South Sea Woman - 1953
South Sea Woman - Released June 27, 1953. Directed by Arthur Lubin
What a difference a few months can make. Burt Lancaster in uniform makes for a perfectly flamboyant and effective Sargent in the August 1953 release of From Here to Eternity, but in a similar uniform (Marine corps instead of Army) the June 1953 South Sea Woman, has Lancaster and Virginia Mayo (and Chuck Conners) not quite able to make a confused comedy/military drama work.
The film seems packaged to revive the light-comedy "sarong" romances of Dorothy Lamour (with a touch of Sadie Thompson, or maybe Shanghai Lily), but it doesn't stay in that territory long and veers from a weak effort for laughter and goes into an action-oriented World War 2 drama in which deserter Chuck Conners (as Pvt. Davey White) has to be redeemed, and the love triangle of Mayo-Lancaster-Conners is examined piece by piece in a courtroom setting that seems to presage The Caine Mutiny of 1954, with flashbacks to the activities of all involved and whether Lancaster (as Ginger Martin) is truly a deserter, too, or not (he's not).
The film looks good, though the Pacific Island setting is obviously a studio set, and Lancaster, Mayo and Conners are all outfitted in first rate costuming for their roles. But the script and plot just isn't up to the task, and most of the time Lancaster and Conners are reduced to gritting their excellent dental work at each other in place of effective drama, and Mayo is of course beautiful, but not a lot is asked of for her part except to be beautiful (and distraught, since her character ends up suspended in her affections between both men: not an original plot device but carried off well in other films).
Original Page March 2016
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