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Bird of Paradise
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Bird of Paradise More at IMDbPro »

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

South seas romance--predictable but pretty

6/10
Author: netwallah from The New Intangible College
29 June 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Yet another South-Sea Island romance, with all the usual trappings. A handsome white man, Johnny (Joel McRea) is sweet on a beautiful island maiden, Luana (Dolores del Rio), and elects to stay on the island while his sailing chums go off for a while. Luana, however, is the king's daughter and is thus taboo—and, moreover, she seems to be destined to be a sacrifice to the volcano god Pele. Johnny steals her away, and they have an idyll on a nice island where he builds a house and she spears fish and learns English. But when the volcano erupts, they come for her. Johnny attempts another rescue but is wounded and bound on a frame, as is Luana, for transporting to the sacrifice. She starts to pray to Pele, but Johnny says, "There's only one god," and starts to pray the "Lord's Prayer." Providentially saved by the returning crew with their pistols, the couple go aboard the ship; Johnny is burning up with a fever from his wound and Luana is frantic that Pele's curse will kill him, so she goes back with her people. Just before she returns, she gives Johnny some orange juice, first sucking it from one end and then wetting his mouth with kisses, sadly, gravely. It's a sweet moment. The romance is mostly formulaic otherwise, and the plot doesn't offer any reason for their relationship than eyebeams and physical attraction. McRea is handsome and well-muscled, and the Latina del Rio can stand in for any 'exotic" race or people. She is quite pretty, and swims in the nude (this is a pre-Code movie) with some striking underwater photography, and she wears very little much of the time. Magically her leis cling to her breasts even when she leans forward, so there is no full frontal exposure. del Rio has beautiful eyes, well-made-up in the Hollywood (not Polynesian) style. For most of the film Luana and Johnny can't understand each other's language, but they talk anyway, and it's significant that Johnny, blind to the fact that they're in paradise (a caption or intertitle even tells us so), keeps talking about "civilization." He, like most of the American crew, assume the vast superiority of their culture, an assumption shared by the writers and film-makers—consider the crudeness of the representation of the "superstitions" of these "primitive" people. And Johnny assumes Luana will be charmed to leave this world and assimilate into his. But because she loves him, she is willing to die, and does so. The film ends with a montage of Luana in ceremonial dress, her face, the smoking volcano, and flames, as the music (rather nice, mostly, and vaguely Polynesian) swells to "The End." Perhaps this ending avoids the problem of whether a "Native Girl" could ever fit into Johnny's stateside life—the crew shake their heads, muttering "East is east, and west is west, and never the twain shall meet." Or perhaps it's really a romantic tragedy, featuring a mixture of bad luck and selfless heroism on her part.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful photography and music

Author: earlytalkie from United States
15 May 2012

Bird of Paradise is based on a 1912 play and the story of the beautiful native girl being sacrificed to a volcano is probably familiar to most moviegoers, but it was done here first and it showcases it's beautiful stars, Dolores Del Rio and Joel McCrea. It features some of the most beautiful black-and-white photography I've ever seen, and the music by Max Steiner is lovely. This piece of exotica has gotten a bum rap by many reviewers in the past, but it stands as a pleasant time-waster that will pass about an hour-and-a-half painlessly enough. The Alpha DVD print shows scratches and wear, but not enough to mar the enjoyment of the film.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

"Keep your eye on him Mac, he's going native."

6/10
Author: classicsoncall from Florida, New York
2 October 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Quite honestly, until I started reading some of the other reviews here I never gave it a second thought that Dolores del Rio's early swim scene might have been done in the nude. It just didn't strike me that way. There were other scenes in the picture between Johnny (Joel McCrea) and Luana that seemed much more suggestive and erotic, as when they traded splashes of coconut milk on the beach. The principals were certainly well cast for their athleticism and sex appeal, and I'd be curious to have been a movie goer back in the day to experience a first hand reaction to the events portrayed on screen.

One scene that caught my attention occurred between Johnny and the overweight native woman when at one point, Johnny fashions a makeshift slide out of a large palm frond and they both slide down a steep embankment. I thought that was pretty original when I saw Michael Dougas and Kathleen Turner do it in "Romancing the Stone", but here director Vidor came up with it a half century earlier. For me at least, that was a sit up and take notice moment.

