Hurry Sundown (1967)

screenshot from Hurry Sundown

Directed by: Otto Preminger
Screenwriter(s): Horton Foote, Thomas Ryan
Starring: Michael Caine, Jane Fonda, John Phillip Law, Diahann Carroll, Robert Hooks, Faye Dunaway, Burgess Meredith, George Kennedy
Genre: Drama
Country: USA
Running time: 2h 26m
Rating: 2 out of 10

By this late stage in his career, the once-great Preminger was reduced to cranking out big-money adaptations of best sellers. In Caine's various autobiographies, he describes Preminger as a bully and a misogynist who routinely reduced Faye Dunaway (no shrinking violet, she) to tears, so this clearly wasn’t a happy set experience for the cast.

Immediately after WWII, in a small Georgia town brimming with racial tension, Henry Warren (Caine) is trying to pull off a large real estate deal whose success depends on buying up two pieces of land: one belonging to his cousin, Rad (Law, The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming), and his wife (Faye Dunaway); the other to Rose Scott (Beah Richards), a black woman who used to work for Henry’s in-laws.

Henry is also a serial womaniser whose own wife Julie (an appealing but wasted Fonda) has taken to alcohol while their son Colie has some form of developmental disorder possibly brought on by his father tying him to his cot when he was a toddler.

Rad is a war hero and he has his pride, as does Rose Scott’s son and fellow GI, Reeve (Hooks). They decide to defy Henry’s plans by refusing to sell and working together to make their land more valuable. It’s a decision which triggers off a chain of events that you just know will end tragically.

Without having read the source novels by husband and wife team KB Gilden, it’s hard to judge whether this film has been kind to their work or not, but the script itself is woeful in plotting, pace and characterisation. This is a film which drags on and on, seemingly endlessly, until you feel like bouncing your head off the walls just to make the pain stop. The two poor-but-proud families are so earnest, noble and likeable and the massed ranks of white oppression are so evil – or in the case of the Sheriff (George Kennedy), stupid – that it’s insulting. Only Burgess Meredith, here essaying an unreconstructed bigoted local judge, actually bothers to act, rather than just play up to the stereotype.

And, yet, the film somehow manages to expose the white characters as racist while still being equally as racist itself. Its treatment of the black community represented on screen is a mess of cliché and easy tropes from glamorous schoolteacher (Carroll) right on down to the smallest child. It’s possible that it was trying to be progressive, but it’s very much of a product of its time, and its time was not a good one.

And the less said about Michael Caine’s southern accent, the better. He’s no Meryl Streep.


The song, Hurry Sundown, was recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary. The overall score is by King of Lounge, Hugo Montenegro.

It’s footage from Hurry Sundown which is featured in Goldmember.