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ALOMA OF THE SOUTH SEAS is typical of a series of pictures made by
Paramount Studios during the late '30s and early '40s, set on some
far-off tropical island paradise with a sarong-clad Dorothy Lamour.
While these features may have wanted for sophistication and better
production values, box office returns clearly indicated that American
audiences, weary of a debilitating depression and a demanding war
effort, were more than willing to buy tickets to a proxy Polynesia for
an hour and a half's escape from reality.
Escape from reality is right, because these movies were as far removed from reality as the Oort Cloud is from the Earth. But they were popular enough to make the unpretentious Miss Lamour one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood at the time. In fact, she is the main reason I purchased a copy of this film from an online source, though more for its historical value than for any erudition one might expect. As a movie collector, I wanted to have at least one Dorothy Lamour sarong picture in which she was not accompanied by Crosby and Hope and this - THE HURRICANE notwithstanding - is the one I liked best.
Not that it is a good movie. It isn't but, to be enjoyed at all, it must be viewed within the context of its time. The plot is almost non-existent. It's the old eternal triangle in which two erstwhile boyhood friends Tanoa (Jon Hall) and Revo (Philip Reed) vie for the hand of Aloma (Lamour). That's it! There is a faint hint of some kind of island revolt but it never materializes, so the only question is who will be left to embrace Aloma at the fadeout. Incredibly, the situation is resolved not through the efforts or ingenuity of any of the principals, but by a convenient geological cataclysm: a spectacular volcanic eruption that's actually worth waiting for (and explains my overly generous rating of 8).
Dorothy Lamour does well enough in her lightweight role as the island maiden, but Jon Hall is too beefy to pass for the virile Polynesian native chieftain in a skimpy wrap-around. He is also betrayed by the script. As a leader of his people who had studied in America (including Harvard, of all places) he has absolutely nothing to do except moon over Miss Lamour (Nice work, if you can get it!). As for the islanders themselves, they come out in droves for the ritualistic dances but, at all other times, are noticeably absent.
Yet, even left as is, ALOMA could have benefited immeasurably from actual outdoor locations, as did the silent 1926 version which was shot in Puerto Rico and Bermuda. By confining filming to a sound stage, Paramount left us with a claustrophobic effect that looks more like the interior of a lush greenhouse than sultry island.
In her autobiography, "My Side of the Road," Dorothy Lamour recalled, with some amusement, a harrowing experience while filming ALOMA. "During the volcanic explosion, I was supposed to swing across a gorge from one ledge to another. I didn't push off enough and was short of my target. Then I couldn't reach the other ledge either. The crew urged me to jump but it looked like too far a drop so I clung to the vine for dear life. As I struggled to stay on, I felt my sarong coming loose and it finally slipped off. Everyone was laughing but I wouldn't dare let go of the vine until I was rescued." The scene was reshot with Lamour clinging to Jon Hall.
ALOMA OF THE SOUTH SEAS is a movie that can be enjoyed, but only if viewed as a diversion; otherwise, it will seem antiquated and silly.
PARAMOUNT followed up box-office success TYPHOON (1940) with a remake
of ALOMA OF THE SOUTH SEAS (1926). Jon Hall (TANOA) replacing Robert
Preston as the male lead with Dorothy Lamour (ALOMA) as his romantic
South-Seas interest (again). Lynne Overman (CORKY) is along for the
ride as the older male-mentor and for comedy relief.
THE NUTS; TANOA is prepared for Kingship of his tropical paradise by being sent too the U.S.A. to learn Western knowledge with CORKY as chaperon. ALOMA in his absence is being groomed as future consort and Queen. Childhood friend/rival REVO (Phillip Reed) now is more interested in ALOMA then KARI (Katherine DeMille) who loves him. This creates a complicated love QUADRANGLE! It is resolved, unfortunately for two (2) of them not very happily. Then again Murder and Volcanic eruptions are not really the way to solve such problems.
Like THE HURRICANE (1937) and TYPHOON (1940) this film ends with the BIG DISASTER. It is not in there league. Though with Gordon Jennings at the helm of the SFX for PARAMOUNT you get your money's worth, though it only lasts about six (6) minutes. Being in TechniColor it is most impressive. SFX shots were very difficult composites with the Three (3) Strip TechniColor film stock. This is WAY before digital com-positing created seamless effects. Only a master like Jennings can make it credible, he knew the limitations of the time so they had to be over the top and startling, exceeding expectations. The eruption later found itself into other films including WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (1951) and ATLANTIS THE LOST CONTINENT (1961).
