Locations Feature Page - Beaches

Local beaches have been attracting filmmakers since the silent era, in particular British film pioneer Cecil Hepworth, who used the Lulworth Cove area as a 'repertory' location from on 1910 on. Pictured left is his feature-length 1913 Hamlet, with the protagonist encountering the ghost of his late father on the rocky foreshore.


Chesil Bank in The Small Back Room (1949). It encloses the Fleet Lagoon, where Barnes Wallis tested his bouncing bomb for The Dam Busters raid. In the distance is Portland Bill, then home to a large naval base.

When Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger adapted Nigel Balchin's The Small Back Room (1949), they moved the story's bomb-defusing finale from a generic fictional location to a real one: Chesil Bank, which Powell regarded as one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.

 

 

Two early views of popular beaches from postwar British films: Lyme Regis in All Over The Town (1949) and [mouse over image] Lulworth Cove in Four-Sided Triangle (1953)

The Moonraker (1957)
A swordfight on the foreshore by Stair Hole rock-arch forms the finale of this Technicolor swashbuckler starring George Baker, inspired by the future Charles II's 1651 cross-country escape from the Roundheads.

The Navy Lark (1959)
West Dorset beaches portray the small Channel Island of 'Boonzey' in this film spinoff of the long-running BBC radio sitcom about a chaotic backwater RN minesweeper station. The small port is portrayed by West Bay, which famously has red sandstone cliffs, and the beaches and chalk cliffs seen here would be east of there.

 

The Three Musketeers (1966)
Studland Beach dunes played the Musketeers' camping grounds around La Rochelle during its siege, in this children’s-tv 10-part serial, with Jeremy Brett as D'Artagnan and Brian Blessed as Porthos. This was perhaps the first such usage of Studland as an all-purpose location to double overseas story locales.

Far From The Madding Crowd (1967)
This adaptation of Hardy’s 1874 novel included a scene on Weymouth seafront, where Bathsheba searches for Sergeant Troy, and [mouse over] another at Durdle Door, where Troy goes for a fatal swim.

 

In the late 60s through the 70s and 80s, Studland Beach and sand dunes would become the BBC’s go-to coastal location, cf at the opening sequences of Monty Python's Flying Circus [1969-74] where the hermit crawls up to the camera and says "It's-". ITV also began using it to represent locales abroad, e.g. in the 1968 spy series Department S, where in one episode it portrayed Torremolinos and in another, the Bahamas.

Pictured left is a still shot at Studland from the 1980s BBC sitcom Only Fools And Horses, where in the episode 'It Never Rains', the characters go on holiday to Benidorm.

 

Melody (S.W.A.L.K.) (1971)
In writer Alan Parker's story, a pair of London schoolchildren who want to get married run off to the seaside for a day out from school, with a sequence shot on Weymouth beach.

 

Something To Hide (US: Shattered) (1972)
Bembridge on the Isle Of Wight appears as 'Westsea' in this adaptation of Nicholas Montsarrat's psychological-horror novel of a middle-aged man, played by Peter Finch, who takes in a pregnant teenage hitch-hiker.

 

Jane Austen's Persuasion
The Lyme Regis sequence is one of the most famous in British literature and, later, tv drama, though it focuses on the harbour wall known as the Cobb. TV adaptations shot partly on location here go back to at least 1969, but many do not show the adjacent beach. Pictured left is a screesnhot from the 1995 BBC adaptation, where the characters walk from the Cobb along the beach just to the west, known as Monmouth Beach. A closer view, shot at the W end of the beach, is [mouse over] seen in the 1972 Children's Film Foundation adventure Wreck Raisers.

 

That'll Be The Day (1973)
Shanklin beach appears in a sequence set in the late 50s where the youthful protagonist, a future rock star (played by David Essex), drops out of school. His mum finds him working as a deck-chair ticket attendant.

 

 

Out Of Season (US: Winter Rates) (1975)
This domestic drama of an American (Cliff Robertson) returning to an ex-partner (Vanessa Redgrave) who runs a seaside hotel on the Isle of Portland is of interest as it shows the western, Chesil-Bank side of the peninsula.

 

The Man In The Iron Mask (1976)
In this ITC/NBC-TV co-production directed by Mike Newell,
Dancing Ledge in the Purbecks appears in a key scene where D’Artagnan fights the pursuing villain played by Patrick McGoohan while the rightful king played by Richard Chamberlain is rescued from drowning.