Storywise, the effort is almost stereotypical; a young virginal maiden is destined to be sacrificed to the island gods until a captivating young hero attempts to whisk her away for a life of tranquility. The concept seems romantic, but then I thought about how I'd spend day after day on a remote island in the Pacific every day for the rest of my life and then it didn't seem so ideal. OK, Dolores del Rio may have been part of the equation, but seriously, the routine would at some point overwhelm one with severe boredom.

For 1932 and straight out of the silent era, this one had some fine moments and innovative action sequences like the shark attack, Johnny's battle in the whirlpool and of course, the erupting volcano. The flying fish celebration was certainly something I'd never seen before. It all resolves to poignancy with the closing scene when Luana takes her leave of a dying Johnny to fulfill her destiny as a sacrifice to the gods.

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6 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Hammy, sensual, kinky; masochism in the Tropics, Selznick style...

5/10
Author: moonspinner55 from las vegas, nv
27 June 2008

Dolores del Rio is a South Seas island princess who has a taboo affair with a young American sailor after she saves him from a shark; he considers their flirtatious clinches "a lark", but after she's swiped from him by her people, he re-captures her and sails for the remote island of Lani. It took three writers (Leonard Praskins, Wells Root, and Wanda Tuchock) to adapt Richard Walton Tully's play for the screen, though the story is told mostly in visual, elemental terms. Athletic Joel McCrea slides down a steep hill on a leaf, scales a coconut tree without slipping, and jumps from a high cliff into a palm tree without getting so much as a nick. His passion for Dolores' Luana is convincing, though rushed along. The screenwriters tease us with tidbits about a volcano curse, and it isn't long before the lava starts flowing. Executive produced by none other than David O. Selznick, this early "Radio Picture" benefits from the pre-Code era (with some sensual behavior between the leads, and a lovely underwater duet wherein Miss del Rio appears to be nude). McCrea's happy team of mariners come and go and come back again (right on schedule), yet their salty, digging rapport is very lighthearted and amusing, and there's a charming moment at the beginning where they throw souvenirs to the natives. Not a bad early talkie, although special effects certainly had a long way to go--ditto for dramatic acting. Remade in 1951 with Debra Paget. ** from ****

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Beautiful Film

8/10
Author: Rainey-Dawn from United States
12 March 2016

A very beautiful & romantic film. It's about a lovely native woman named Luana (Dolores del Rio) and the man that falls in-love with her, Johnny Baker (Joel McCrea). Luana is chosen by the other island natives to be sacrificed to the volcano. This is a story we've all heard of by now but this might be the first film on the subject matter.

I discovered this film via Creighton Chaney. I was looking to watch a film from him that I have yet to see. He's not in this one very much, his character Thornton is more of a supporting role, but he did not have to be in this film for me to enjoy it. I'm glad to discover it because it's a wonderful story.

8/10

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It is No Tabu

6/10
Author: Mad_as_a_March_Hare from Alabama
26 March 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film can't help but suffer in comparison with that other 1930s era film about the tropics- the lyrically beautiful Tabu. The Bird of Paradise is a simple love story between an American sailor and Polynesian native. It is pleasant, but nothing very special.

One aspect of this film that is outstanding is the underwater photography. The scene of McCrea and Del Rio swimming is both beautiful and erotic, and while the scene of McCrea wrestling the sea turtle is a bit ridiculous, it is still technically impressive.

While I was a bit bored with the beginning and middle of the film, the ending sequence is more exciting, and the final scene between the lovers is quite touching and romantic.

Tabu is both art and entertainment, while The Bird of Paradise is primarily entertainment with a few artistic touches.

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Christian God Versus the Volcano God

5/10
Author: disinterested_spectator from United States
6 January 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A bunch of men on a yacht stop off at a Polynesian island, where Johnny and Luana fall in love. The rest of the men leave, but Johnny stays behind. He absconds with Luana, and they find an island paradise to shack up on.

But she is destined to be a virgin sacrifice for the Volcano God, and when it starts to erupt, the natives find her and bring her back. Johnny tries to rescue her, but he becomes part of the sacrifice. He tells Luana there is only one true God, to whom he says the Lord's Prayer. The sailors return and rescue them, but Luana voluntarily returns to be fed to the volcano. So, the Christian God loses out to the Volcano God, who gets his sacrifice.

