Disaster

On The Beach (1959)

What would you do if you knew the world was coming to an end? How would you react to such news, and how would you cope with having this new fact in your life?Stanley Kramer’s 1959 film tackles all these questions and more. The film is an adaptation of the 1957 novel of the same name, written by Nevil Shute.

At the time of the films release there was great public fear of Atomic and Nuclear weapons. I’m sure this film chilled many viewers to the bone at the time, particularly due to its unflinching look at the aftermath of one of these weapons being used.

I like how the film captures how many different reactions various people have to the news of the end of mankind. Some people escape into booze, some go to extremes to feel and experience life while it still exists, and some simply refuse to accept that there is no hope of survival. It always makes me think how I would react in such a situation.

The film is set in Australia. The entire worlds population(apart from those in Australia)have died due to radiation sickness following a Nuclear war. The radiation is being spread on the winds, and it is estimated to arrive in Australia in around five months time. The citizens there are trying to come to terms with the war, and with the fact of their own impending fate.

An American submarine, the U.S.S. Sawfish, surfaces in Australia. It was submerged when the war began and therefore the crew haven’t been exposed to the radiation. The submarine has been travelling around surfacing at various countries, only to find no sign of life. Captain Dwight Towers (Gregory Peck)and his crew dock in Australia and come ashore. Despite Dwight’s wife and children being killed in the war, he just cannot accept that painful fact.

Whilst ashore, Dwight befriends Moira (Ava Gardner), and the two slowly fall in love with one another. Dwight however cannot permit himself to act on his feelings though because he still considers himself married.

Dwight and his men take to sea again after a Morse signal is picked up coming from a city in America. The crew must try and find out if anyone has somehow managed to survive.

This is a bleak film and is not an easy watch at all. The performances of the cast make it a must see. I find it to be extremely moving and it captures so well the horror and tragedy such an event would bring about.

Photo0113

Gregory Peck is completely heartbreaking as a man trying to appear in control, but who inside is consumed with grief that he cannot display publically. Gregory shows us the tough façade cracking a few times. Thanks to his performance we see Dwight really struggling to stay in control, and wrestling with his conscience in regards to his undeniable feelings for Moira.

Fred Astaire is best remembered today for his incredible dancing skills, but he was also a fine dramatic actor. His performance here as Julian Osborn is one of the best he ever gave. Julian was a Nuclear scientist and feels guilt that something he helped to build destroyed humanity. Fred steals every scene he is in with just a look. In many scenes he is in the background but you keep your focus on him to see how he is reacting at certain moments.

Ava Gardner touches my heart as the boozy Moira. She has so much love to give, and she wants to spend her final days with Dwight. Ava perfectly conveys this woman’s inner turmoil, as she struggles to blot out the pain of the present and at the same time finds in Dwight a reason to stay alive.

Anthony Perkins is excellent as the young Lt. Peter Holmes. Peter and his wife have recently had a baby, and his wife is struggling to accept the truth of what is about to happen to everyone. Anthony perfectly captures the emotional and moral distress Peter is in, when he has to decide if he and his young family will take the government issued suicide pills or not.

It is the kind of decision that nobody should ever have to make, but the film forces you to think what you would do in his place. Would you accept the slow, painful and deeply unpleasant death caused by radiation? Or would you have one last beautiful day surrounded by those you love, still being healthy and in control of your life, and then peacefully slip away?

Donna Anderson breaks my heart every time I watch this. Donna plays Peter’s wife, Mary. This woman is terrified of the truth, but she won’t accept or even talk about it. She too must decide how to meet her end. I think many people would react like Mary, still holding out for hope even when faced with the opposite reality. Donna portrays Mary’s hysteria and terror very well indeed.

John Tate is Admiral Bridie. John only appears in a few scenes, but he is excellent when he does. I really like how he subtly conveys his love for his much younger secretary, Lt. Hosgood (Lola Brooks). It’s there in the way he looks at her. I love their final scene together where they share a drink together, that scene moves me each time I watch and is beautifully played by both actors.

If you are among the few people on the planet who actually believe we should have Nuclear weapons; then I would hope that this film (particularly the final ten minutes, and especially the final shot)would make you change your opinion. I would also recommend you watch the TV miniseries Threads and The Day After.  Just one of these weapons is one too many and these films show what will happen if we ever use them.

It annoys me so much that some members of our species are intent on creating ways of bringing about our destruction. We should learn to love each other, because at the end of the day we are all the same, we are all human and will all die one day. Why can’t our time on earth be filled with happiness instead of war and hate? This film focuses on the good points about humanity – love, compassion, friendship and kindness. It makes you think that you should value life, as you could lose it at any time.

