Cast & Crew
On the tropical island set of a Hollywood film, leading actor Ricardo Montez is portraying the part of a Navy man in love with a Polynesian native, played by his co-star and real life fiancée, Rosalind Rennolds. Also working on the film is Lawrence Y. Kingslee, a Navy lieutenant hired to advise director George Blaine on the film's authenticity. One day, during the filming of an important scene between Rosalind and Ricardo, Larry interrupts the shooting to complain that Ricardo is not showing enough passion. When George invites Larry to step in and demonstrate how he would play the scene, Larry ignores the script and plants a real kiss on Rosalind's lips. Later that night, at the Royal Aloha hotel, the cast and crew members attend a nightclub dance hosted by Xavier Cugat and his orchestra. Larry, determined to steal Rosalind away from Ricardo, asks her to dance with him, but she rejects him hoping to discourage him from committing any future improprieties on the set. While Larry continues his romantic pursuit of Rosalind, Yvonne Torro, a featured actress in the film, takes a romantic interest in Ricardo. Buckley tries to persuade Larry to woo Yvonne instead of Rosalind, but Larry refuses and tells Buckley that he has been obsessed with Rosalind ever since she performed for the troops at his base three years earlier. The next day, Larry is assigned to circle the set once in an airplane with Rosalind on board, but he ignores George's instructions and flies the plane away from the set. After landing the airplane on the real tropical island where he first met Rosalind, Larry demands that she dance with him before he returns her to the set. Rosalind agrees to the dance but insists that any gestures of affection she may have shown him in the past were merely meant to keep up soldier morale during the war. Rosalind offers to kiss him to prove that she feels no emotion for him, but the kiss reveals an attraction for Larry that she cannot hide. When Larry and Rosalind return to the airplane, they discover that the wheels and other parts have been stolen by some of the islanders. The two set out in search of the natives' jungle village but become separated along the way. While Larry reaches the village, Rosalind is rescued by Ricardo and the search party he formed. Buckley, who has set out to find Larry, is captured by the cannibalistic natives but is saved by Larry, who has befriended the natives. Larry is later fired from the picture and returned to his base, where he is called into his commander's office and told that he faces a court-martial for improper conduct. Rosalind tries to save Larry by telling the commander that she encouraged Larry to take her to the island and that his conduct was gentlemanly, but Larry misjudges Rosalind's motives and insists on pleading guilty. Ricardo, meanwhile, becomes estranged from his fiancée and enters into a romance with Yvonne. Larry eventually apologizes to Rosalind for his quick judgment, and after she pushes him into a pool, they seal their love with a kiss.
Bob St. Angelo
James K. Brock
Nacio Herb Brown
A. Arnold Gillespie
John Nickolaus Jr.
Richard A. Pefferle
Edwin B. Willis
On an Island With You
The film was very much in the formula of most of Williams' movies, particularly those made for producer Joe Pasternak, who supervised MGM's less ambitious musicals (i.e., those not produced by Arthur Freed). Williams swam, had a few laugh lines and figured in a romantic plot with one of the studio's good-looking young male stars. To shore up the flimsy affair, the studio surrounded her with guest stars and supporting comics. This was the second of two films in which Jimmy Durante provided comic relief and the third of five with musical numbers by Xavier Cugat and his Orchestra.
Much to Williams' consternation, it was also her third in a row with Richard Thorpe, a director with whom she had never gotten along. Thorpe hated all actors, considering them egotistical and overly concerned with their looks, but he always finished his films on schedule and under budget, so Williams' complaints about him went unheeded by studio brass. On their earlier films together, he had browbeaten her mercilessly, often leaving her in tears. When she emerged as a top box office star, she was at least able to get him to leave her alone. But that didn't protect the rest of the cast. With On an Island with You, his scapegoat was Ricardo Montalban, cast as Williams' fiancé, whom Thorpe kept calling "that damned Mexican."
Williams also blamed Thorpe for an on-set injury. For a scene in which she falls into a hole hidden by jungle foliage, the crew forgot to put padding at the spot where she was to land. As a result, she sprained her ankle and had to finish the movie on crutches. In her memoirs, she asserts that it was his responsibility to check to make sure the stunt, which looked great on the first take, was safe.
That wasn't the only on-set injury. Cyd Charisse was always just on the verge of stardom during this period. She won smashing reviews for her role as Williams' best friend (Variety called her "an electrifying dancer") and had two memorable dance scenes with co-star Ricardo Montalban. But On an Island with You cost her a chance to move up at MGM. She was late the day they filmed her big dance number atop a pyramid. Because Pasternak had invited a group of exhibitors to watch filming that day, she raced to the set and did the number without warming up. On her third leap down the pyramid, she felt something tear. She had torn a ligament in her knee, which put her in a cast for two months. The injury cost her a major role as the dancing partner who leaves Fred Astaire to go solo in Easter Parade (1948), an assignment Freed had planned to move her up to stardom. The role went to Ann Miller instead, marking the beginning of her contract at MGM.
Van Johnson was the first actor announced as leading man, but by the time filming started, the role had been assigned to Lawford. The British actor had just broken up with Lana Turner and was still wearing the many pieces of gold jewelry she had given him during the affair. Adding to his depression, he didn't care for his part and found Williams' cheerfulness tiresome. According to his biographer, this led him to walk through the film, though most critics still noted that he looked appropriately dashing in his Navy uniform.
Like most of Williams' vehicles, On an Island with You made money, bringing in $3.2 million in rentals. It even won a Writers Guild Award nomination for its screenplay. In all, Williams' films made the studio $90 million. They remain one of the most fascinating footnotes on Hollywood history. Only ice-skater Sonja Henie, whose film career was nowhere near as lengthy or profitable as Williams', managed to build a starring career in musicals built around athletic prowess rather than any real musical talent.
Producer: Joe Pasternak
Director: Richard Thorpe
Screenplay: Dorothy Kingsley, Dorothy Cooper, Charles Martin, Hans Wilhelm
Based on the story by Martin, Wilhelm
Cinematography: Charles Rosher
Art Direction: Edward C. Carfagno, Cedric Gibbons
Score: Albert Sendrey, George Stoll
Cast: Esther Williams (Rosalind Reynolds), Peter Lawford (Lt. Lawrence Y. Kingslee), Ricardo Montalban (Ricardo Montez), Jimmy Durante (Jimmy Buckley), Cyd Charisse (Yvonne Torro), Xavier Cugat and his Orchestra (Themselves), Leon Ames (Cmdr. Harrison), Marie Windsor (Jane).
C-108m. Closed Captioning.
by Frank Miller
On an Island With You
An October 1946 Hollywood Reporter news item indicates that writer Charles Martin was originally considered to direct the film, and that Van Johnson was first considered to star opposite Esther Williams. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, some filming took place on location near Key Biscayne, FL, and May have taken place in Sunrise near Miami.