Magazine article Sunset

The Movies Goes Hawaiian

Magazine article Sunset

The Movies Goes Hawaiian

Article excerpt

Festivals and tours show off an Island film legacy that stretches-well, from here to eternity

Some enchanted evening, you may have seen a strange and exotic place of volcanoes, jungles, native dancers, and the occasional American serviceman who just couldn't believe his blind luck ending up with a tour of duty in paradise.

For many of us, our introduction to Hawaii came through the classic movies filmed there. Hawaii's film legacy includes some of Hollywood's biggest actors and directors-who, despite their renown, often ended up playing second banana to Hawaii itself.

There are increasing numbers of ways visitors to the Islands can get in on the film fun. The second annual Maui Film Festival runs next month. The Hawaii International Film Festival is slated for November. Film tours and programs help visitors link filmmaking to Hawaii's indigenous culture.

The Shark God

Filmmaking in Hawaii began even before the Islands were part of the United States. The first Hawaiian film dates from 1898, when a crew shot footage during an 18-hour layover.

Despite the difficulty of getting there, many silent films were made on the Islands, including Hawaiian Love and The Shark God in 1913. The coming of talkies slowed down filmmaking on the Islands because of problems transporting additional equipment. Still, some notable films were shot in the 1930s, including White Heat (1933), the first picture made on Kauai, and Waikiki Wedding (1937), starring Bing Crosby in the improbable role of a singing press agent for a pineapple cannery. (In the end, Wedding was notable for its music, as "Sweet Leilani" won the Oscar for best song and earned Crosby his first gold record.)

World War II brought filming to a halt in Hawaii but ultimately created the Islands' most enduring genre, the war movie, a tradition that continues with the release this month of Michael Bay's $135-million Pearl Harbor. Hawaii's most honored film, From Here to Eternity (1953), was set in the days before the Pearl Harbor attack and extensively used location shooting-most famously Halona Cove, for the beach-and-surf kiss between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. In South Pacific (1958), Army nurse Mitzi Gaynor washed Rossano Brazzi out of her hair on Kauai.

One of the definitive Hawaiian movies was Elvis Presley's Blue Hawaii (1961). Filmed at the Coco Palms Hotel on Kauai, it featured the King playing a GI turned beachcomber. Although the Coco Palms remains closed due to damage from Hurricane Iniki in 1992, its chapel is available for weddings and is one of the more memorable stops on a tour of Kauai's movie sites. …

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