On the Beach (1959) is a post-apocalyptic drama film based on Nevil Shute's 1957 novel of the same name. The film features Gregory Peck (USS Sawfish captain, Commander Dwight Lionel Towers), Ava Gardner (Moira Davidson), Fred Astaire (scientist Julian Osborn) and Anthony Perkins (Royal Australian Navy lieutenant Peter Holmes). It was directed by Stanley Kramer, who won the 1960 BAFTA for best director. Ernest Gold won the 1960 Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Score. It was remade as an Australian television film by Southern Star Productions in 2000.
The story is set in a future 1964, in the months following World War III. The conflict has devastated the northern hemisphere, polluting the atmosphere with nuclear fallout and killing all life. While the bombs were confined to the northern hemisphere, air currents are slowly carrying the fallout south. The only areas still habitable are in the far southern hemisphere, like Australia.
From Australia, survivors detect an incomprehensible Morse code signal from the United States in San Diego. With hope that someone is alive back home, the last American nuclear submarine, USS Sawfish, under Royal Australian Navy command, is ordered to sail north from Melbourne to try and make contact with the signal sender. The captain, Dwight Towers (Gregory Peck), leaves behind his good friend, the alcoholic Moira Davidson (Ava Gardner), despite his feelings of guilt about the death of his wife and children in Connecticut. Towers refuses to admit they are dead and continues to behave accordingly.
The Australian government arranges for its citizens to receive suicide pills and injections, so that they end things quickly before there is prolonged suffering from the coming radiation sickness.