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The title credit reads: "Twentieth Century-Fox by arrangement with Darryl F. Zanuck Productions, Inc. presents a CinemaScope Production of Island in the Sun by Alec Waugh." The film opens with the voice of Harry Belafonte singing the title song over aerial views of the beaches, harbors and villages of the island of Santa Marta. This is followed by a series of long shots picturing laborers cutting sugar cane, loading cargo onto boats and fishing. The sequence ends with the lone figure of Belafonte strolling along the beach. Although the Variety review and Call Bureau Cast Service lists the character played by John Justin as "David Archer," he is called "Dennis" in the film. Alec Waugh's novel was published serially in Ladies Home Journal in May 1955 under the title "Sugar Barons." At the end of Waugh's story, Maxwell commits suicide. The figure of "Boyeur" in the film is a composite of Waugh's labor leader and black attorney characters.
According to a May 1955 Los Angeles Times news item, Darryl F. Zanuck bought the rights to Waugh's novel prior to its publication. Island in the Sun was Zanuck's first independent production for Twentieth Century-Fox after he ended his tenure as Vice President in Charge of Production for the studio. According to materials contained in the Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, Dana Wynter was originally cast as "Jocelyn" and Joan Collins was to play "Sylvia." The film was shot on location in Barbados and Trinidad in the West Indies. Interiors were filmed at the M-G-M Elstree Studios near London, England.
Although the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicates that no objections were raised over the depiction of an interracial romance, the film caused a great deal of controversy upon its release. According to a July 1957 Daily Variety news item, Island in the Sun was banned in Memphis, TN, because of its "frank depiction of miscegenation, an offense to moral standards and no good for Whites or Negroes." A July 1957 New York Times news item adds that in New Orleans, the American Legion launched an unsuccessful campaign to halt the film's screening on the grounds that it "contributes to the Communist Party's aim of creating friction between the races." In Minneapolis, MN, another campaign was launched to cancel screenings. Although the effort was unfruitful, many Minneapolis theaters received calls and letters protesting the opening of the film, according to a June 1957 Daily Variety news item. As noted in another June 1957 Daily Variety item, Joan Fontaine, who played "Mavis Norman," received a flood of hate mail because her character desired an interracial romance with the character played by Belafonte. According to the MPAA/PCA file on the film at the AMPAS Library, the PCA's only concern about the film was that the characters of "Margot Seaton" and "Dennis Archer" not be portrayed as having an affair.