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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Fred Astaire thoroughly enjoyed filming in Australia as, unlike Ava Gardner, he was not hounded by the press. In fact, for most of the shoot, he was able to move around freely, frequenting thrift shops and race tracks. See more »
When seeing the views of San Francisco through the periscope, we see a view straight at the Ferry Building and a few seconds later a view directly up Laguna St (past the long gone large natural gas storage tank). These views can't be seen from the same place. The sub would have had to move at least three miles during the few seconds between the views. See more »
The following acknowledgment appears in the opening credits: "We acknowledge with appreciation the assistance given by the Royal Australian Navy and, in particular, by the officers and men of H.M.A.S. Melbourne and H.M.S. Andrew." See more »
We are all on that beach, on the thin line between life and death.
And the essence of our lives is expressed in the way we treat each other under the implacable threat of imminent mortality. As Ava Gardner's character says, at the penultimate moment of love's farewell, "It's been nice, Dwight Lionel. It's been everything." And what she says on her beach is true for every last one of us, on ours.
The primary power of this great movie to me is how well it conveys the idea that for us, on this beach, love and tender kindness are all that matter in the end, and the end is always near. The sheer kindness that Ava and Gregory's characters express for each other is surely the key element of their triumphant relationship.
The moment in which their relationship most completely triumphs, of course, occurs at the Narbethong Hotel. "On The Beach" achieves a cinematic moment of genius when the chorus singing "Waltzing Matilda" changes from a rowdy crowd of drunks to a magnificently harmonious group of fine male voices. As the sheer beauty of the music overwhelms us, it also overwhelms our characters, and we all unite together in a sublime moment of awareness that true love and kindness give us our only victory over imminent death. "You'll never take me alive," says the ghost.
The way Gregory Peck's character shifts from fumbling with the fire to turning toward Ava as the music inspires transcendence, and the way Ava smiles at him, make this scene unforgettably great.
Nearly as wonderful is the scene in which Ava's character learns that the Sawfish will be leaving, with her captain at the helm. She will have to face her death alone. She doesn't waste a moment in argument or recrimination, but expresses the fullness of her love for him and her great courage when she accepts his decision and thanks him: "..it's been everything." And then: "oh, I'm so frightened." This moment is one that I take to heart. It shows the love and courage I wish to have "when the time comes."
There is still time, brothers and sisters. But we are all on the beach.
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