Greg Reitman has done a yeoman's job of stitching together a researched collection of animated stills, interesting archive footage, and passionate and intelligent interview subjects in a style weaving together the perspectives of official town historian, the "islander" local, the chamber of commerce booster, the show business publicist, and the good old fashion film fan. Actor Gregory Harrison, a third generation islander playfully recalls his thespian roots affecting exotic accents to coax coins from ferry passengers he would free dive under the propeller stream to retrieve, stuffing his cheeks like a chipmunk with the booty. His deep connection with the character of the Catalina community is shown as he touchingly described the 'god-like' figure of his father, the glass bottom boat entrepreneur who commanded harbor traffic from the bridge and used record making breath hold skills to chum the sea beneath his tour boats so his customer would see more fish. Reitman has a background in underwater photography, and he cleverly integrates some nice beauty shots from below the surface of the sea. Throughout, great respect is held for nautical culture, the historical record, and entertainment industry rules of etiquette.
The Avalon Casino Ballroom, the landmark rotunda structure the locals exploit as a marketing logo, is the prominent visual feature of the island and a focal point for this documentary too. Its history as a big band dance hall and radio broadcast site provides motivated soundtrack selections and connections to legends. Surf guitar great Dick Dale shares his thrill riding the same elevator used by the biggest names in music and is brought to tears remembering the joy of the time.
The use of the word "Magical" in the title says a lot. Industry icon A.C. Lyles tells of how a young Ronald Reagan came to Catalina from the Midwest as a sports reporter covering the Chicago Cubs. The team trained there because the the largest property holder on the Island was their owner, Mr. William Wrigley, the chewing gum millionaire. The visit directly led to his discovery and studio contract signing. Lyle speculates ".and what if..." The film inspires this feeling of good energy emanating from the special place and the people it has made better. I have been to Catalina more than once and I too would have good things to say if they turned the camera on me,
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