Unfortunately it is not possible to judge the film against its silent (1926) predecessor. PARAMOUNT being particularly lax in the preservation of its film library and history. Unfortunately UNIVERSAL the current owner of its library is just as indifferent. No doubt hoping all will rot away so they can just use them for a tax write-off for decades of projected loss income. A typical short-term solution by 'Big Business'.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was a part of a series of Technicolor remakes ,of the 1937 Hurricane, that Dorothy Lamour Starred in.although this was made before America got into the war,by Now many people were beginning to know who Hitler was ,movie like this provided an escape for the moment about worrying to get into another war.This time Dotty portrays Aloma,daughter of her Fathers Twelfth wife,as Her Aunt Tarusa ,played by Ether Dale,reminds her when she's about to scold her,and end sup scolding Aloma cousin Nea,played by Dona Drake instead.Dotty performs a wonderful Hawaii style song,The White Blossoms of Tahani,as she is picking some white blossom .As with Her Jungle love, Lynne Overman shows up again in this film as a visitor of the ,Hollywood Island,for some unknown reason.In this story Aloma ,when she's a little girl,is being chosen for the future king,Tanoa,as a kid played by Scotty Beckett,as the queen,in the future,By his Father the high Priest ,played by Fritz Lieber. Tanoa's friend,as a child played by Willam Roy as Revo ,makes jokes about Tano being a king.Overman is in the island to to take back dark haired and tan Tanoa to The states for an Education.After fifteen years Aloma is grown up and so has Revo,played by Philip Reed,now interested in her and are some what engaged.Her smart Alec pet parrot is still living too.While Revo remains Dark haired and tan skin.Tanaos comes back to the Island ,with Lynne Overman,still the same age too.It seems American education did change him.He's now white with strawberry blond hair,When dotty tells Reed that she has change her mind and loves Jon.This is when the conflict and fight begins with Tanoa and Revo for Dotty.Katherine Demille,Kari,who love Revo,but, he does not love her.When Philip kills a Shepard boy,to threaten Dotty,and Jon find s out,Katherine beg Jon to let him go and they would both leave the Island for good.Jon agrees,and th Shepard boys Parents don't get there avenge.Well he stabs Katherine and go back to the Island ,shooting everyone at the wedding and n missing many,when Revo up sets the volcano god ,causing an eruption.this seems to stop Revo from killing Tanoa and kills Revo instead ,But Lynne ,Dorothy,Donna,Jon,Ether are safe when the volcano eruption come to a halt.Lush Technicolor photography,with just a fair story and plot but still entertaining .07/23/13.07/23/13 Made a mistake Fritz Lieber did not play The king,he played the priest
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I would love to spend this entire review quoting the silliest
screenplay ever to grace a Polynesian adventure epic. While Dorothy
Lamour's presence makes sense (she's certainly lovely in one of her
thousand screen sarongs), reunited with "The Hurricane" co-star Jon
Hall for this colorful yarn of an American educated Polynesian prince
coming back to modernize his country, the supporting cast will have you
Someone at Paramount must have thought that the idea of putting stern looking character actress Esther Dale into dark make-up and casting her as a Bloody Mary type role would be funny, and it is...as a sick joke. When Dale and other characters start spouting dialog so trite that it sounds like you're being beaten over the head with a Hallmark card, you have to make yourself stop laughing just so you can hear every silly line they say. From a camp viewpoint, this comes with the laughs of a thousand hyenas (just to give you a glint into of what kind of dialog to expect) is pleasant to look at, but also feels some really dreary secondary characters.
Ultimately, this is the type of film that seems to probably have better as a silent film, where audiences expected lavish visuals and over-the-top dialog in the titles. To hear it points out how infantile it really is. Still, if you're not crying from laughing by the end, you will be excited by the excellent special effects which erupt towards the end.
Paramount designated DOROTHY LAMOUR their sarong girl and couldn't
resist pairing her with JON HALL in another one of those South Seas
epics that inevitably ends with the Gods getting angry enough to cause
the local volcano to erupt. Well, it does erupt here and there's an
earthquake too, but nothing atones for the banal script.
Paramount would repeat the story somewhat with RAINBOW ISLAND ('44), three years later, again a South Seas tale in Technicolor with a volcano erupting for the climactic scene but it was more a spoof of Lamour's usual films than ALOMA OF THE SOUTH SEAS, which takes itself seriously.
The plot has JON HALL sent off to England for an education (as a tot he's played by Scotty Beckett, another unlikely child performer to turn into Jon Hall). When he returns to the island, he picks up his romance with native gal Lamour until all hell breaks loose to stir things up for the finale. But it's too late to rescue the film from boredom.
Summing up: Prettily photographed in Oscar-nominated Technicolor and some Special Effects, also Oscar-nominated, but hardly worth all the expense.
This is a very boring sarong epic, shot not on location, but entirely on back and interior lots. Jon Hall is the native boy who goes away to be educated, returning to petulant Dorothy Lamour. Sort of a poor man's Bird of Paradise. The unremarkable cinematography was nommed for an Oscar but it's the Special Effects that deserved the film's second nod. After being totally bored for the playing time, a volcano and earthquake come along at the finale to set the plot right and wake us up. Very tedious stuff. Tune in if you are a fan of the stars. Otherwise only for insomniacs as a cure.
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