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An American-Australian production filmed on location in Australia in 1979 and released in 1980.
Directed by Peter Collinson and featuring a 61 year old William Holden with a 9 year old Ricky Schroder as the main characters which almost single-handedly carry the film. 

Holden plays Patrick Foley, a man without a family and dying from cancer who decides to return to his Australian roots for one last time. 
Schroder plays Shawn Daley, an orphaned young boy whose parents have been killed in an RV crash while vacationing in the Outback.
When the two cross paths in the bush, the man shows the boy how to survive in the wilderness, and the boy shows the man a capacity to love that he'd almost forgotten.

For William Holden this movie must have been like playing a part very close to his heart and likely appealed to his most passionate nature, and Ricky Schroder was at his outstanding child actor best in this movie.
A gently touching score and memorable theme song ("Halfway Home," sung by Maureen McGovern) sticks in the mind long after the movie ends.

Sadly the film suffered from mixed reviews and did poorly at the box office in Australia, and played with little fan-fare in U.S. theaters.

I first saw this movie in the early 80s. I was in rural Alaska and had just emerged from spending almost a year in the bush.
I was visiting some friends who were building a very large cabin on the outskirts of Wasilla. It was a big project and they were doing practically all of the work themselves so it took several seasons to complete. They were living in a large framed wall-tent at the time but already had access to electricity and a well, and (amazingly) cable television.
One afternoon THE EARTHLING came on the set. The theme of the movie strongly resonated with me and I was immediately drawn into it. I hadn't paid attention to the credits, but I recognized William Holden's voice, before I recognized him.
I had long been a fan of Holden, but had seen few of his later movies at that time, except a little romdram called BREEZY (in the mid 70's) in which Holden played a middle aged business man who becomes romantically involved with a flower child (played by Kay Lenz).
Holden was beginning to age hard and I don't like to see my fav's get old, so in those days I steered away from their "past prime" movies.
THE EARTHLING was Holden's next to last feature film. He played in S.O.B. the following year and died just a few months after its release in 1981. William Holden was only 63 when he passed.

On another sad note, EARTHLING director Peter Collinson also passed away from lung cancer shortly after its release. Collinson was 44.

I am very glad that TCM aired this movie as part of their Star of the Month tribute to this fine actor.
Though I wish that they would have shown it earlier in the evening as I would have liked to have heard what Stefanie Powers had to say about Bill's impressions of his part in this simple, yet bittersweet little drama.
 THE EARTHLING may not appeal to everyone, but if you enjoy a good down-to-earth wilderness film, survival type movies, movies filmed in the Australian out-back, movies with a conservation undertone, or are simply fans of either Ricky Schroder or William Holden, then this movie is right up your alley!

I don't recall TCM ever showing THE EARTHLING before and they may sadly never air it again.
It hasn't popped up ON-DEMAND (yet?), and they are having some serious, as yet unresolved, movie streaming issues this past week.

 THE EARTHLING is currently available for purchase from Walmart or Amazon


However, I suggest trying your local library for a free borrow first, and if they don't have it on their shelves it never hurts to request an inter-library loan.

Movie Clip

Holden & Carson discuss NETWORK (1976)

Holden & Carson discuss making S.O.B. (1981), Holden's final feature film.





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