Fri 7 Apr 2017
SOUTH SEA WOMAN. Warner Brothers, 1953. Burt Lancaster, Virginia Mayo, Chuck Connors, Arthur Shields, Leon Askin, Veola Vonn, Bob Sweeney, Hayden Rorke, Paul Burke. Director: Arthur Lubin.
In a word, disappointing. It starts out badly and goes nowhere from there. With a title like South Sea Woman and with Burt Lancaster and Virginia Mayo in it, you’d expect a comedy romp taking place with the two of them alone together on a deserted South Pacific Island, say, with all kinds of winks and nods going on.
Not so. This one begins with Burt as a Marine sergeant being court martialed for some serious sounding offenses but refusing to speak up on his own behalf. As the testimony of others takes place, we go into flashback mode to what it was that happened.
Turns out that a fellow Marine (Chuck Connors), a private, offered to marry a stranded young entertainer (Virginia Mayo) as a means of getting her out of Shanghai just before Pearl Harbor. As it so happens the two Marines and the young lady end up comically stranded on a small boat in the Pacific, considered deserters and eventually washing up on the small island Namou, by then controlled by an agent of the Vichy French.
This is purported to be called Hi Jinx to the Max, but I demur. All Connors’ character wants to do is get hitched (can’t blame him for that) but Lancaster is gung ho to get back into action. Hence the constant conflict between the two characters, aggravated by the fact that Ginger Martin soon seems to have regrets about whom she chose to get her out of the jam she’s in.
The courtroom setting, which the movie reverts back to every so often, simply does not work. It’s a stupid charade and utter nonsense. Burt Lancaster is pure Burt, Virginia Mayo is cute as a button, and Chuck Connors, in his first starring role, shows that he never did have the charisma or onscreen presence of his rival for the hand of Miss Mayo in this film.