Historical epic starring
Max von Sydow and Julie Andrews as a missionary and his wife in
19th-century Hawaii. Based on James A Michener's novel.
Stars: Julie Andrews, Max von Sydow, Richard Harris, Gene Hackman,
and Bette Midler (cameo)
Director: George Roy Hill
in Hawaii, Norway, Tahiti, and New England, this film was nurtured for several
years by Fred Zinnemann who then stepped out before the shooting began. Hill came
in, was briefly replaced by Arthur Hiller as director, and eventually returned
to finish what must be one of the most complex jobs of directing ever attempted.
It's 1820 and von Sydow is a recent Yale Divinity School graduate who agrees to
take the word of God to the Hawaiian nonbelievers. Von Sydow thinks he would be
better off with a wife, so he shyly proposes marriage to Andrews, who is in love
with Harris, a raffish sea captain with whom she has been corresponding, although
he hasn't answered a letter in more than three years. Lacking a better offer,
she decides to marry von Sydow, and they set sail for Hawaii. Once in Hawaii,
the queen, La Garde, welcomes them. The Hawaiians are like children to Andrews
and von Sydow; they love to make love, enjoy the temperate climate, and resist
any alteration to their relaxed life-style. Andrews soon makes friends with them
and realizes their customs and mores suit their way of life, but von Sydow is
stiff-necked and wants to stamp the Hawaiians with his own beliefs and see them
dispose of their paganistic rites and rituals--one of which is the practice of
incest between brother and sister. La Garde tells the Hawaiians to listen to von
Sydow and tries unsuccessfully to restrain her passion for her brother, Nobriga.
Suddenly, Harris arrives at the port, and Andrews must contend with her deep love
for him versus the duty she feels as von Sydow's wife. She spurns Harris and decides
to stay with von Sydow, who has forbidden any of the native girls to fraternize
with the sailors aboard the many ships that now lie in the harbor. The sailors
are outraged, so they burn down von Sydow's house of worship. Andrews, von Sydow,
and the islanders successfully douse the blaze and drive away the tars. A brief
period of tranquility is followed by the visit of more and more "civilized"
sailors and businessmen who begin to permeate the life of the Hawaiians and commercialize
the area. It's not long before this process wreaks disease and unhappiness on
the once-serene islanders. La Garde, who is dying, asks to be converted into a
Christian by von Sydow. To do this, she sends Nobriga into the jungle. Once she
is dead and buried in consecrated ground, Nobriga returns and takes her body for
a traditional Hawaiian burial. The visit of the white men has brought a measles
epidemic, and hundreds of the islanders die, including one of von Sydow's closest
friends, Tupou, a native Hawaiian with whom he had studied at Yale. Tupou had
been married to his sister, Logue, and when von Sydow wants to pray for Tupou's
eternal soul, Logue rejects him and says she wants nothing to do with his God--a
cruel and angry manifestation who seems to want nothing for his people but shame
and guilt, death and destruction. Andrews gives birth to three sons and never
stops attempting to cause von Sydow to relent from his rigid position and admit
his presence has caused pain to the Hawaiians. Years go by and Harris returns
to Hawaii with a prefabricated New England home that he wants to give to the natives
so they can see how others live. Upon arriving, Harris discovers Andrews has died.
His response is to thrash von Sydow, who keeps turning the other cheek, thus emulating
the source of his beliefs. Later, Harris attempts to get help for von Sydow. More
time goes by and von Sydow is told by his superiors that he must relinquish his
post. He sends his sons off to England for proper schooling and remains in Hawaii
where he thinks he can continue to do God's will and bring these poor, misguided
people God's word.
Based on James Michener's novel, this film told only part of the story; the rest
of it was filmed four years later as THE HAWAIIANS. All the secondary acting is
excellent, particularly Hackman as a doctor-missionary and Michael Constantine
as a tough sailor who sees the light. However, O'Connor and Cole, playing Andrews'
parents, don't have much to do. Jeakins (when she wasn't designing the terrific
costumes) plays von Sydow's mother and impresses mightily, letting us understand
why von Sydow is the stiff he is. Von Sydow's real-life sons are briefly seen
playing two of the four ages of Micah. Terrific technical work by all but, at
more than three hours, this didn't hold the interest that some other spectacular
movies did. It cost more than $15 million, and every penny is on the screen. Look
for Bette Midler as a passenger on the ship bound for Hawaii. Nominated
by the Academy for Best Supporting Actress (La Garde), Best Cinematography, Best
Sound, Best Music Score, Best Song ("My Wishing Doll"), Best Costume
Design, and Best Visual Effects.
Historical epic starring Max Von Sydow and Julie Andrews as a missionary
and his wife in 19th-century Hawaii. Based on James A Michener's novel. Stars:
Julie Andrews, Max Von Sydow, Richard Harris, Gene Hackman.
- a literate epic that also has plenty of action, and is a joy to look at. Dalton
Trumbo and Daniel Taradash, who wrote the screenplay of this massive adventure
story, have taken James A Michener's enormous novel, and compressed it into compact,
intelligent scenes. Max Von Sydow excels as the bigoted minister sent to Hawaii
in the 19th century to convert the natives: his portrayal clearly delineates the
alternating torment and authority of a man unable to communicate his emotions.
Julie Andrews hasn't quite the weight for the role of the consumptive wife who
keeps him going through his darkest hours, but makes a game stab at it. While,
talking of weight, there's a captivating performance from Jocelyn La Garde as
the native ruler. Gene Hackman can be spotted in a minor role. It was his third
film, some years before he went on to become a star in The French Connection.
You'll have to concentrate harder to pick up Bette Midler as
a seasick bride.