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The ‘Earthquake’ Movie: A Look Back at the 1974 Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner Thriller

This all-star cast and special effects made this movie truly special. 


Earthquake, a gripping disaster movie released in 1974, captured the imagination of audiences with its groundbreaking special effects, compelling storyline and stellar cast including Charlton Heston and Ava Gardner.

Directed by Mark Robson and produced by Jennings Lang, Earthquake follows the lives of various characters as they navigate the aftermath of a catastrophic earthquake in Los Angeles.

Amidst crumbling buildings, raging fires, and widespread chaos, the protagonists must confront their fears, make difficult choices, and ultimately fight for survival. The film masterfully blends action, drama, and suspense, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats from start to finish.

Earthquake struck a chord with audiences for several reasons. Firstly, it tapped into the collective fascination with disaster scenarios, offering a thrilling yet thought-provoking exploration of what might happen in the event of a major quake.

Secondly, the film boasted state-of-the-art special effects for its time, including innovative techniques, which created a realistic sense of tremors in theaters. Lastly, the stellar ensemble cast, featuring both established stars and rising talents, lent credibility and depth to the narrative, drawing viewers of all ages and backgrounds.

Here, we look at the cast of the 1974 movie Earthquake.

Charlton Heston as Stewart Graff: Earthquake movie

Charlton Heston as Stewart Graff (Earthquake Movie)
1974/1994 Pictures; Tom Wargacki / Contributor/Getty

Born on October 4, 1923, in Evanston, Illinois, Charlton Heston played the role of Stewart Graff, a construction engineer grappling with personal and professional challenges in the wake of the earthquake.

Heston gained stardom for his leading roles in epic such as Moses in The Ten Commandments (1956), and as the title role in BenHur (1959), the latter of which earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor. He also appeared in The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), Planet of the Apes (1968), Julius Caesar (1970) and Antony and Cleopatra (1972). The year he did Earthquake, 1974, he also appeared in the Three Musketeers (1974), Airport 1975 (1974).

In later years, he continued to act but had smaller roles and guest appearances in films such as Crossed Swords (1978), Wayne’s World 2 (1993), True Lies (1994), Alaska (1996), and Hamlet (1996). His last film appearance was My Father (2003).

Heston was a controversial figure as the five-term president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), from 1998 to 2003. 

In August 2002, Heston announced that he had Alzheimer’s disease. He died on April 5, 2008 at the age of 84.

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Ava Gardner as Remy

Ava Gardner as Remy
1974/ Pictures; Vinnie Zuffante / Stringer/Getty

Born on December 24, 1922, in Grabtown, North Carolina, Ava Gardner played the role of Remy Royce-Graff, Stewart’s estranged wife grappling with her own demons amidst the chaos of the earthquake.

Prior to Earthquake, she came to fame playing leads in movies based on Ernest Hemingway stories including The Killers (1946), The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952) and The Sun Also Rises (1957).

She received an Academy Award nomination for her role in Mogambo (1953).

After Earthquake, she continued to act in both films and TV shows. Her small screen credits include Knots Landing and the mini-series The Long Hot Summer.

Gardner was known as much for her personal life as her films. She was married three times: to Mickey Rooney, the band leader Artie Shaw, and Frank Sinatra. 

Gardner passed away in 1990 from pneumonia. She was 67.

MUST READ: See the ‘Knots Landing’ Cast — Then and Now!

George Kennedy as Slade: Earthquake movie

George Kennedy as Slade (Earthquake Movie)
1974/ Pictures; Aaron Rapoport / Contributor/Getty

Born on February 18, 1925, in New York City, George Kennedy played the role of Sergeant Lew Slade, a tough and resourceful cop tasked with maintaining order in the chaos-stricken city.

Kennedy was a hard-working and prolific actor and he often appeared in multiple movies a year. Some of his most memorable movies were Charade (1963), alongside Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant and as an army major in The Dirty Dozen (1967).

He won the Oscar for best supporting actor for his performance in the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke.

He was also a regular in the Airport movies, and later as Leslie Nielsen’s dumbstruck captain in the Naked Gun comedies.

In 1991, Kennedy was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2011 he wrote his memoir, Trust Me. Toward the end of his life, he appeared in the Young and the Restless soap opera and the movie The Gambler (2014).

He died in 2016 at the age of 91.

MUST READ: ‘The Young and The Restless’ Turns 50 This Month – Here’s a Look Back at Your Fave Y&R Characters and Cast Members

Lorne Greene as Sam Royce

Lorne Greene as Sam Royce
1974/ Pictures; Joan Adlen Photography / Contributor/Getty

Born on February 12, 1915, in Ontario, Canada Lorne Greene played the role of Sam Royce, a wealthy businessman caught in the chaos of the earthquake and forced to confront his priorities and values.

Best known for his role as Ben Cartwright, the patriarch of a wealthy frontier family, in the iconic TV series Bonanza, Greene did several movies including Earthquake before going back to TV where he was best known. He starred in the science-fiction series Battlestar Galactica (1978-79) as Adama. He then starred as Battalion Chief Joe Rorchek in the series Code Red.

His final performance was in the TV movie The Alamo: Thirteen Days to Glory in 1987.

Greene died in 1987 of pneumonia following heart surgery. He was 72.

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Geneviève Bujold as Denise Marshall: Earthquake movie

Genevieve Bujold as Denise Marshall (Earthquake Movie)
1974/ Pictures; Chelsea Lauren / Stringer/Getty

Born on July 1, 1942, in Montreal, Canada, Geneviève Bujold played the role of Denise Marshall a courageous nurse who must navigate the chaos of the earthquake to save lives and reunite with her loved ones.

Bujold started her Hollywood career starring as Anne Boleyn, opposite Richard Burton, in Anne of the Thousand Days (1969). In 1971 she filmed The Trojan Women with Katharine Hepburn before joining Charlton Heston in the Earthquake.

She continued to act in a host of other films including Obsession (1976), Coma (1978), The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark (1980), Tightrope (1984), Choose Me (1984) and Dead Ringers (1988). Most recently, in 2018, she was the voice Johanna in Two Girls.

Richard Roundtree as Miles Quade

Richard Roundtree as Miles Quade
1974/ Pictures; Paul Archuleta / Contributor/Getty

Born on July 9, 1942, in New Rochelle, New York, Richard Roundtree played the role of Miles Quade, a motorcycle daredevil whose skills are put to the test in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Roundtrip gained fame in 1971 at the age of 29, when he played the lead role in Shaft, which was among the first of the so-called blaxploitation movies. He starred in the two follow up Shaft movies before appearing in Earthquake.

In 1977 he appeared in the groundbreaking ABC miniseries Roots. In 1981 he played an army office in Inchon (opposite Laurence Olivier) and in 1984 he starred with Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood in City Heat. In 1995 he played opposite Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt in film Seven. He revealed that he was most proud of his work in Once Upon a Time … When We Were Colored (1996) about a Black Mississippi family confronting inequality in the south.

He continued to appear in TV and in films, most notably in the Shaft reboot in 2000 and 2019.

He passed away in 2023 of pancreatic cancer. He was 81.

MUST READ: Richard Roundtree, Star of 70s Hit TV Show ‘Shaft,’ Dies at 81: His Life in 16 Rare Photos

For all things 1970’s, click here!

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