In 1870, Yankee sea captain O'Keefe finds himself stranded after a mutiny on the Micronesian island of Yap, where the financial potential of copra (dried cocoanut) excites him. But a German company already has a monopoly...and very low production because hard work is alien to dwellers in paradise. On a later voyage, between affairs with island maidens, O'Keefe struggles to find the key to the wealth of Yap. But before he can carve out the empire of his dreams, he must also contend with assorted villains... Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
William Henry "Bully" Hayes (1829 - 1877) was a South Sea pirate born in Cleveland, Ohio. He ran trading missions throughout the South Pacific (including the Marshall Islands, Cook Islands, New Zealand , Australia), specialising in rum and rifles, but he was not averse to "blackbirding" (slaving). He was killed after a violent disagreement and his body was thrown into the ocean. His murderer was never brought to justice. See more »
O'Keefe returns to Hong Kong and stock footage is shown of people walking down a street. However, the movie is set in the 1870s and the footage is of 1950s Hong Kong. Giveaways include signs such as "No Motors". See more »
His Majesty O'Keefe is directed by Byron Haskin and adapted to the screen by Borden Chase & James Hill from the novel written by Lawrence Klingman & Gerald Green. It stars Burt Lancaster, Joan Rice, Andre Morell and Abraham Sofaer. Music is by Robert Farnon and Technicolor photography by Otto Heller.
Plot finds Lancaster as Captain David O'Keefe, who after a mutiny is tossed overboard in the South Pacific. Making his way to Yap Island, O'Keefe is pleased to see the money making potential by harvesting copra from the mass coconut growth on the island. However, the natives aren't exactly thrilled by his intentions and there's also some serious German businessmen interested in the island as well. Too many cooks spoil the broth and this once peaceful little island is soon to become a hotbed of greed and division.
It's all very muscular and pretty (actually filmed on location in Fiji), led by a super tanned, white toothy grinned Lancaster, film has a very decent theme at its core, but sadly this mostly get lost in the confusing mixture. Picture never quite settles into being one cohesive whole, at times a wannabe swashbuckling adventure propelled by a South Seas love story, at others an observation of capitalism corrupting the beautiful untapped paradise's of the world. The pace is stop/start, with Haskin (Treasure Island) struggling manfully to make the various strands of the screenplay work, and cast are effective enough in just about retaining viewing Interest.
Worth it for Lancaster fans, and for fans of great choreography and attractive scenery. But it remains a hit and miss affair, it takes an age to make its point but survives ignominy on account of the unusual flavours in the mix. 5/10
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