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 was in uniform for the August 1953 release of From Here to Eternity, playing a flamboyant, hard-hitting and effective Sargent Milton Warden. But earlier in the June 1953 South Sea Woman, Lancaster is in uniform with Virginia Mayo (and Chuck Conners) and not able to make this confused comedy/military drama work.
The film seems packaged and intended to tap into 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 II drama in which deserter Chuck Conners (as Pvt. Davey White) has to be redeemed. A 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 generally looks pretty good, though the Pacific Island setting is obviously a studio set. 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 of keeping these three busy, and most of the time Lancaster and Conners are reduced to gritting their excellent dental work at each other. Mayo is of course beautiful, but not a lot is asked of her for 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 sometimes carried off well in other films).
Original Page March 2016 | Updated Aug 2020