An intrepid young sailor falls in love with Luana, the beautiful daughter of an island chief, promised to another. With little thought to the future, Johnny and Luana elope together, searching for paradise in each other’s arms.
A pre-Code classic! This era was a strange chapter of Tinseltown history, a time for the risque and the bizarre before censorship had fully kicked in. With Bird of Paradise, the great King Vidor (director of The Crowd) delivers an exotic tropical romance of scandalous proportions.
To insist in interpreting this via a dated racism and sexism both under the idea of exoticism (indeed, some of the lines have to be heard to be believed) is to occlude other merits. For one thing the pristine cinematography is superb: in the close-ups of Del Río, the shots of the volcanic eruptions, the underwater sequences, the various acrobatics. The ending is questionable, yet how else could racism be subverted?
A sublime RKO ethno-fantasy of the South Seas, combining genuine island footage shot in Hawai'i with pure cinema magic. The cinematography excels in earthquake, whirlpool, and volcano effects, but also in the lighting of faces, underwater scenes and in Vidor's bold visual storytelling. It's an absurd story of a white man in love with a native, using all the expected stereotypes; but it's also a triumph for cinema.
Vidor was great (I love THE CROWD), and this film gets 3 stars for being watchable and entertaining, but my appreciation for such racist garbage is very limited. Almost every scene perpetuates white supremacy and the Hollywood meme of Tribal people as "other", "superstitious", and incapable of rational thought. I know, I am supposed to be pleased with Dolores Del Rio dancing topless, or seeing coconut milk dripping
It's a twisted morality which would condemn this film's mild sexuality yet find no fault with its flagrant dehumanization of all but the archetypal white male hero. Aside from that, this is a thoroughly entertaining adventure from a time when the lessons of the silent era had not yet been completely cast aside by the production-line homogeneity of Hollywood's so-called "Golden Age".
Deliriously salacious pre-code romp w/ exposed posteriors, barely camouflaged breasts, and seriously suggestive use of coconut milk. It was the beginning of talkies. The machinery was ponderous and heavy. It is impressive to see some of the ways Vidor is inspired to place the camera. It looks great. And it is deliciously stupid. Coconut milk shooting out the nostrils stupid. Some will be aghast. Some appalled.
Pretty creaky old King Vidor film that seems to have tried to cash in on 'Tabu' and 'Tarzan' with a silly story about a seaman's love with a native girl. McCrea is pretty awful here and Dolores Del Rio may well be sexy but even the film's pre-code naughtiness doesn't keep it interesting.
Please, do not watch this if you are taking it seriously. Joke (?) aside, it's one to pass without feeling guilty.
But if you have some spare time, it's a pre-Code movie, so it's kinda interesting to watch with that in mind.
Other than that, it really isn't a good movie.
I watched this film for breakfast and I am so happy I did. A little slice of Paradise was a great start to my day.
Johnny knocked that house up pretty swiftly and that coconut water must have given Luana the power to speak English! haha