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Return to Paradise (1953)

Approved | | Adventure, Drama, Romance | 10 July 1953 (USA)
An American drifter comes to a remote Polynesian island controlled by a Puritanical missionary and turns the social life of the island upside-down.



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Complete credited cast:
Mr. Morgan
Pastor Corbett
Roberta Haynes ...
Moira Walker ...
Turia (as Moira MacDonald)
John Hudson ...
Captain Harry Faber
Mamea Matatumua ...
Tonga (as Chief Mamea Matatumua)
Hans Kruse ...
Rori at age 21
Terry Dunleavy ...
Howard Paulsen ...
Donald Ashford ...
Herbert Ah Sue ...
Va'a ...
Rori at age 9 (as Felice Va'a)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Frances Gow ...
Mrs. Talbot (scenes deleted)
Brian McEwen ...
Hank Elliott (scenes deleted)
Web Overlander ...
Will Talbot (scenes deleted)


Based on the short story "Mr. Morgan" from "Return To Paradise" (James Michener's sequel to "Tales of the South Pacific"). Morgan (Gary Cooper), a drifter and soldier-of-fortune washes up on a Pacific island that is a small dictatorial state under the puritanic rule of Pastor Corbett (Barry Jones), a missionary. They conflict but Morgan stays on and carves out a cozy life. He has a child out of wedlock with island native Maeva (Roberta Haynes), but departs the island after her death, leaving the young daughter behind. He returns years later in search of his daughter. It is circa the early years of WW II, and he finds that his daughter has fallen in love with an American pilot who has crash-landed on the island. It appears that the pilot will do for the girl what Morgan did for her mother, and then depart. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


They called him Morgantani and to some he was a god ... but to one woman, Mister Morgan was a Man ! See more »


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

10 July 1953 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El regreso al Paraiso  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$515,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (TCM print)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Aspen Pictures, owned by Mark Robson and Robert Wise, bought two stories from James A. Michener's anthology "Return to Paradise." After Robson filmed this movie, based on Michenor's story "Mr. Morgan," ran out of funding and had to sell the rights to the other story, "Until They Sail", to Burt Lancaster. Some years later the it ended up with Charles Schnee at MGM. By then Wise was at MGM and requested to film the property, which he finally did in 1957 (Until They Sail (1957)). See more »


Captain Harry Faber: Well, confidentially I'm just a truck driver with wings and a colossal ignorance of strategy.
See more »


Referenced in Getaway: Episode #15.34 (2006) See more »


Return To Paradise
Lyrics by Ned Washington
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Performed by Kitty White
See more »

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User Reviews

Enjoyable but highly uneven.
28 January 2016 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

"Return to Paradise" is a very strange Gary Cooper movie. His character is an odd one indeed--very admirable and brave on one hand and a total jerk on the other. The overall film, as a result is entertaining but far from satisfying.

The film begins with Mr. Morgan (Cooper) arriving on a small Polynesian island. The place is sort of a theocracy run by a VERY puritanical man, the Reverend Corbett (Barry Jones). However, Corbett and his personal band of thugs are quick to enforce their laws...but seem to take delight in not informing Morgan of the laws first! After he is attacked by these bullies, Morgan stands up for himself...and earns the respect of the locals who are getting sick of Corbett's mistreatment. Ultimately, and reluctantly, Corbett's thugs are chased off and the islanders are happy...and Corbett changes and becomes less nasty and puritanical over time. What also happens is that Morgan's new woman, Maeva, becomes pregnant and eventually dies in childbirth. At this point, Morgan shows that although he seemed like a pretty cool guy through much of the film, now he is a jerk, as he leaves his new daughter with her grandmother and he leaves the island.

Nearly two decades pass and WWII has broken out. Morgan finally returns to the island and finds he's sort of a folk hero...and Corbett is still there but has mellowed considerably. He also finds his daughter and their relationship is clearly problematic. It becomes more problematic later after some American airmen are stranded on the island...and Morgan begins acting like an overbearing and protective father...which makes no sense considering he'd abandoned this daughter for all these years.

The bottom line is that Morgan's character isn't at all consistent and the film felt frustrating as a result. Not a terrible film but one that sometimes just didn't make a lot of sense. Plus who wants to see a film where the leading man is actually a big hypocritical weasel?!

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