The Sydney penal colony, 1840. Adam Beecher (Beau Bridges), an American sailor transported to Australia after being unjustly convicted in Liverpool, is flogged after an escape attempt fails. But he is later able to gain an audience with the governor, Sir Philip MacDonald (John Mills), who selects him as a a guinea pig in a liberal scheme he is developing to allow convicts to become homesteaders. This, however, requires his being married, and he selects as a less than willing bride an Irish convict, Bess (Jane Merrow), who has been a servant to--and been abused by--the unprincipled local magistrate Barrett.
Accompanied by the avuncular Sergeant O'Shea (Andrew Keir), the couple establish a log cabin and Adam attempts to become a farmer, although he is still planning another escape attempt. Bushranger Bart Dyson (James Booth), an escaped convict, offers to smuggle him out of the country, but in fact arranges his recapture as part of a plan to prevent Adam disclosing Dyson's activities. Sir Philip intercedes on Adam's behalf, however, and the homestead plan continues, with several other convict couples helping in a community spirit.
Meanwhile, Bess, who has hitherto refused to have sex with Adam, finds herself in love with him. The happy situation is shattered when Dyson and his gang attack the settlement, destroying it, and leading to the vindictive Barrett imposing a death sentence on Adam for escaping, when in fact he was pursuing Dyson to bring him to justice. Sir Philip is able to intervene at the last moment and grant Adam a pardon. Bess learns that he will use his freedom to return to America, but when she goes back to the homesteaders' settlement, she finds Adam waiting for her.
This was definitely one of my favourite jobs, not the least because I met my future husband, who had come down from LA with his friend, the associate Producer, and flew us all around the locations in the plane they leased. Sadly my marriage did not last, but this was a happy time. I loved Australia, it is an extraordinary country with great people. They are very direct and friendly and you either take them or leave them- no worries- which I liked a lot. When we were staying in Sydney and took a cab, the driver would always pick up other people, complete strangers and take them too. It took a bit of getting used to, but I liked that too.
I was playing a part that I really enjoyed. I was and am sometimes a bit sick of playing ‘ladies’ and this girl was an Irish convict. There was a lot of outdoor filming, riding horses and generally having quite a bit of knock about fun. The country is very beautiful and sounds of the birds, unknown to me, kookaburras and others, which were completely unique, will forever remind me of the Australian bush. The sky is the most amazing blue there, I took my mother (the artist), who was bowled over by the colour of the sky and the other fresh clear hues. Australia was on the brink of its new and wonderful film making era and we benefited from much of the new technical talent.
We had a good cast, Beau and I were supposed to be up and coming young stars and hence were cast in this by Warner’s. Well Beau came pretty much all the way up and works now a lot in character roles – lucky him- but he is a fine actor, not sure I did the same, but getting married perhaps did not help my availability for work, I was warned by the late great Kate! The wonderful John Mills was in the cast – he was a delight as was his wife Mary, who was a great wit. We had James Booth and a young English actor, who was living in Australia, Mark McManus who came back to the UK later and had a great success as ‘Taggart’, really nice guy.
So - good fun was had by all. The film did not fare well. The Studio had a change of rule and the new lot did not like it, so virtually dumped it, but I think it holds up pretty well, shows off the lovely country and is a nice weepy love story – why not!!!