She is not a virgin anymore, but what the Volcano God doesn't know won't hurt him.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

My views

10/10
Author: jaxback from Australia
4 November 2014

I think this must be one of the finest films I have ever seen and even as old as it is it leaves todays movies in ruins with its genuinity and simple uncomplicated plot. As mentioned Joel Macrae falls in love with the absolutely gorgeous Dolores Del Rio and the cultures end up dividing them in the end. It showed to me how civilized man wants to have his island love but then would like to take her back to civilization and what for. He would not have what he fell in love with. Simple Island life take it or leave it but don't try and get her back to another world she would never understand or appreciate. Very erotic kissing scene as islanders rub noses he kisses her and the actions lend to the imagination of what is really intended but all just a great film with lots of entertaining dancing music and island culture before the missionaries came and ruined it all to their puritanical ideals

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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Before it happens and civilization go away

Author: carvalheiro from Portugal
9 October 2007

"Bird of paradise" (1932) directed by King Vidor represents an anthropological islet in his extensive cinematographer kind of a tree is a tree free speech about species, yet in a second class civilization for South sea adventure. Whose main characters of a sailor and a local flower power, before its female expansion isn't enough for the intriguing father from the clan. This is old green valley in present times, but with an enchantment that for us is still with an accented galvanization for marriage between cultures and how being careful with prejudice, trade and palms like in the time of Cook travel, linked with affection for the nature and brigandage. The geography of this well populated island it is the main fortified part of this exotic story and the plot works with a sense of orientation from the main characters. Being pursued by a group of natives at the orders of the chief, whilst the other small group is composed by the adventurer, the lover girl - daughter of the chief - and their supporters.

This is why this movie is astonishingly new for the age it must have now since the time that it was made, as almost like a special one artisan's outfit of the patronized conception of the innovative studios production. Even the eroticism of some scenes with the naked shoulders of the girl, it were very unusual and as fresh current of open air from the concealed forests of the island, near the sands of the shores with palms and beaches, as rarely we could see at the time of mingled forced marriages. Well, Vidor put the finger on the incomprehension and gives us some speed and strength, as dramatic lightening for communication between peoples before electrification, when things were still for the worst after the debacle of illusions. One of the scenes that touch me is when the communication is difficult, because the separate languages and for explaining how it works on a given plan it was by signs, like pictorial symbols at the age of caverns and tattoos, what get feelings between inhabitants and the maritime foreigner in spite of a potential love affair, that took the island in fire and tears, if the good mind and presence of spirit facing differences was not in the right place, as it were by the story among main characters, such in this scene of transition.

This is the kind of narrative that shows us the boundaries of forced integration and it seems, even now, the immense complex problem that at the time was the idea of a savage with bow and arrow pointed to a civilized man, half naked on the ground in a warrior ritual, with a local tribe crying against the intrusion of this human kind in their closed rules. Perturbing the primitive life there without any ceremony and knowing nothing about why he was caught, in his own trap of curiosity and observation of that recurred society of consumption, where flesh it was good enough for its smell on the fire by night, as sacrifice calming the volcano eruption, watched from not far away over the night during this cannibalistic ritual, simulating an exchange in such a disconnected mentalities. Director King Vidor makes it by generosity of a new dramatic standing, for showing here boundaries in the spirit of hunters. When things are reversed on the habitat of such a melodic structure, about the childhood of common humanity, in a talkie movie that roars well with choreography of such a dance with naked feet, learning the virtues of housing above water.

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8 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Jungle love.

3/10
Author: Michael O'Keefe from Muskogee OK
28 December 2003

As I watched this on PBS I imagined my grandfather spending his twenty cents to watch in the theater. Romance and passion in the tropical sea breeze. A sea adventurer(Joel McCrea) falls in love with an island beauty(Dolores del Rio)who's destiny is to be sacrificed to Pele, the God of Volcanos. Of note: del Rio's nude underwater swimming scene. And Max Steiner's score is the first to orchestrate a "talkie" from beginning to end. The supporting cast includes: Richard Gallagher, John Halliday, Reginald Simpson and Lon Chaney Jr.

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