Black Stallion in the Snowy River Mountains

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How ‘The Man from Snowy River’ Galloped from Poem to Film and into Australia’s Heart

From Highest-Grossing Film to National Treasure: The Unforgettable Journey of ‘The Man from Snowy River

“The Man from Snowy River” is a classic Australian Western drama film released in 1982. The film draws its inspiration from Banjo Paterson’s famous poem of the same name. George T. Miller directed the film with a screenplay by John Dixon, based on a story by Fred Cul Cullen. The film was produced by Geoff Burrowes, Michael Edgley, and Simon Wincer.

In this film, Kirk Douglas played the double role of brothers Harrison and Spur. Other notable cast members include Jack Thompson, Tom Burlinson, Sigrid Thornton, Terence Donovan, and Chris Haywood. The film was shot in the Victorian High Country near Mansfield, Victoria, instead of the actual Snowy Mountains.


The storyline follows Jim Craig (Tom Burlinson), a young man who seeks to prove his worth and claim his inheritance after the tragic death of his father. He finds work at the station owned by Harrison, Spur’s brother. His love interest is Jessica, Harrison’s daughter, who is played by Sigrid Thornton. The film’s climax involves an intense horse chase, inspired by the poem’s original narrative.

The film’s cinematography was handled by Keith Wagstaff, and Adrian Carr edited it. The captivating musical score was composed by Bruce Rowland, contributing significantly to the film’s overall appeal.

Upon its release, “The Man from Snowy River” was well-received, garnering both critical acclaim and commercial success. It was notably the highest-grossing Australian film until “Crocodile Dundee” surpassed it in 1986. The film grossed an estimated total of A$50 million worldwide.

The film’s score was crafted by Bruce Rowland, who also composed the music for the sequel. A rendition of the convict ballad Moreton Bay is showcased as Clancy’s theme.


The movie was lauded upon release and found an enthusiastic audience. Its unique Australian flavor was appreciated by viewers, even with the inclusion of Hollywood stalwart Kirk Douglas in a key role. The movie has garnered an 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics acknowledged its appeal to international audiences and credited it with heightening interest in Australian cinema. While some found elements of the film cliched and its romantic subplot lacking, its stunning aerial shots of herding horses were universally praised.

Box Office

The Man from Snowy River turned out to be a box-office smash hit in Australia, earning A$17,228,160 – a record for Australian films until the release of Crocodile Dundee four years later. Worldwide, it grossed A$50 million, including US$20,659,423 from the United States and Canada. Kirk Douglas later filed a lawsuit against Burrowes, seeking a share of the profits.

Awards and Accolades

The movie was bestowed with the 1982 AFI Award for Best Original Music Score (Bruce Rowland), and the 1982 Montreal World Film Festival Award for Most Popular Film (George T. Miller). It was also nominated for the 1982 AFI Award for Best Achievement in Sound and the 1983 Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film Australia.


The film’s popularity has led to a number of tributes, including a TV series, a song, and a video game. The Man from Snowy River captured a vast audience, bringing Paterson’s poem to the forefront. Since 1995, the narrative has been relived at The Man from Snowy River Bush Festival in Corryong, Victoria. The film’s Clancy, Jack Thompson, has released recordings of numerous Paterson poems, including The Man from Snowy River.

When filming began in 1982, Mansfield was a little town, but that soon changed. The Craig’s Hut, a structure built specifically for the film, turned into a popular tourist spot. However, it was destroyed by bushfires in 2006 but has since been rebuilt. The movie was chosen for preservation by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia’s Kodak/Atlab Cinema Collection Restoration Project. In honor of the 2000 Summer Olympics held in Sydney, Rowland composed a special Olympics version of The Man from Snowy River “Main Title”.

Banjo Paterson: The Unyielding Spirit Behind ‘The Man from Snowy River’ and Australia’s Emerging National Identity

The Man from Snowy River

a poem by AB ‘Banjo’ Paterson (1864–1941)

There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from Old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush horses – he was worth a thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.
All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far
Had mustered at the homestead overnight,
For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are,
And the stock-horse snuffs the battle with delight.

There was Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon won the cup,
The old man with his hair as white as snow;
But few could ride beside him when his blood was fairly up —
He would go wherever horse and man could go.
And Clancy of the Overflow came down to lend a hand,
No better horseman ever held the reins;
For never horse could throw him while the saddle girths would stand,
He learnt to ride while droving on the plains.

And one was there, a stripling on a small and weedy beast;
He was something like a racehorse undersized,
With a touch of Timor pony — three parts thoroughbred at least —
And such as are by mountain horsemen prized.
He was hard and tough and wiry — just the sort that won’t say die —
There was courage in his quick impatient tread;
And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery eye,
And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.

But still so slight and weedy, one would doubt his power to stay,
And the old man said, “That horse will never do
For a long and tiring gallop – lad, you’d better stop away,
Those hills are far too rough for such as you.”
So he waited sad and wistful — only Clancy stood his friend —
“I think we ought to let him come,” he said;
“I warrant he’ll be with us when he’s wanted at the end,
For both his horse and he are mountain bred.”

“He hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko’s side,
Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough,
Where a horse’s hoofs strike firelight from the flint stones every stride,
The man that holds his own is good enough.
And the Snowy River riders on the mountains make their home,
Where the river runs those giant hills between;
I have seen full many horsemen since I first commenced to roam,
But nowhere yet such horsemen have I seen.”