 

The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin (1976-80)
Burton Freshwater beach at West Bay is seen in the opening titles of this hit BBC sitcom, where Reggie leaves his clothes on the beach and plunges into the sea, played out in the finale of Series 1. At the end of Series 2, Reggie returns to the area, this time with his wife, both dressed as tramps, where [mouse over] they witness a row of other Sunshine Desserts staff undressing to start their lives over too.

 

The Wildcats Of St Trinians (1980)
This 5th entry of the series about an out-of-control girls school was shot partly on the Isle of Wight. In one scene, two of the older pupils swim nude out to a passing yacht, and in another [mouse over], they engage in water sports at the resort of 'Saltsea' [Ventnor?].

 

Private Schulz (1981)
The Purbeck coast appeared in two guises in Ep.3 of this fact-based satiric BBC drama serial about the Nazis' plan to flood Britain with counterfeit £5 notes, when the antihero tries to escape amidst the Dunkirk evacuation. A chalk-cliff cove was a Channel-coast dropoff area for returning troops, while Studland Beach portrayed a Dunkirk pick-up beach.

 

By The Sea (1982)
Swanage and Studland beaches appear in this Two Ronnies special, a slapstick attempt at seaside-postcard humour, with an odd family group visiting the resort of 'Tiddley Cove.'

 



Wilde (1997)
The beach just beyond Durdle Door rock arch appears in a family picnic scene in this biopic starrring Stephen Fry. A similar beach-picnic scene shot there appears in Nanny McPhee.

The Way We Live Now (2002)
Highcliffe beach appears in Episode 2 of this BBC adaptation of the Trollope novel.

 

Elgar - Fantasy Of A Composer On A Bicycle (2002)
The coast near Ventnor (where the Elgars had honeymooned) and other locations around Wight appear in Ken Russell's hour-long docudrama, with seashore scenes throughout.

Rosamunde Pilcher ZDF Series

Adaptations into German of Rosamunde Pilcher romance novels by Germany's state broadcaster ZDF have long been the largest single production strand for the entire area (starting in 1997 and still ongoing). One explanation for their appeal as prime-time Sunday-evening dramas on German tv is their focus on coastal locations - something Germany itself lacks a variety of. Nearly every adaptation opens with aerial panoramas of the Dorset coastline.
Pictured left is a behind-the-scenes shot, from a Poole Council newspaper, of the film company shooting a scene by Studland beach. Below are stills and screenshots from a selection of Pilcher ZDF adaptations filmed in Dorset or on Wight: Im Licht des Feuers, Auf den Spuren der Vergangenheit, Und plötzlich war es Liebe, Flügel der Hoffnung, Liebe im Spiel, and Wenn nur noch Liebe zählt. Locations below include Durdle Door, West Bay, the Fleet Lagoon swannery, the Sandbanks Hotel terrace, a West Wight beach [ambulance scene], Bournemouth's West Cliff viewpoint, and Weymouth.

 

Morris: A Life With Bells On (2009)
With the help of a few palm-tree props, Studland and Sandbanks portray California's Venice Beach in this spoof of a Morris Dancing group on tour under a cult leader.

Broadchurch [2013-16]

The beach at West Bay became (despite the real-life hazards of an unstable cliff-face) a tourism attraction after its use in all 3 seasons of the series.

The same beach had in fact appeared earlier, in the opening of every episode of The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin, as well as in many scenes of BBC's late-1990s light-mystery series Harbour Lights, about a harbourmaster based at a fictional port portrayed by West Bay.

Housefull 3 (2016)

Song-and-dance scenes were shot at Durdle Door for this Bollywood musical extravaganza.
The Time Of Their Lives (2016)

Southbourne beach [pictured above looking E towards Hengistbury] portrays itself in this last-chance road-trip drama of two women [played by Joan Collins and Pauline Collins] escaping to France [via the Poole-Cherbourg ferry] for a funeral.

The Durrells (2016)

In this rather free adaptation of Gerald Durrell's Corfu memoirs, Bournemouth plays itself in the opening episode where the family decide to move abroad, with a scene-setting shot of beach huts at the foot of a chine, and a stormy-weather beach-walk scene.
On Chesil Beach (2017)



Exteriors for the screen adaptation of Ian McEwan's tragic novella were shot on the distinctive original location - Chesil Bank, where the luckless couple spend their honeymoon at a [fictional] hotel.


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