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The bronzed and be-flowered Mimi, a half-American, half-Tahitian girl, was raised on the island but longs for the good old U.S. of A. "All my life's been one long vacation," she sighs, "and I'm bored." Luckily, Hap Endicott arrives on the scene. He's an Ohio schoolteacher who has come to manage his late uncle's coconut plantation. The two meet cute, and love and singing ensue. Includes songs at the drop of the hat, some terrific Tahitian dancing, and a lovely moment when a lovelorn Hap looks up and sees Mimi swimming gracefully among the clouds. Written by
"When You Live In A House, In A House Of Singing Bamboo"
When Pagan Love Song came out in 1950 it reflected the changing times and the fact that the movies were competing with television. Ten years earlier a film like this would have been done on MGM's backlot. But now in order to get the audiences to a film about the south seas, you had to show the real thing.
The film is lovely to look at without the plot getting too much in the way of the lovely Hawaiian scenery which substituted for Tahiti. My guess is that Tahiti probably was still recovering from the effects of World War II otherwise MGM might have shot the film there. In any event having been to Hawaii, I am of the firm opinion, further documented by Pagan Love Song that it is impossible to make an unattractive film in Hawaii.
The plot is real simple, Howard Keel is an American whose heard about the romantic south seas and wants to get away from it all. Esther Williams is a native Tahitian who'd just like to get to see some of the rest of the world. Howard has bought a copra plantation and he settles into the Tahitian ways very fast. Of course seeing Esther in a bathing suit swimming in the lagoon helped a lot.
One thing that should also be remembered is that at the time Pagan Love Song came out, the most popular musical on Broadway was South Pacific. That Rodgers&Hammerstein classic by itself created a market for a film like Pagan Love Song. I only wish the music were up to the standards of that show.
Arthur Freed did double duty in this film, serving as both producer and lyricist. He wrote original songs with Harry Warren, nothing terribly memorable and also it's his song with Nacio Herb Brown that serves as the title of the film. It was one of the earliest hits from the beginning of sound films.
Esther Williams as usual has some lovely water ballets. Of her it can truly be said, her like in Hollywood has not appeared again and is unlikely to.
Pagan Love Song is a pleasant piece of fluff entertainment, easy to look at with a plot not too taxing.
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