So he went; they found the horses by the big mimosa clump,
They raced away towards the mountain’s brow,
And the old man gave his orders, “Boys, go at them from the jump,
No use to try for fancy riding now.
And, Clancy, you must wheel them, try and wheel them to the right.
Ride boldly, lad, and never fear the spills,
For never yet was rider that could keep the mob in sight,
If once they gain the shelter of those hills.”

So Clancy rode to wheel them — he was racing on the wing
Where the best and boldest riders take their place,
And he raced his stockhorse past them, and he made the ranges ring
With the stockwhip, as he met them face to face.
Then they halted for a moment, while he swung the dreaded lash,
But they saw their well-loved mountain full in view,
And they charged beneath the stockwhip with a sharp and sudden dash,
And off into the mountain scrub they flew.

Then fast the horsemen followed, where the gorges deep and black
Resounded to the thunder of their tread,
And the stockwhips woke the echoes, and they fiercely answered back
From cliffs and crags that beetled overhead.
And upward, ever upward, the wild horses held their way,
Where Mountain Ash and Kurrajong grew wide;
And the old man muttered fiercely, “We may bid the mob good day,
No man can hold them down the other side.”

When they reached the mountain’s summit, even Clancy took a pull –
It well might make the boldest hold their breath;
The wild hop scrub grew thickly, and the hidden ground was full
Of wombat holes, and any slip was death.
But the man from Snowy River let the pony have his head,
And he swung his stockwhip round and gave a cheer,
And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed,
While the others stood and watched in very fear.

He sent the flint-stones flying, but the pony kept his feet,
He cleared the fallen timbers in his stride,
And the man from Snowy River never shifted in his seat —
It was grand to see that mountain horseman ride.
Through the stringy barks and saplings, on the rough and broken ground,
Down the hillside at a racing pace he went;
And he never drew the bridle till he landed safe and sound,
At the bottom of that terrible descent.

He was right among the horses as they climbed the farther hill
And the watchers on the mountain standing mute,
Saw him ply the stockwhip fiercely; he was right among them still,
As he raced across the clearing in pursuit.
Then they lost him for a moment, where two mountain gullies met
In the ranges – but a final glimpse reveals
On a dim and distant hillside the wild horses racing yet,
With the man from Snowy River at their heels.

And he ran them single-handed till their sides were white with foam.
He followed like a bloodhound on their track,
Till they halted cowed and beaten, then he turned their heads for home,
And alone and unassisted brought them back.
But his hardy mountain pony he could scarcely raise a trot,
He was blood from hip to shoulder from the spur;
But his pluck was still undaunted, and his courage fiery hot,
For never yet was mountain horse a cur.

And down by Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges raise
Their torn and rugged battlements on high,
Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze
At midnight in the cold and frosty sky,
And where around the Overflow the reed -beds sweep and sway
To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,
The man from Snowy River is a household word today,
And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.

The Man, The Myth, The Legend: ‘Banjo’ Paterson – Australia’s Premier Folk Poet and His Indelible Legacy

“The Man from Snowy River” is a famed piece by Banjo Paterson, an Australian bush poet. First published in “The Bulletin,” an Australian news magazine in April 1890, it was later featured in Paterson’s collection, “The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses,” in 1895. The poem spins a tale of an adventurous pursuit to reclaim a runaway colt from a herd of brumbies, or wild horses, in the mountain ranges. The story’s young protagonist demonstrates exceptional bravery, descending a steep and treacherous slope to catch the colt when others abandon the chase.

The poem refers to characters from earlier Paterson works, specifically “Clancy of the Overflow” and Harrison from “Old Pardon, Son of Reprieve.” Written during a period of burgeoning national identity in Australia during the late 19th century, “The Man from Snowy River” symbolized the traits Australians hoped to embody – bravery, adaptability, and willingness to take risks. This sentiment was embraced in the Australian mythology, particularly by rural and urban inhabitants, and became an emblem of the emerging nation, the Commonwealth of Australia, formed in 1901.

Born on February 17, 1864, Andrew Barton Paterson, better known as ‘Banjo’ or ‘Barty,’ was the offspring of Andrew Bogle and Rose Isabella Paterson, graziers on Illalong station in Yass. After receiving an early education at home and at a local bush school, he attended Sydney Grammar School.

Paterson embarked on a legal career at age 16, working with a Sydney firm and later becoming a solicitor. He then formed a legal partnership, Street and Paterson. His interest in literature began to bloom during this period, publishing verse in the Bulletin and Sydney Mail under pseudonyms ‘B’ and ‘The Banjo’.

At the age of 31, Paterson reached significant milestones. He wrote his famous ballad ‘Waltzing Matilda,’ and his first book, “The Man from Snowy River, and other verses,” was published, marking a new era in Australian publishing. Its immense popularity led to it being sold out in a week, with four editions printed in six months.

Paterson served as a war correspondent in the Boer War and intended to do the same during the Boxer Rebellion. Leaving his legal career behind in 1902, he became the Editor of the Evening News in Sydney until 1908. He married Alice Walker in 1903, and they had two children, Grace and Hugh.

During World War I, Paterson served as an ambulance driver attached to the Australian Voluntary Hospital in France, and he was commissioned to the 2nd Remount Unit of the AIF. He continued his career in journalism upon his return to Australia, retiring in 1930. Paterson was honored with a CBE in 1939, and at his death on February 6, 1941, he was celebrated as Australia’s premier folk poet. His legacy includes numerous poetry volumes, a children’s book, an anthology, and a wealth of journalism pieces.

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