Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
USA, 1966. Pan Arts, The Mirisch Corporation. Screenplay by Dalton Trumbo, Daniel Taradash, based on the novel by James A. Michener. Cinematography by Russell Harlan. Produced by Walter Mirisch. Music by Elmer Bernstein. Production Design by Cary Odell. Costume Design by Dorothy Jeakins. Film Editing by Stuart Gilmore. Academy Awards 1966. Golden Globe Awards 1966.
This adaptation of one part of James Michener’s mammoth novel(s) is interesting from time to time but, for the most part, is a bore. Max von Sydow plays a fundamentalist missionary who takes a wife (Julie Andrews) and moves with her to the island of Hawaii to preach the gospel to the “heathen” natives there. He is completely oblivious to the negative side of his objectives, but Andrews is his intellectual superior and understands that their work is destroying a marvelous culture and bringing much more than just God to these people’s lives. Jocelyne LaGarde, a Tahitian native with no previous acting experience, gives a wonderful performance as Hawaii’s queen, a woman whose new love for the Christian God forces her to leave behind her loving relationship with her brother, which until now seemed a natural thing to her. Richard Harris co-stars as the non-religious, brawling sea captain who comes to the island to enjoy the generosity of the native women and ends up butting moral heads with von Sydow. Beautiful photography will definitely attract viewers, but beware the excessive running time and complete lack of narrative force. The main reason to enjoy it is Andrews’ brilliant and brave performance; the film seems to relax every time she’s on screen to do all the hard work, and the audience is all the better for having gotten to know her wise character. Also see if you can spot a very young Bette Midler appearing briefly as a background passenger.