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Pearl of the South Pacific (1955)

Virginia Mayo and Dennis Morgan were a long way from the glory years at Warner Brothers by the time they teamed together here in the South Pacific. Or should I say a facsimile of the South Pacific brought to us via producer Benedict Bogeaus, scriptwriter Jesse Lasky Jr. and the sure hand of director Allan Dwan.

pearl-of-the-south-pacific-1955_06

It’s one of those fine hokey melodrama’s that’s hard to resist that picks up as if we’re missing an entire first reel. A schooner on the open sea, Miss Mayo looking ravishing and Morgan hungover. He awakes as if he’s been shanghaied, but in seconds we realize they’re past lovers only now she’s taken up with Morgan’s loose cannon of a partner David Farrar. (Me thinks it’s a spiteful union.) “You know, it’s a funny thing. Even when I hated you, I loved you. “ Mayo gets to sit topside, look good and cause the two men to throw fists at each other while they head towards an unchartered isle that apparently has a treasure trove of black pearls. Yes, the plot has hit the fast forward button to get us to the meat of the script in a matter of moments.

It’s not like they’ll be welcomed by the natives of the island who are overseen by an elderly white man played by Basil Ruysdael. “ships bring evil.” he tells the natives that he Lords over. The natives still worship temple Gods and have no knowledge of the outside world. Morgan and Farrar are forbidden to leave the schooner while anchored off the island shore but Virginia wisely comes topside in a Missionary’s getup. Begrudgingly, Ruysdael allows her onto the isle but quickly sees thru her ruse. It won’t be long before Mayo is running about the island in her Dorothy Lamour outfit.

pearl-of-the-south-pacific-1955-3

Not yet seeing the righteous path, Mayo bewitches a young island native played by Lance Fuller. With a little sultry seduction, she intends to have the youngster lead her to the black pearls. Still to come is double dealing partners, a native uprising, a secluded lagoon with a giant octopus (shades of Wake of the Red Witch), and an attempted murder. Then of course there’s the matter of Mayo choosing between the three men she has attempting to fetch pearls so that she may live the life of luxury her beauty demands.

mayo-in-pearl

Don’t be shocked if you figure out each twist and turn before they hit the screen. This is strictly the “B” formula brought to us in color and the soundstage intermingled with some sea side shots from Dwan and his second unit. When watching a lower tier film like this you get settled in and sometimes find a surprising camera angle that desperately wants to push the flick into the above average production. There’s just such a shot here featuring native girl Lisa Montell and the use of an overhead crane for a long take in the native temple. Nice to know it’s not the strictly workmanlike effort being delivered by the production unit.

Virginia Mayo has long been one of my favorite beauties from the glory years though by the end of the decade would only appear on film occasionally. Like Mayo, Morgan was nearing the end of his acting career and only sparsely would he appear in film and television over the next few years.

pearlofthesouthpacificlc2

Going over the credits of screenwriter, Lasky Jr. I couldn’t help but notice he’s the credited writer on DeMille’s Reap The Wild Wind. I say this knowing there’s an Octopus fight in that film. Borrowing plot points from himself though he didn’t write Red Witch which is closer to this underwater struggle versus Wild Wind. Producer Bogeaus would specialize in these B budget affairs throughout the fifties featuring some well known actors. Movies like Escape To Burma with Stanwyck and Ryan ( surely filmed on the same stages) or Appointment In Honduras with Ford and Sheridan. He’d close out the decade producing one more go around with Virginia, Jet Over the Atlantic.

mayo-in-pearl-2

I picked this one up on DVD thanks to a VCI release should you be wishing to secure a copy to solidify the fact that it’s Virginia Mayo who is the real Pearl of the South Pacific.

11 Comments »

  1. I haven’t gotten round to this film yet – one of the few late era Dwan movies I still have to catch up with. Some are stronger than others of course but Dwan was a real old pro, with experience stretching right back to the earliest days of cinema, and knew how to make the most of a restricted budget.

  2. I’m a fan of Mayo’s, too, ever since seeing her in ‘White Heat’. I was thinking she’d done quite a few noirs, but I could only find one other on IMDb…’Backfire’, which I thought she did a great job in. And for someone whose film career was winding down, she still looked pretty dang hot!

  3. An interesting choice Mike and good cheesy fun-Bogeaus and Dwan scored much better with SLIGHTLY SCARLET and SILVER LODE-if ever a
    film needed a proper high def restoration SILVER LODE is it.
    Love Mayo but her career was already on the slide-JET OVER THE ATLANTIC is terrible and she hit rock bottom with CASTLE OF EVIL a career killer also for
    Scott Brady,David Brian and Hugh Marlowe.Having said that would I buy CASTLE OF EVIL on Blu Ray….you bet!
    Never cared for Morgan even in his glory days at Warners…terrible in Westerns.I thought.In Sam Katzman’s THE GUN THAT WON THE WEST he looks more pissed
    off than any actor I have ever seen in any film.Again,having said that, GUN THAT WON THE WEST (Director William Castle) is still good cheesy fun with Katzman regular
    Richard Denning really in his element.

    • I have 3 of the films you mention. The two I don’t have are Jet and Gun. Castle of Evil might yet turn up for the genre fans. I have it from an old VHS release. The other two titles are both quite enjoyable. Telling me that Jet is terrible only makes me want to see it more. lol.

      • CASTLE OF EVIL is terrible,but in a fun way-a must for trash addicts.
        JET OVER THE ATLANTIC is just awful even more so considering the cast and director. I waited years to catch this one and wish I had not.
        I would certainly give SLIGHTLY SCARLET and SILVER LODE a much higher rating than “quiet enjoyable”
        BTW I think the USA title for BARBADOS QUEST was MURDER ON APPROVAL.

        • I’ve only seen the trailer for Jet as it’s included on tape around here somewhere. Evil is terrible but as you say fun for fans of the genre. John Payne is one of those guys I’ve come around to the last couple years and liking what I see.

  4. I might add that in the UK, PEARL OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC played as a main feature; the support was BARBADOS QUEST with Tom Conway…now there’s a real
    B feature.

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