My favourite scenes are the following. Julian and Peter’s conversation on the submarine. Dwight trying to explain to Moira at the train station how he feels about his dead family. The young sailor leaving the submarine and going ashore in San Francisco, he chooses to die there (his home city)but he will do so alone. Bridie and Hosgood sharing a drink and an important  conversation. The scene during the boat race between Dwight and Moira. Moira watching the submarine submerge. Moira and Julian’s conversation in his garage. The final scene.

A powerful film, with an equally powerful message to deliver. Strong performances from all the cast and a beautiful score. Be sure to see this one on Blu-ray to see it looking its best.

I highly recommend the novel too. It goes into more detail about how the war started. It also graphically describes the symptoms of radiation sickness, while the film only hints at those horrors.

Any other fans of this one? Please leave your thoughts below.

 

 

Advertisements
Blogathons, Romance

The Judy Garland Blogathon: The Clock (1945)

Judy Garland Blogathon

Crystal, over at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood, is hosting this blogathon all about Judy Garland. Be sure to visit her site to check out all the other entries. I can’t wait to read them myself.

Judy Garland was not only a hugely talented singer, but she was an excellent actress too. Although primarily known for her popular performances in musicals, Judy also made a few non musical films; in which she more than proved her talents as a dramatic actress.

I want to talk about one of these dramatic films – The Clock. This is a sadly much underrated film, that was known here in the UK upon release as Under The Clock. It is directed by Vincente Minnelli. This film was actually Judy’s first non musical role.

This is one of my favourite romantic films. It is so moving and Judy and Robert’s performances seem so natural to me. Their portrayal of their characters growing feelings for one another seems totally genuine.

The film is set during WW2. Joe (Robert Walker) is a young American soldier on leave in New York for two days. This is his first time in the big city. Joe has no idea where he should go or how to get there.

Joe meets Alice ( Judy Garland)at the train station, after she trips over his foot and damages her shoe in the process. Alice agrees to show Joe around the city for a while. As they spend more time together, Joe and Alice start to like each other very much and fall in love. The pair decide to marry, but in order to do so they must work their way through a mountain of paper work and red tape. Can they beat the system and marry before Joe has to leave to go back to base?

At the time it was made, this story must have been a very common one in real life for many a young serviceman and his beloved sweetheart. The story is poignant and it feels believable too. You get the sense that this is just one such story out of thousands like it that we are watching.

I love the scene where Joe and Alice are in the park at night, the couple are listening to all the sounds of the city; sounds such as ships horns, music, cars etc and are totally caught up this a magical moment. There comes a moment when they both end up looking at each other and you see that in that instant they both see only each other.

It’s like they both suddenly realise at the same time that they are meant to be together. Joe walks towards Alice, pulls her to him and they kiss. I love the shared look Judy and Robert have in this scene. They really make you see and feel the moment of realisation the couple are sharing.

My all time favourite scene in this film is the one in the church. Joe and Alice sit in a church late at night and exchange wedding vows by themselves, reciting from a bible they have found in the church. This scene is one of the most beautiful and touching I have seen in any film. Whether you are religious or not, it can’t be denied that the wedding vows are very powerful and meaningful words.

In this church scene, Judy and Robert convey to us that Joe and Alice fully realise and accept the words they are reciting and are aware of the importance of their vows. They are not entering into this lightly, their bond is one for life and they intend to keep these vows. This is the wedding ceremony they wanted and were denied in the rush of the previous scene. I love they way Judy and Robert look at each other in this, they are so tender together.

Judy plays Alice as bubbly and outgoing. She is confident in her life, but hesitant when it comes to relationships. Alice wants a relationship that will be special and will be the relationship of her life.

Robert plays Joe as a really good guy, who is both shy and awkward. Once you get to know him you won’t remember his shyness. He too wants someone special, he isn’t out for a brief fling he wants a lasting relationship. I love how tender and gentle Robert is in the romantic scenes with Judy. Both actors really make their characters feelings seem so real to us.

Both Judy and Robert work so well together here. They are totally convincing as the young couple slowly falling in love. I wish they had made more films where they were the lead couple. Both Judy and Robert had difficult lives and apparently they became good friends on set when they made this. Robert died far too young, aged just 32, in 1951.

My favourite scenes in this film are the following. Joe and Alice reciting their own wedding vows in the church. The scene where they watch the sea lions in the zoo. The morning after their wedding. The realisation scene in the park. Joe chasing Alice’s bus to ask her out on a date. The scene where they find each other again at the station after they get separated on a train.

