Swallow Doretti in the Movies

On the Beach (1959)

Poster Many years ago I was told that a Swallow Doretti appears in the 1959 version of the movie On the Beach - it does, but its appearance is very brief. On the Beach directed by Stanley Kramer, is the film adaption by John Paxton of Neville Shute's post-apocalyptic end-of-the-world novel "On the Beach", starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner and Fred Astaire.

The film tells the story of the aftermath of a world wide nuclear war. By chance an American submarine finds itself in Melbourne after the outbreak of war. Gregory Peck plays the commander of the submarine and Ava Gardner his love interest. Cut off from communication with the rest of the world the survivors cling to the hope that more have survived, that the radiation cloud will not reach them and that somehow a return to their former lives will be possible.

Doretti The character played by Fred Astaire spends much of his time restoring a Ferrari 750 Monza race car which he had purchased following the outbreak of war. As some Australian survivors and the crew of the American submarine await the inevitable arrival of the fatal radiation fallout they stage a sports car race. which includes some exciting driving sequences and numerous accidents. Fred Astaire is seen driving his Ferrari and right behind is Max Balchowsky in a black Buick-powered Swallow Doretti. In fact it was Bob Drake who substituted for Fred Astaire during the actual filming of the race. Some of the other professional drivers who took part in the filming were John Columbero, in a Mercedes 300SL; Jerry Austin, D-type Jaguar; SkipConklin, Lotus; Gene Curtis, OSCA; Dan Gurney, 1957 Corvette; Skip Hudson, 1958 Corvette; Bill Larsh, Triumph; Chuck Porter, Mercedes Special; Dick Rodger, Lotus; John Tinaous, AC Bristol; and Mary Davis driving a Mercedes 300SL. The race sequence was filmed in California at both Paramount Beach and the newly opened Riverside track.

There is no happy ending. It is a grim tale and says much about how scared people were in the late fifties and early sixties. On the Beach is a reflection of the fear and the very real threat of global nuclear annihilation that lurked like the ultimate grim reaper in the shadows of their collective conscience.

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Ken Yankey © 2011