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Another Colorful Fantasy that Tells us a Lot about the Need for Racial Tolerance
Superficially A NIGHT IN PARADISE is simply another entry in the apparently limitless procession of Technicolor fantasies produced by Universal in the mid-Forties. Conceived on a larger budget than customary, Arthur Lubin's romance takes place in a fantasy Mediterranean island and involves the love-affair between Delarai (Merle Oberon) and the faithful poet/ philosopher Aesop.
Initially it seems as if the course of romance will never run smoothly. Aesop is relegated into the background, wearing a hirsute face-mask reminiscent of Universal horror films rather than its fantasies. Meanwhile Delarai becomes the object of materialist lust from mad King Croesus (Thomas Gomez), as well as the subject of revenge from evil sorcerer Attosa (Gale Sondergard). The film is gorgeously shot, emphasizing the rich sweetmeats and other goodies on offer that could tempt anyone - excepting Aesop, that is.
Yet the old poet undergoes something of a magical transformation as he throws off his mask and becomes Jason, the noble suitor in search of Delarai's hand. Turhan Bey instantly becomes a clean-shaven young man in white toga with dashing looks, just the kind or romantic property that anyone could wish for. The plot-development might seem ludicrous, but it has a serious point to make, as it asks us to reflect on the relationship between inner integrity and outward show: which quality really matters to the survival of humanity?
The answer, of course, is straightforward. Delarai and Aesop/ Jason fall in love, but are condemned to death by a jealous Crassus. As they are about to die, they are miraculously rescued by Attosa, who pays tribute to their "love and faith" that remained undimmed. People matter more than things, and the two lovers deserve to be recognized for this.
Such was the optimistic message disseminated at the end of World War II, when the studios looked to forge harmony among previously warring nations. The point might look a bit hackneyed now, but it was meant sincerely in a highly entertaining piece.
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