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Last on

Tue 24 Nov 2009 11:30 BBC Radio 4

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 24 November 2009

Libby Purves considers the impact of On the Beach, Stanley Kramer's groundbreaking film which 50 years ago reduced cinema-goers to tears with its bleak vision of a post-apocalyptic world.

Based on Nevil Shute's novel and starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner, On the Beach tells the story of a group of Third World War survivors awaiting death from radiation from the northern hemisphere moving inexorably towards them. The on-screen drama was matched off screen when Shute and Kramer clashed over changes the filmmaker made to appease his backers and the mainstream audience.

The programme hears from Shute's daughter and Kramer's widow, who describe the impact of the row on both men and the difficulties getting the film made in the first place. Although not universally acclaimed, On the Beach was considered a brave film to make and, judging by audience reaction at the time, it was a terrifying warning to the world.


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