SOUTH SEA WOMAN (director: Arthur Lubin; screenwriters: Edwin Blum/Earl Baldwin and Stanley Shapiro/based on the play by William Rankin; cinematographer: Ted McCord ; editor: Clarence Kolster; music: David Buttolph; cast: Burt Lancaster (Sgt. James O’Hearn), Virginia Mayo (Ginger Martin), Chuck Connors (Pfc. David Martin), Arthur Shields (Donovan), Veola Vonn (Lillie Duval), Leon Askin (Pierre Marchand), Robert Sweeney (Lt. Miller ), Jim Hayward (Orville H. Masterson), Peter Chong (Wu Ching), Rudolph Anders (Capt. Van Dorck), Raymond Greenleaf (Captain at court-martial), Hayden Rorke (Lt. Fears, prosecutor); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sam Bischoff; Warner Brothers; 1953)
“Third-rate unbelievable WWII adventure/romantic comedy.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Second-tier director Arthur Lubin (“Francis”/”Impact”/”Rhubarb”), known for his work in Abbott and Costello, helms a third-rate unbelievable WWII adventure/romantic comedy, that’s stiffly acted and awkwardly executed.It’s based on the play by William Rankin and is written by Edwin Blum and adapted to the screen byEarl Baldwin and Stanley Shapiro.
In 1942, brawling Marine Gunnery Sergeant James O’Hearn (Burt Lancaster) is being tried at the San Diego Marine base for desertion, theft, scandalous conduct, shanghaiing sailors and destruction of property, charges that call for a possible life sentence. It’s filmed in flashback at the court martial trial, where the accused stands mute as he’s defended by the court-appointed inexperienced attorney Lt. Miller (Robert Sweeney). From the flashback of witnesses that include Ginger Martin (Virginia Mayo),we learn how Hearn got stranded in Shanghai while trying to get his recruit buddy, Pfc. David White (Chuck Connors, minor league ballplayer’s first big role), out of a hostile saloon situation whereby the owner tries to keep his feisty American nightclub photographer Ginger, a stranded showgirl, from leaving her job to marry the head-strong jar-head. The trio steal the saloon’s motorboat and inadvertently sink the saloon while fleeing, and when the boat malfunctions they are rescued in the China Sea by a Chinese cargo boat–whose non-English speaking captain (Peter Chong) refuses to take them to Shanghai until he delivers his cargo. After accidentally damaging the mast over firecracker pranks, the trio is forced to embark onthe Vichy French island of Namou run by the slimyanti-American Pierre Marchand (Leon Askin). The trio then learns of Pearl Harbor and in order to avoid being imprisoned by the hostile island rulers, claim to be deserters. Brought to the witness stand is Mme. Lily Duval (Veola Vonn), owner of Namou’s leading hotel, who claims everyone on the island is either a deserter or running away from their wife. The murky pic only becomes more tedious as it goes on with its turgid story, one that will predictably redeem the marine deserters as heroes when a supposed Dutch captain (Rudolph Anders) visits the island with his yacht. It also shows how Ginger overcomes her dislike of O’Hearn for trying to break-up her romance with David and in the end she falls for the hunky sergeant.
Burt Lancaster was obliged to appear in three WB productions as part of his deal with Warner Bros. to finance and distribute three films made by his independent company, Norma Productions. This is one of those films, and it stinks.
The film was critically slammed, but did a brisk box-office.
REVIEWED ON 11/13/2012 GRADE: C-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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