Virgin Island

VIRGIN ISLAND managed to keep its cinematic chastity intact for more than six decades, its purity of purpose undiscovered by this movie-looting pirate until we stumbled across it on YouTube, the print somewhat despoiled in appearance. I lived in the U.S. Virgin Islands for five glorious months many tropical moons ago, and thought I knew the pictures that had been filmed there. Live. Learn. Secure some rum.

On vacation with her mother in the British Virgin Islands, a young English woman encounters a friendly American guy doing some relic hunting. Like sparks love and the two decide to get hitched. They buy a little island and set about making a home and life away from the stress of normality. Alas, problems will crop up.

This quaint British-made romance trifle from 1958—the US release in 1960 titled Our Virgin Island after the memoir it was based on—achieved a degree of success, then fell into obscurity. It’s hardly buccaneer treasure, but is notable for its cast & crew credits and the vintage location filming.

Though popular novelist and adventurer Robb White based his book on his own experiences, the scripted & directed version is lacking in drama and the humorous aspects are forced. Besides the eye-catching scenery of the British Virgin Islands, the interest is in the who & why. John Cassavetes, 28 and getting noticed, plays (not too well) the guy. English actress Virginia Maskell, a 21-year-old newcomer, is the girl. They laugh a lot, chase each other in and out of the water, then kiss (not too convincingly). Sidney Poitier, 30, complete with Caribbean accent (that he’d worked hard to shed getting into show biz) supports as their helpful pal. He gets to laugh a lot. As his girlfriend, Poitier’s actual girlfriend at the time, Ruby Dee, 35, has a small role. She’s there to smile. Ring Lardner Jr. shared the script duty with director Pat Jackson. Still blacklisted at the time, Lardner wrote under the name Philip Rush. The cameraman was Freddie Francis (Sons and Lovers, The Elephant Man, Glory). Cassavetes and Poitier had just worked together in a well-received drama, Edge Of The City.  *

The credit array is intriguing, the scenery pretty: the movie is about as substantial as a soup cracker. With Isabel Dean, Colin Gordon, Howard Marion-Crawford and Edric Connor. 84 minutes.

* Box office collator Cogerson says this made $2,300,000, 98th among ’58’s lineup, though since the American release was in ’60, we’re not sure how that figure was calculated. Is there a yachtsman in the bar?

Cassavetes: “The director of Virgin Island didn’t know anything! He was a complete
fool. One day we went out in this boat. There were all these sharks in the water. So I took Sidney Poitier aside and said, ‘Let’s push him overboard. Let’s really do it! Get rid of him!’ They dragged me off him. They laughed about it afterward, but I meant it.”

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