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Review

Bruno and The Beach: The Beachcombers at 40

By Marc Strange and Jackson Davies, with a foreword by Michael J. Fox

November 4, 2013

Review By Vanessa Colantonio

As a child of the 1970s, I can recall my West Indian grandparents tuning into an unusual television program every Sunday evening: one which started invariably with a camera shot of a log tumbling off a very rocky shoreline into the sea. Apparently filmed in the same country as I was in, with tall cedar and fir trees, and mountains and beaches covered in rocks and driftwood of all sizes, the environment of The Beachcombers looked like nothing yours truly had seen in her built-up east end Montreal neighbourhood; it was exotic and mysterious. Alas, I never followed the series for its nineteen season run, but I always wondered about it.

Bruno and The Beach, written by Marc Strange (co-producer) and Jackson Davies (co-producer and actor) both leads loyal fans down memory lane and introduces non-fans, such as myself, to that exotic Sunshine Coast world that once flickered on our evening screens. It reads like a souvenir book complete with production anecdotes and reminiscences of the surviving crew and cast. Brief biographies (well, not so brief with star Bruno Gerussi’s biography) are also peppered throughout. It may be a revelation to some just how extensive Gerussi’s entertainment credentials were prior to The Beachcombers, including performing regularly at the Stratford Festival and doing a stint as a pre-Peter Gzowski mid-morning show host on CBC Radio. From most accounts, his larger than life personality was a challenge to deal with and his clashes with CBC management were legendary.

The lives and backgrounds of other longtime cast members — Second World War vet Robert Clothier (Relic), Sechelt First Nation actor Pat John (Jesse Jim), and Vancouver-based actress Rae Brown (Molly Carmody) — are told through a mixture of their own words and those of others involved in the program’s production. The rest of the ever-changing cast are also featured, including Nancy Chapple and Juliet Randall, who both played the young Margaret Carmody, with short treatments about how they were cast and how their tenure with the series played out. Crewmembers, many of whom went on to work on bigger productions in Canada and elsewhere, provide fond memories of working on a Canadian series that gave them much latitude for creativity as well as practical work experience.

The original series ended in 1990; a sequel, The New Beachcombers, starring among others Graham Greene and Dave Thomas, ran from 2002 to 2004 before being cancelled. In the meantime, the original series found itself being syndicated as far and wide as the United Kingdom and various parts of Africa and Southeast Asia. Much as it did for Canadians all those years ago, The Beachcombers provided a glimpse of coastal British Columbia for many around the world.

Bruno and The Beach: The Beachcombers at 40
By Marc Strange and Jackson Davies, with a foreword by Michael J. Fox 
Madeira Park: Harbour Publishing, 2012. 200pp. $26.95 paper