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Tony Marvin is a laid back but incredibly successful promoter and fair-haired boy for J. P. Todhunter's pineapple company located in beautiful Hawaii. He gets the company to sponsor a contest in which the winner gets a Hawaiian vacation and is obligated to write articles on the islands which, when published, will constitute a publicity coup for the company. Unfortunately, Georgia Smith, the winner, feels lonely and isolated in the Islands and wants to return to the States. With help from buddy Shad Buggle Tony tries to romantically divert Georgia without letting her know his true motivation. Written by
Bing Crosby sang "Sweet Leilani" by Harry Owens, which went on to win an Academy Award for Best Song. It beat out George and Ira Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away from Me", which is from the 1937 film "Shall we Dance", and which, unlike the semi-forgotten "Sweet Leilani", became a classic. (Even the song "Blue Hawaii", also written for "Waikiki Wedding", is today more famous than "Sweet Leilani", thanks to Elvis Presley.) Bing Crosby sang four different Oscar winning songs in his films. See more »
Inexplicably Mrtha Raye encounters a chimpanzee in the tree she climbs. Chimps are found in Africa, not the Pacific. See more »
Fine thing! Shanghaied in Honolulu! Well, why don't you do something about it?
Well, shucks, them boys won't give us trouble if we let 'em have their own way. They ain't cannibals. Besides, if they was, you'd be safe.
[She starts to respond but realizes her looks have been impugned and pauses after a double take]
Why, sure, I'd...
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WAIKIKI WEDDING (Paramount, 1937), directed by Frank Tuttle, is an enjoyable but sadly neglected musical set in Hawaii starring Paramount's box office attraction, Bing Crosby, crooning to the up-and-grooming Shirley Ross, a fine vocalist in her own right whose popularity faded as quickly as it started, with her peak years at Paramount being from 1936 to 1938. By 1939, she left the studio after appearing in some secondary roles, including another Crosby musical, Paris HONEYMOON (1938), in which the object to his affection there was a newcomer named Franciska Gaal, but to re-discover Shirley Ross, WAIKIKI WEDDING is a good introduction. And now for a brief synopsis and inside look of the movie.
Set in Hawaii, the story begins with Tony Marvin (Bing Crosby) and his pal, Shad Buggle (Bob Burns), accompanied by his pet pig, attending a native wedding feast, in which Tony participated with a Hawaiian song. Tony, a smooth talking publicity man for J.B. Todhunter (George Barbier), president of a pineapple company, is hired to escort Georgia Smith (Shirley Ross), from Birch Falls, a "Miss Pineapple Queen" contest winner, on her Hawaiian tour, accompanied by her companion, Myrtle Finch (Martha Raye), who in turn becomes escorted by Shad. Because Georgia is not satisfied with her trip, threatening to return home to the states and refusing to participate in any publicity campaigns, Tony goes through extremes in keeping her in Hawaii, ranging from having her accused of smuggling a black pearl, abducted by a native group headed by Kimo (Anthony Quinn); vocalizing to her, and having her attend ceremonial dances. After discovering this whole affair to be nothing but tricks to keep her in Hawaii, the angry Georgia decides to book passage on the next boat to return home and marry her dull fiancé, Victor P. Quimby (Leif Erickson), causing Tony, who now loves her, to continue using provide more tricks instead of sincerity to keep her.
Along with the lightweight plot and Hawaiian surroundings, the bright score by Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin include: "Blue Hawaii" and "In a Little Hula Heaven" (sung by chorus during opening credits); "Nani Ona Pua" (sung by Bing Crosby); "Blue Hawaii" (sung by Crosby); "Blue Hawaii" (sung by Crosby and Shirley Ross); "Sweet Leilani" by Harry Owens, (sung by Crosby); "In a Little Hula Heaven" (sung by Crosby and Ross); "Okolehao" (sung by Martha Raye. Take notice how Raye's hair style changes midway through this number); "Sweet Is the Word for You" (sung by Crosby) and "Sweet Is the Word for You" (reprise, sung by Ross). While "Blue Hawaii" and "In a Little Hula Heaven" are the best sounding tunes for this production, it's the slower tempo lullaby of "Sweet Leilani" that became the Academy Award winning song of 1937.
The supporting cast features Grady Sutton as Everett Todhunter; Granville Bates as Uncle Herman; George Regas, Emma Dunn, and Mitchell Lewis, among others.
While "Waikiki Wedding," which runs at about 89 minutes, hasn't aired on any television station for quite some time now, it was distributed on video cassette in 1995 as part of the Bing Crosby collection, along with other titles as RHYTHM ON THE RANGE (1936) with Frances Farmer, and its WAIKIKI WEDDING co-stars, Bob Burns and Martha Raye, and a decade later onto DVD double featured with DOUBLE OR NOTHING (1937) also featuring Martha Raye. Oh, boy!!!! All films mentioned make recommended viewing for Crosby fans. (***)
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