South Sea Woman (1953)

Approved  |   |  Action, Adventure, Comedy  |  27 June 1953 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.2/10 from 409 users  
Reviews: 10 user | 4 critic

AWOL marine Sgt. Jim O'Hearn is court-martialed for a variety of offenses that carry 143 years in the stockade or the death penalty but refuses to aid in his own defense.



(screenplay), (adaptation), 2 more credits »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Master Gunnery Sgt. James O'Hearn
Ginger Martin
Pvt. Davey White
Arthur Shields ...
'Jimmy-legs' Donovan
Barry Kelley ...
Col. Hickman
Pierre Marchand
Veola Vonn ...
Lillie Duval
Bob Sweeney ...
Defense Lt. Miller
Prosecution Lt. Fears
Raymond Greenleaf ...
Captain at Court-martial
Paul Burke ...
Ensign at Court-martial
Henri Letondal ...
William O'Leary ...
Smith - Embezzler
John Alderson ...
George Saurel ...
Jacques (as Georges Saurel)


Marine Sergeant James O'Hearn is being tried at the San Diego Marine base for desertion, theft, scandalous conduct and destruction of property in time of war. He refuses to testify or plead guilty or not guilty to the charges. Showgirl Ginger Martin takes the stand against his protest. She testifies O'Hearn won't talk because he is protecting the name of his pal, Marine Private Davey White. Ginger tells how she, broke and stranded, met the two marines in Shanghai two weeks before Pearl Harbor. White proposes marriage so that Ginger can be evacuated from China as his wife. Before the ceremony, the two Marines get into a fight with the natives and escape with Ginger aboard a small motor boat. They wind up in Namou, a Vichy French island, and are quartered in a run-down hotel. O'Hearn discovers a Nazi yacht delivering radar supplies to the island, and plans to seize it with the help of the Free French. White refuses to join and says he is deserting and intends to remain on the island ... Written by Les Adams <>

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Release Date:

27 June 1953 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Sulu Sea  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Burt Lancaster takes his shirt off in this movie; Chuck Connors does not. See more »


The "Japanese" landing craft are actually American craft of the type used at Normandy and elsewhere. The front of the two types of boat are shaped differently. See more »


Pvt. Davey White: Just like that Shakespeare said - there's nothing like a quivering arrow from Cupid's bow!
See more »


Hail to the Chief
Music by James Sanderson
Played when Jim leaves the IOU
See more »

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User Reviews

Finishes A Commitment
12 June 2011 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

In a recent biography of Burt Lancaster the only two things that were mentioned about South Sea Woman was that it enabled him to fulfill a commitment to Warner Brothers on a three picture deal and that he was instrumental in getting Chuck Connors the part of his fellow Marine in hijinks. Other than that this one is strictly minor league Lancaster.

The title role of South Sea Woman is played by Virginia Mayo who the two have a rivalry over. The story is narrated from several perspectives at a court martial that Lancaster is undergoing. These two manage to miss the withdrawal of Marines from Shanghai which occurred a few weeks before Pearl Harbor. Lancaster wants to get back to the outfit especially when they get news of the Japanese attack, but Connors has Mayo on his mind, he wants to get married.

Not since the Errol Flynn film Desperate Journey also by Warner Brothers was there ever a more lighthearted approach to war. These two guys also manage to liberate a Vichy governed French colony and turn it over to the Free French and from said island recruit a crew to get to Guadalcanal where they do distinguish themselves in their own private action. All this related to a rather incredulous court martial board.

What was interesting was that Burt Lancaster did two films at once. While this was shooting Lancaster went over to the set of Three Sailors And A Girl and did a small walk-on role in his Marine uniform costume in that musical. With that he fulfilled a three picture commitment the other being The Flame And The Arrow in which he also co-starred with Virginia Mayo.

The comedy was kind of forced and while it had a few laughs in it South Sea Woman is clearly a film that Lancaster wanted to get off his plate and move on. That year of 1953 he also did From Here To Eternity a much better film about the start of the Pacific War.

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