This is a moving and very romantic film. I also always find myself wondering what happened to them once the film ends, and I always hope they got a happy ending. I wish more people out there knew about this little gem. I am hoping that this post will encourage some new viewers to seek this one out.

In my opinion both Judy and Robert give two of their finest performances in this film.

I like Judy quite a lot as an actress. Here are my top five Judy Garland film performances.

        1- A Star Is Born

2- The Clock

                      3- I Could Go On Singing

              4- The Wizard Of Oz

        5- Easter Parade

Thanks so much for reading. Are you also a fan of The Clock? If so, I’d love to read your comments on this lovely film and Judy’s performance.

 

 

 

 

 

Blogathons, Tributes To Classic Stars

The Dean Martin Blogathon: Why I Love Dean.

Dean Martin Blogathon.pngSamantha, over at Musings Of A Classic Film Addict, is hosting this blogathon all about Dean Martin. Be sure to visit her site to read all the other entries. I can’t wait to read them myself.

This year marks the centenary of Dean’s birth. In honour of this occasion, I want to write a little piece about how much I love Dean.

Smooth, funny, private, cool, effortless, handsome, and warm hearted are all words that I would use to describe Dean Martin.I like how Dean seemed to be able to fit easily into whatever career path he took. From singer, to comic, to actor; Dean made it seem like he had always been working in that particular job forever. He just made everything he did seem effortless and natural.

Several of my friends know of my love for all things Dean Martin. I especially love his incredible singing voice. I am even envious of a friend who came across a Dean Martin slot machine whilst on holiday in Las Vegas! As random as that sounds, I know I would have got a real kick out of seeing that.  🙂

To me, Dean always comes across (in his many TV, film and stage appearances)as someone who it would be fun to hang out with; you just know you would have had some laughs with this man in real life. I also like how he has this aura of fun around him all the time. He was like the favourite uncle, someone who you looked forward to seeing and who would always make you smile.

I first became aware of Dean through his work as a singer. My parents like his singing, and as I was growing up I’d often hear his songs playing in our house. As I’ve grown older, I’ve sought out more of his music and become acquainted with his film and TV work too.

I especially enjoy watching his Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts (TV) episodes. These are guaranteed to have me crying with laughter. Some of the references I don’t get (not being American or being born long after the time these aired)but the majority of the material still works on me today.

Dean is the host and master of ceremonies for this series. Each episode a different group of celebrities(and some regulars like Dean and Don Rickles) ranging from actors to politicians, comically lambast a different guest. Dean instigates many mirth inducing scenes and cracks up a great deal himself at some of the things said about him. I love how this series makes you feel as though you are in that room with those guys, and that you’re there laughing with them.

I like that Dean always comes across as likeable and fun. I love his act of seeming to be drunk all the time (which really fooled some people into believing he was drunk for real.) We love him for being Dean and we wouldn’t have him any other way.

Dean Martin was born Dino Paul Crocetti in Ohio, in June, 1917. He went on to make a name for himself as a singer, comedian, and became a leading member of his friend Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack.

In 1945, Dean met a young comic called Jerry Lewis, at a club where they were both performing. From 1946 onwards they went on to become one of the most beloved duos in comic history. The pairs regular appearances on the TV series, The Colgate Comedy Hour  finally made them household names. Dean was the laid back straight man to Jerry’s hyperactive scene stealer. The pair also went on to make several films together.

I have never been a fan of Jerry Lewis but I do like the work he did with Dean, I feel that they brought out the best in each other on screen. The pair were close friends for many years. The natural warmth and affection between them shows on screen. They broke up in 1956 and sadly became estranged for twenty years. They enjoyed an emotional reunion at an event arranged by Frank Sinatra in 1976.

Following the breakup, Dean went on to enjoy success as a singer and actor. He performed regularly on stage and screen, with Sinatra and the rest of the Rat Pack – Sammy Davis Jr, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford.

Following the tragic death of his son in 1987, Dean appeared less and less in public. He passed away on Christmas Day in 1995. He was 78 years old.

My favourite Dean Martin films? – Five Card Stud, Airport, The Young Lions and The Sons of Katie Elder.

My favourite Dean Martin songs? –  I love them all, but the following hold a special place in my heart: Ain’t That A Kick In The Head, Volare, Luna Mezza Mare and Baby, It’s Cold Outside.

Thank you for reading. I’d also like to say a big thank you to Dean for giving me so many hours of laughter and recording all those fabulous songs.