Brisbane – Australia


THIS WEEK – THE REVERIE
On the Beach — 60 Years On

It was in 1959 that Hollywood came down under to make the apocalyptic ‘On the Beach’.  To mark the 60 year anniversary, next month, a special program will run at ACMI in Melbourne from 2 – 7 February featuring both ‘Fallout’ and a screening of ‘On the Beach’ (in a 35mm print).  There will also be footage of deleted scenes, screen tests and other previously unseen material relating to the film. Some pics taken on location back then include this shot of Greg Peck and Ava Gardner on Frankston beach.

Ava on location at Gellibrand Pier, Williamstown.

Greg Peck on location on Lonsdale Street.

Of the principals, we have lost Greg Peck, Ava Gardner, Tony Perkins and Fred Astaire but Donna Anderson is still alive and aged 79.  This was actually her first film role at age 19, and interestingly, the following year back in the U.S., Stanley Kramer also featured her in his four-Oscar-nominated INHERIT THE WIND.  However her career virtually nosedived from then on.This is Greg, Ava, Donna and Tony on location.

This is a mention from the Brisbane Times ….

In retrospect, it’s not too surprising that On the Beach was a relative flop at the box office in 1959, despite an ambitious publicity campaign involving simultaneous premieres on every continent including Antarctica.  At the Melbourne premiere, according to filmmaker Lawrence Johnston, the response was shock from viewers who had anticipated a nice night’s entertainment: “What was being presented on screen at the Regent Theatre was the exact opposite … essentially a horror film.”Stopping the audience in their tracks was, of course, just what the “socially conscious” Kramer had set out to do.  Some, like New York governor Nelson Rockefeller, an advocate of mandatory fallout shelters in American homes, criticised the film for its defeatism.  Others were galvanised, like the young Australian Helen Caldicott, who testifies in Johnston’s documentary Fallout that both Shute’s book and Kramer’s film helped to lead her towards her later work as an anti-nuclear campaigner.Seen today, the film looks both dated and jarringly ahead of its time.

With their access to Gardner strictly limited, reporters turned their attention to Kramer’s discovery Donna Anderson – a 19-year-old dancer from Colorado who had never acted prior to taking on the demanding role of Mary Holmes, wife to a young Australian naval lieutenant played by a pre-Psycho Anthony Perkins.

The last surviving star of the film, Anderson today recalls the experience as overwhelming but rewarding. “The Australians were just incredibly nice and it was a big deal for them,” she says. “So being a big deal for them was a huge deal for me.”





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