to film the dance only on the condition that it not be shown in Australia "because of its sacred nature." On October 18, 1951, Hollywood Reporter noted that the picture had been taken off the November 1951 release schedule "to permit more time for an appropriate exploitation campaign."