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Bird of Paradise


From IMDb: "A native girl falls for a visitor to her island, but she's chosen to be sacrificed to the volcano god."

Bird of Paradise is a 1932 Cinema of the United States romantic film adventure film drama film film directed by King Vidor, starring Dolores del Río, Joel McCrea, and Richard "Skeets" Gallagher, and released by RKO Radio Pictures.
In 1960, the film entered the List of films in the public domain in the United States due to the claimants' failure to renew its copyright registration in the 28th year after publication.<></> The film has been relicensed and distributed by Kino Lorber on Blu-ray Disc and DVD in April 2012 as part of the David O. Selznick Collection (an authorized edition from the estate of David O. Selznick from the collection of George Eastman House).


As a yacht sails into an archipelago in the Oceania, a large number of natives in pontoon (boat) sail out to greet them. The natives dive for the trinkets the yacht's crew throws them. A shark arrives, scaring most of the natives away. In an attempt to catch a shark by throwing it bait that has been tied to a harpoon-sized hook, a young man (Joel McCrea) accidentally steps into a loop that tightens around his ankle. The shark takes the bait, and the rope grows tighter, causing the rope to yank the young man overboard. The daughter of the chief rescues the young man by leaping into the water, swimming down to where the man is. He cannot get his foot loose from the tangle, so she pulls out a knife and cuts the rope, saving his life.
The beautiful Polynesian girl named Luana (Dolores del Río) becomes an irresistible object of desire, and it is not long before they meet in the middle of the night. Swiftly falling in love, they discover she has been promised by her father to another man – a prince on a neighboring island. An arranged wedding with an elaborate dance sequence then follows, during which the young man appears at the nick of time, runs into a circle of burning fire, rescues her as the natives kneel to the fire, bringing her back to a distant location on another island where they hope to live out the rest of their lives.
He builds her a house with a roof of thatched grass, and as for food, the fruit of the earth, mangos and coconuts, are all within easy reach. Fishing is plentiful, whether by creeping out to rocky outcroppings and using tridents, or swimming down into the local waters to hunt giant turtles. It is like paradise. However, their idyll is smashed when the local volcano begins to erupt. The man discovers that the local custom is to sacrifice a young woman to the volcanic gods. They try to escape but realize that "east is east and west is west, and never the twain shall meet."

Cast (in credits order)

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  • Dolores del Río as Luana
  • Joel McCrea as Johnny Baker
  • John Halliday (actor) as Mac
  • Richard "Skeets" Gallagher as Chester
  • Bert Roach as Hector
  • Lon Chaney Jr. as Thornton
  • Wade Boteler as Skipper Johnson
  • Arnold Gray as Walker
  • Reginald Simpson as O'Fallon
  • Napoleon Pukui as The King
  • Agostino Borgato as Medicine Man
  • Sofia Ortega as Mahumahu


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In the past, due to the unavailability of many early sound films, this film was erroneously believed to have been one of the first talkies to have an orchestral film score. A full musical score was featured in the first all-talking movie, Lights of New York (1928 film) (1928).
Another noteworthy example is So Long Letty (1929 film) (1929), a comedy starring Charlotte Greenwood which featured a continuous musical film score from beginning to end and has recently been released on DVD in the Warner Archive Collection.</>


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Bird of Paradise created a scandal when released due to a scene featuring Dolores del Río Skinny dipping. This film was made before the Production Code was strictly enforced, so nudity in film in American movies was still fairly common.
Employing an elaborate pantomime, Dolores del Río mimics a bird in flight to imply that her freedom is strictly construed in terms of a prior obligation: her duty to marry the prince who lives on a neighboring island. After she has apparently escaped a forced wedding and taken up habitation on a neighboring island that appears to be simple paradise, it seems that they have escaped the dominion of her father, but that is not so. They have kept track of her location. When the mountain god Pele (deity) rumbles, she confesses to her lover that she alone can appease the mountain's appetite. The movie closes with her leaving her husband (who has slipped into a deep delirium from a spear wound), so that she can save her people from Pele by voluntarily throwing herself into the volcano's mouth.

Category:1932 films
Category:RKO Pictures films
Category:Black-and-white films
Category:American films
Category:English-language films
Category:1930s romance films
Category:Films set in Oceania
Category:Interracial romance films

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