Film Historian Matthew Locey shares his favorite movies from the golden age of Hollywood – the 1960s!
BLUE HAWAIʽI (1961) PARAMOUNT Classic Elvis Presley hip swing filmed on Kauaʽi and Oʽahu. Film made a couple of hapa-haole (English lyrics with Hawaiian melodies) songs famous; the title song and the Hawaiian Wedding Song. Lots of good Hawaiian/Presley songs and Hawaiian Hilo Hattie in opening scene. Also, luau, surf, canoe, hula on stage, hukilau, Hawaiian rock and airport greeting scenes. Hawaiian mother of biracial Maile (Elvis’ brownface girlfriend) is nonexistent, but Elvis’ racist Southern mother (played by Angela Landsbury) is very much in existence. Elvis and Maile (Joan Blackman) do end up getting married at the end. Yes, it’s the revolutionary and enlighten 60s, but where is “brownface” Maile’s mother again?
DEVIL AT 4 O’CLOCK, THE (1961) COLUMBIA Spencer Tracy and Frank Sinatra, Tracy as alcoholic Priest and Sinatra as convict both helping leper children escape from catastrophic volcano eruption of a small Tahitian isle. Compare escaping volcano scene in WHEN TIME RAN OUT (1980). Filmed in and around Lahaina, Mauʽi. Native first kiss scene with Sinatra and blind wahine played by mixed Latina Barbara Luna.
DIAMOND HEAD (1962) COLUMBIA Charlton Heston stars as Euro-American hypocritical prejudice kamaiana (local islander) family head. Filmed all over Hawaiʽi. Also starring Yvette Mimieux, Francis Nuyen and James Darren. Luau scene where Darren, a Hawaiian gets killed before his can marry his local Euro-American bride. Reverse interracial sex roles. Caucasian father of Darren’s half Caucasian brother (Oscar winning George Chakiris) is non-existent, because he died some years earlier. Heavy drama because, while prejudice white Heston is steadfastly against his white younger sister marrying a Hawaiian, he on the side has an affair with a Chinese worker young lady. In a shock to Heston his Chinese liaison gets pregnant and dies giving birth. What’s a racist father to do?
DONOVAN’S REEF (1963) PARAMOUNT John Wayne, Dorothy Lamour & Lee Marvin. Classic film about American expatriates living on a Pacific isle. Directed by John Ford and filmed on Kauaʽi with lots of Hawaiian culture, while the set was on the fictitious island of Haleʽakaloa (house of big laughter). Only film with the king and queen of the genre (Wayne and Lamour) are in the same movie, but unfortunately, not as a couple. Church bell and island Christmas Pageant scenes. Gist of the story are prejudicial attitudes towards a twice widowed doctor from his older conservative New England daughter because the doctor also fathered three biracial children. Sadly, the younger two half-sisters and a half-brother could not reveal their relationship to their older sister until their father returns from his usual long trips treating natives on the neighboring islands for free. The father wanted to sit with his conservative eldest to explain things but he was delayed. The native mother of the children died before the beginning of the movie. Also stars Cesar Romero.
GIDGET GOES HAWAIIAN (1961) COLUMBIA Beach party type movie with James Darren, Deborah Walley, Michael Callan and Carl Reiner. Set and filmed at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Mixed Polynesian dance number. Darren sings snappy title number Gidget Goes Hawaiian. Surf scenes, one with Gidget tandem surfing with Diamond Head in the b.g.
GODZILLA VS MOTHRA (1964) TOHO PRODS. (Japan) Classic Japanese cult movie, stars a giant, city destroying, moth. Ooohhhh I’m scared! Interestingly, this monster of a moth comes from a “enchanted South Seas Isle”, named Alilena, inhabited by natives who speak in “a Polynesian dialect.” Natives are Japanese extras with badly painted skin and two very Japanese looking, one foot tall, singing twins who get captured. While Mothra seeks to find and recuse them, the giant month runs into Godzilla. Mothra is worshipped much like King Kong but he or she is a friend to the natives. Two stagey musical dance numbers (Japanese style), one is purposefully tacky on stage, the other by the real natives is just as tacky. AKA: GODZILLA VS. THE THING (US), MOSURA TAI GOJIRA (Japan)
HAWAIʽI (1966) MIRISCH/UNITED ARTISTS Very good movie of James Michener’s tell-it-like-it-was account of the 1800’s missionary influence on the islands. Julie Andrews, Max von Sydow, Richard Harris, Gene Hackman, Carroll O’Connor star with Manu Tupou, a South Sea islander, in real life, starring as young Hawaiian chief. Look for a young Bette Midler as a missionary wife. Fun canoe arrival scene with the greeting of puritan western missionaries with topless natives. Tiki worship and sexual conception native dance number, of which the missionaries also witnessed.
IN HARMS WAY (1965) PARAMOUNT John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, Patricia Neal and many others star in this WWII ship out of Pearl Harbor drama. Directed by Otto Preminger. Filmed partly on Oʽahu with the Kaneohe Marine base used as featured location. Of the many sub-plots, one of most interest is the role by Kirk Douglas, who is really into island life, from local tiki bars to having a very young French-Polynesian lover but he had a very dark side. Powerful action/drama.
LT. ROBIN CRUSOE, USN (1966) BUENA VISTA / DISNEY Dick Van Dyke, Nancy Kwan in WWII story about lost Navy man’s relationship with a South Sea native girl played by Kwan. Filmed on Kauaʽi. Large Wizard of Oz-like tiki god worship scene. Play on the classic story of Robinson Crusoe, a castaway on a tropical island. In this film the castaway Crusoe’s island mate is a native female named Wednesday instead of an island male named Friday. Since it’s a Disney film, Van Dyke is tempted but does not succumb to the beautiful charms of the native Kwan. It gets so bad Van Dyke begins to forget his fiancée’s name back home. Written by Retlaw Yensid himself (Walter Disney spelt backwards).
MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1962) MGM Marlon Brando, Trevor Howard, Richard Harris and Tarita all starring in classic story of mean captain and his crew. In this infamous story, the crew make mutinous plans after a long stopover in a Tahitian paradise. Multi award-winning Robert Surtees is the cameraman. Giant canoe greeting and native seductive dance scenes, with miles of double stick tape between the hundreds of leis and the beautiful female native dancer’s breasts. Also, native first kiss and clichéd conch shell blowing scenes. Like his predecessor, Clark Gable, Brando weas the hottest male lead in Hollywood and they both had a huge infatuation towards Polynesian and its women from there earlier youth. All five versions of the Bounty films use actual Polynesian female leads, which is rare in this genre.
MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1961) COLUMBIA (UK) From Jules Verne novel and stars Herbert Lom. Confederate prison escapees by hot air balloon and get blown way off course. They then land on an uncharted Pacific isle (36 south, 153 west) inhabited by giant animals (crabs, bees, birds) and Captain Nemo. There is also a giant squid and catastrophic volcano ending. Pre-computer visual effects by the famed Ray Harryhausen. Also, of note: although not the original, this movie set the standard for “evil rulers volcanic lair” settings. Good companion Captain Nemo story to Disney’s 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1954).