Cast & Crew
When Consuelo Cordoba and her crooked uncle Estaban, who has a penchant for rich widows, dock in Honolulu, Consuelo vows to make an honest man of her uncle. Estaban's promise to reform is shortlived, however, and after he cashes a worthless check for $2,000, Consuelo storms out of their hotel room and returns the cash to the hotel manager. From a drugstore phone booth, Consuelo calls her uncle and tells him that she is leaving him and plans to support herself. At the soda counter, Consuelo meets Skelly, Horseface and Duffy, three sailors who are angry at her for tying up the phone and thus causing them to lose their dates. Consuelo also meets Aloha, who offers to be her maid. When Consuelo observes that she needs a job before she can hire a maid, Aloha takes her to the Blue Chip Cabaret to audition. Impressed by Consuelo's singing and dancing talents, the manager hires her but insists that she change her name to Lu. The sailors who frequent the Blue Chip are a demanding audience, and when Skelly, Horseface and Duffy recognize Consuelo from the drugstore, they begin to heckle her. Consuelo trades wisecracks with them, and soon wins them over with her singing and impersonations of Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn and Adolf Hitler. In Consuelo's absence, Estaban has been courting Mrs. Van Derholt, a society matron who is sponsoring a charity contest that will crown the next Miss Honolulu. While Estaban woos Mrs. Van Derholt, Skelly asks Consuelo, whom he knows as Lu, on a date. They are chaperoned by Horseface and Duffy, and later, a group of admiring sailors invites Consuelo and her friends to a luau. After escorting her back to the Blue Chip, the sailors are approached by two of Mrs. Van Derholt's volunteers. When the girls ask them to buy tickets to the charity contest, Skelly suggests they buy them all and vote for Lu as Miss Honolulu. Mrs. Van Derholt becomes hysterical upon learning of Skelly's plan, thus prompting Estaban to suggest nominating his nice niece Consuelo to defeat Lu as Miss Honolulu. Proposing that they visit the Blue Chip to see their opponent, Estaban is shocked to find Consuelo on stage. At the cabaret, Skelly recognizes Estaban as the card cheat who fleeced him in Atlantic City, but Estaban claims that the sailor has him confused with his black sheep cousin. When Estaban informs Consuelo of his plan to crown her Miss Honolulu, she protests that she wants to win as Lu. In response, Estaban promises to reform and marry Mrs. Van Derholt if Consuelo agrees to continue her double identity. To insure that Lu wins the title, the sailors decide to sell their own tickets to the charity show and make Lu the star. After Consuelo decides that she is tired of being two people, Estaban plots to force her into admitting that she is Consuelo. Estaban informs the police that Lu is a spy, and when Skelly arrives at the club to find the police waiting to arrest her, he tells her to don a sailor's uniform, and they escape out the back door. To get even with her uncle, Consuelo instructs Aloha to bring Mrs. Van Derholt and her society friends to the club and asks Skelly to bring Estaban there, too. Still dressed as a sailor, Consuelo climbs onto the stage and confesses to being two people. After Skelly forces Estaban to tell the police the truth, Consuelo orders him to find an honest job or she will file a complaint against him. Consuelo is then crowned Miss Honolulu to the applause of a cheering audience.
Franz F. Planer
Directed by Charles Barton from an original story by Eliot Gibbons and screenplay by Gibbons and Paul Yawitz, Honolulu Lu follows the adventures of Consuelo Cordoba, as she arrives in Honolulu with her conman uncle, Estaban (Leo Carrillo), who has a weakness for fleecing wealthy widows. Consuelo tires of his schemes and makes him promise to change his ways, but it's a promise he breaks almost immediately. After learning that Estaban has cashed a fake check for $2,000, Consuelo leaves their hotel and calls him from a drugstore payphone to say she is through. Determined to make her own way in life, she goes to a burlesque club frequented by sailors and auditions for the manager under the stage name of Lu. Her obvious talents earn her a spot at the club, and her beauty earns her a date with a sailor named Skelly (Bruce Bennett), who recognizes Estaban as the crook who ripped him off in Atlantic City. Estaban, who is trying to scam a new wealthy widow, Mrs. Van Derholt (Marjorie Gateson), tells the police that Consuelo is an international spy in order to keep her from revealing the truth about him.
Honolulu Lu went into production at Columbia Pictures on September 19, 1941 with the notoriously temperamental Vélez reportedly behaving well on the set. Charles Barton dutifully told the press that Vélez watched her normally salty language and threw no tantrums. She likely had no time for shenanigans; the production only lasted a month, with the film wrapping on October 10. In that short time, Vélez had a lot to do, including singing, dancing a hula and doing her famous imitations of Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn and Adolf Hitler. The latter had become one of her favorite party tricks in Hollywood, although she had long been known for her eerily accurate imitations of other stars like Shirley Temple and Gloria Swanson. Making fun of Hitler was not an obvious comedy slam-dunk in the autumn of 1941. Like Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator (1940) and Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be (1942), Honolulu Lu was shot before the United States entered World War II, and while the nation had instigated the draft in 1940 and had loaned Great Britain supplies earlier in the year, the US was still neutral and hoping to stay out of the war. To criticize Hitler in those pre-war days was still a risk, one the studio had previously taken with a Three Stooges' short, You Nazty Spy! (1940).
Although Honolulu Lu was deemed a "satisfactory program picture" by the Motion Picture Herald, the film ultimately suffered from extremely poor timing when it was released on December 11, 1941, only days after the United States was plunged into war. The nation was too preoccupied with the attack on Pearl Harbor to worry about a frothy B picture set in Honolulu.
By Lorraine LoBianco
"What the Picture Did for Me: Honolulu Lu" Motion Picture Herald 2 May 42
Shull, Michael S. and Wilt, David Edward Hollywood War Films, 1937-1945: An Exhaustive Filmography of American Feature-Length Motion Pictures Relating to World War II
Vogel, Michelle Lupe Vélez: The Life and Career of Hollywood's "Mexican Spitfire
Although a Hollywood Reporter production chart places Adele Mara and Larry Parks in the cast, they were not in the released film.