Anti-Nuke Activist Helen Caldicott Speaking at U.S. Premiere of Fallout
On The Beach frightened movie-goers in 1959, real danger remains today
Australian documentary Fallout about the making of the 1950s Gregory Peck film On the Beach and book of the same name is part of the invitation-only Kat Kramer screening series, premieres on November 13th at the Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood
By David Robb
HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Today) 2013/11/3 – “On The Beach was a pivotal event in my life, both reading the book and viewing the film by Stanley Kramer,” says Dr. Helen Caldicott. “The images of the beautiful, elegant streets of Melbourne, where I lived, bereft of life and silent, as a blind gently flapped in the breeze, indicated the end of life on earth. These images never left me. I lost my teenage innocence and hope for the future and was set on my path in life to try and eliminate nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants.”
Kat Kramer’s father, Stanley Kramer, directed the 1959 film On the Beach, starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins. The film, based on the book by British author Nevil Shute, is set in Australia, where the last survivors of an all-out nuclear war await the inevitable arrival of a radioactive fallout cloud that will finish off the last people on Earth. The cautionary tale alarmed moviegoers around the world.
Caldicott would became one of the world’s leading anti-nuclear activists and the subject of If You Love This Planet, a film about the dangers of nuclear weapons that won the 1983 Academy Award for Best Documentary, Short Subject.
In 1978, Caldicott was teaching pediatrics at the Harvard Medical School when she re-founded the now defunct Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR). As president of the 23,000-member organization, she advocated against nuclear power and nuclear proliferation. PSR’s umbrella organization, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 for its “considerable service to mankind by spreading authoritative information and by creating an awareness of the catastrophic consequences of atomic warfare.”
“That’s what my father and Nevil Shute were warning us about in the 1950s,” says Kat Kramer.
President Kennedy would deliver the same message to the United Nations General Assembly in 1961. “Today,” he said, “every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when the planet may no longer be inhabitable.”
The same could be said today, as Nevil Shute’s daughter, Heather Mayfield, notes in Fallout.
“I think my dad would be very surprised that On the Beach has lasted for 50 years,” says Mayfield, “maybe a bit disappointed that the world hasn’t learned anything.”
Caldicott hopes that Fallout, by Australian filmmaker Lawrence Johnston, will help remind the world of the dangers of nuclear war.
“Fallout is ever more relevant in this day and age when everyone assumes that since the Cold War ended these hideous weapons were eliminated,” says Caldicott. “What no one really understands is that thousands of hydrogen bombs remain ready to be launched with a press of a button in both Russia and the U.S., that every town in the U.S. with a population greater than 50,000 is targeted, along with all universities, factories and cities. These two countries possess 94% of all the 20,000 nuclear weapons in the world, with France, Israel, China, Britain, India, Pakistan and North Korea owning hundreds more.”
“A nuclear holocaust could happen tonight through a computer error, hackers, human error triggered by a 9/11 attack, or a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan or elsewhere. Such an event would effectively invoke the On the Beach scenario, destroying most planetary life,” says Caldicott. “Fallout is an imperative reminder of the ever-present danger under which we live and which most of us blithely ignore. This film must be viewed by millions of people to awaken them from their pervasive psychic numbing so that they will be empowered to act to save themselves, their children and all their descendents.”