SONG OF THE ISLANDS started filming in October, 1941. By the time it came out in March of ’42, its inane musical comedy portrayal of Pacific islands (in this case, the pretend paradise of ‘Ahmi Oni’, supposed to be part of our then-colony of Hawaii) was butting its coconut noggin against less-than-idyllic reports from other, farther-flung tropical realms. At any rate, tagging 66th for the year with a gross of $4,000,000 it took some minds off the disasters in The Philippines and distant palm-planted places where smilies and songs were replaced by shells and screams. Directed by Walter Lang, it also further propelled the popularity of Betty Grable and Victor Mature.
When ‘Jeff Harper’ (Mature) and his Texanish pal ‘Rusty’ (Jack Oakie) land on Ahmi-Oni their mission is to strike a land bargain for Jeff’s father, who wants to build a pier on property owned by crusty ‘Dennis O’Brien’ (Thomas Mitchell). Since O’Brien’s daughter ‘Eileen’ (Grable) is present and pleasant, smooth mover Jeff sets his sites on her faster than you can say “Haole go Home!”
Ridiculous songs and pseudo-Hawaiian dance numbers take place between Betty and Vic smiling, Oakie clowning and Mitchell doing his Irish thing like no-one had seen him blabbing about land in Gone With The Wind.
Pretty in Technicolor, but shallow-draft stuff, outrigged with enough cliché depictions of “natives” to start a revolt. Hawaiian singer/comic Hilo Hattie adds her patter to the nonsense, as does wild-eyed Billy Gilbert as a reformed cannibal. George Barbier risks a stroke bellowing his lines as Jeff’s explosive old man. Lillian Porter is a comely wahine who enchants oafish Oakie. Grable’s dance number at the finish—hula turned jitterbug—is amusing.
concocted written by Joseph Shrank, Robert Pirosh, Robert Ellis and Helen Logan. Besides obvious war-related pictures like Wake Island and Manila Calling, 1942’s island-hopping campaign was waged by Pardon My Sarong, Beyond The Blue Horizon, White Cargo (“I am… Tondelayo…”), The Moon and Sixpence and The Tuttles Of Tahiti.