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On the Beach (1959)

Approved | | Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi | 17 December 1959 (USA)
After a global nuclear war, the residents of Australia must come to terms with the fact that all life will be destroyed in a matter of months.

Director:

Writers:

(screenplay), (novel)
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 4 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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John Tate ...
Harp McGuire ...
Lola Brooks ...
Ken Wayne ...
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Richard Meikle ...
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Joe McCormick ...
Lou Vernon ...
Kevin Brennan ...
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Storyline

In 1964, atomic war wipes out humanity in the northern hemisphere; one American submarine finds temporary safe haven in Australia, where life-as-usual covers growing despair. In denial about the loss of his wife and children in the holocaust, American Captain Towers meets careworn but gorgeous Moira Davidson, who begins to fall for him. The sub returns after reconnaissance a month (or less) before the end; will Towers and Moira find comfort with each other? Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The Biggest Story Of our Time! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance | Sci-Fi

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

17 December 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La hora final  »

Box Office

Budget:

$2,900,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When Moira goes to visit Towers at the dock, an Australian sailor calls out "Get a load of that Charlie Wheeler". This is rhyming slang: 'Charlie Wheeler' rhymes with 'sheila', an Australian term for a (young) woman. See more »

Goofs

When Hosgood announces Holmes to the Admiral, she calls him Lieutenant Holmes using the American pronunciation, instead of the Australian "Leftenant". Curiously though, navies of the British tradition actually pronounce the rank a "L'tenant" but this subtlety is usually overlooked in Hollywood for the more exotic "Leftenant" which is actually the army pronunciation. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Dwight Towers: Prepare to surface.
See more »

Crazy Credits

and Introducing Donna Anderson See more »


Soundtracks

Waltzing Matilda
Music by Marie Cowan
Lyrics by A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson (as A.B. Paterson)
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User Reviews

 
Perfectly paced and well acted, it keeps melodrama minimised
4 May 2000 | by (Melbourne, Australia) – See all my reviews

In an era (1959) and on a topic (nuclear war) that usually demands melodrama, "On the Beach" resists. In fact, the all-star principal cast and director Stanley Kramer seem to treat the topic as a stage play, focussing on the individual. And that is how such a story should be treated. Life on the northern hemisphere has been destroyed a defence mistake by one of the (then) two superpowers. Gregory Peck's nuclear-powered submarine was submerged at the time (they stayed under water for a hell of a long time in those days). The sub heads for Melbourne, Australia, which is one of the only places in the world not yet affected by radiation. But the radiation will come, and this is where the truth of the piece comes out.

The inhabitants of 'the end of the world' go through what you would expect: denial, anger, clinging to the thinnest hope, and finally, resignation. As I said at the start, this is clearly a story about the individual. Kramer knows this, and the cast of Ava Gardner, Tony Perkins, John Meillon and Fred Astaire play it with a reality that is all too rare. Even recent films like Final Impact fail to deliver on this count. The real joy of the film is the pacing, which gives the cast the chance to play it like it should be played. Astaire proves he is an actor, and only once slips into his raised eyebrow 'top hat and tails' mode. It is a well thought out movie without the Hollywood ending, but such is the art of Kramer that the ending is a good resolution, not just a funeral. The camera work is exceptional throughout, starting with the continuous shots in Peck's submarine. I don't know about the Waltzing Matilda music at the start, however. But it does work later in the piece, and makes it worthy of the Academy Award nomination it received.


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