Cast & Crew
After waking on his boat in the South Seas, hungover Dan Merrill is distressed to find that Rita Delaine, a former lover, is onboard, romancing his partner, Bully Haig. Rita informs Dan that they are headed for a remote island to dive for black pearls with Te Kop, a native of the island. To Rita and Bully's dismay, Te Kop, who is the first member of his tribe ever to leave the island, has just died from a sudden illness. Despite this setback, Rita and Bully persuade Dan to join them, but Rita and Dan continue to fight over their relationship, which Rita feels was destroyed by Dan's love of money. After Rita declares that Dan's greed has corrupted her, Dan kisses her, then is attacked by a jealous Bully. Their fight is interrupted when the island is sited, and they all prepare to disembark. On the island, meanwhile, Michael, an old white man who is the natives' high priest, advises the chief, Halemano, that the god Tagaloa has endorsed the marriage of his son George to Halemano's daughter Momu. George, however, admits privately to his father that he is unsure about marrying, as he longs to explore the outside world. Michael admonishes George that while the outside world is full of unhappiness, their society, which was founded by a East Indian prince many years before, is content and tranquil. George acquiesces, but the wedding is interrupted by the arrival of Bully and Dan's boat. Michael stops the ceremony and orders the men to intercept the boat in their kayaks. After Michael and his armed men confront Dan and Bully, demanding that they leave, Rita, dressed like a missionary, appears on deck. Although Michael is suspicious of the Bible-quoting Rita, George begs for a chance to talk with her. Michael reluctantly allows Rita to come ashore, but insists that Dan and Bully stay on their boat. Later, in bed, Rita sheds her modest nightgown because of the heat, and while she is sleeping, a jealous Momu slips into her hut and steals her clothes, then burns them. At the same time, Dan sneaks onshore and finds Rita, now wrapped in a blanket, but is spotted and chased off by spear-wielding tribesmen. The next day, Michael cautions George about getting involved with Rita, who has already ingratiated herself with George and the village children. Then Michael discovers that Dan and Bully's boat has become grounded on the coral reef and insists that the white men not enter the village while they are making repairs. That night, after he learns that the boat's damage is minimal, Halemano insists that the whites be forced out immediately, but Michael counsels patience. Michael again questions Rita, but she maintains her deception and invites George to tour Bully and Dan's boat. While Bully is busy with George, Rita warns Dan that Michael is aware of their scheming. Overcome with greed, Dan dismisses her concerns and infuriates her with another kiss. Later, on the island, Rita flirts with George and gets him to take her to the lagoon where the black pearls are located. After George refuses to dive because the lagoon is "taboo," Rita laughs and jumps in, only to discover an enormous octopus guarding the place. Concerned, George jumps in after her and guides her around the creature and into a hidden cave, which is filled with manmade artifacts. George insists that they swim back immediately, but Rita persuades him to allow Dan and Bully to come ashore for fresh water. When they do, the white men bring alcohol and get George and his friends drunk. Although intoxicated, the men refuse to dive, so Bully starts beating them. Shocked, Rita and Dan stop Bully, but a distressed Michael suffers a heart attack. While Rita and Dan nurse Michael, a guilt-ridden Rita begs Dan to leave without the pearls, but he refuses. Meanwhile, Bully convinces George to dive for the pearls to please Rita, and after he and Bully slay the octopus, George swims to the cave and removes some pearls from a metal canister. Later, Halemano accuses Rita of cursing his people and commands her to cure Michael and leave the island forever. Aware of Rita's transformation, Michael advises her to return to Dan and "make him well," then admits that the Indian prince collected the pearls and hid them in the cave as a "sacred trust." Just then, George appears and offers Rita his half of the pearls. Rita declines, and when a frustrated George tries to kiss her, Dan intervenes and grabs the pearls. Still greedy, Bully convinces George to make one last dive, but when George surfaces with the gems, Bully stabs him in the back. George's body is discovered later, during a ceremonial feast, and Halemano sends his warriors to attack the white men's boat. Dan and Bully shoot at the natives, who set fire to the boat, which is loaded with gun powder. Bully finally is speared in the chest, while Dan barely escapes the boat before the gun powder ignites. Halemano, meanwhile, decrees that Rita must die, but before she is speared, Dan bursts in and holds the chief at gunpoint. Determined to end the bloodshed, Michael leaves his sick bed and announces to Halemano that George will recover from his knife wound and has reunited with the faithful Momu. After Halemano releases Rita, she and Dan declare that they are remaining on the island, anxious to live a quiet life together.
Emile La Vigne
Jesse L. Lasky Jr.
Van Nest Polglase
Virginia Mayo (1920-2005)
She was born Virginia Clara Jones in St. Louis, Missouri on November 30, 1920, and got her show business start at the age of six by enrolling in her aunt's School of Dramatic Expression. While still in her teens, she joined the nightclub circuit, and after paying her dues for a few years traveling across the country, she eventually caught the eye of movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn. He gave her a small role in her first film, starring future husband, Michael O'Shea, in Jack London (1943). She then received minor billing as a "Goldwyn Girl," in the Danny Kaye farce, Up In Arms (1944). Almost immediately, Goldwyn saw her natural movement, comfort and ease in front of the camera, and in just her fourth film, she landed a plumb lead opposite Bob Hope in The Princess and the Pirate (1944). She proved a hit with moviegoers, and her next two films would be with her most frequent leading man, Danny Kaye: Wonder Man (1945), and The Kid from Brooklyn (1946). Both films were big hits, and the chemistry between Mayo and Kaye - the classy, reserved blonde beauty clashing with the hyperactive clown - was surprisingly successful.
Mayo did make a brief break from light comedy, and gave a good performance as Dana Andrews' unfaithful wife, Marie, in the popular post-war drama, The Best Years of Their Lives (1946); but despite the good reviews, she was back with Kaye in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), and A Song Is Born (1948).
It wasn't until the following year that Mayo got the chance to sink her teeth into a meaty role. That film, White Heat (1949), and her role, as Cody Jarrett's (James Cagney) sluttish, conniving wife, Verna, is memorable for the sheer ruthlessness of her performance. Remember, it was Verna who shot Cody¿s mother in the back, and yet when Cody confronts her after he escapes from prison to exact revenge for her death, Verna effectively places the blame on Big Ed (Steve Cochran):
Verna: I can't tell you Cody!
Cody: Tell me!
Verna: Ed...he shot her in the back!!!
Critics and fans purred over the newfound versatility, yet strangely, she never found a part as juicy as Verna again. Her next film, with Cagney, The West Point Story (1950), was a pleasant enough musical; but her role as Lady Wellesley in Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N. (1951), co-starring Gregory Peck, was merely decorative; that of a burlesque queen attempting to earn a university degree in the gormless comedy, She¿s Working Her Way Through College (1952); and worst of all, the Biblical bomb, The Silver Chalice (1954) which was, incidentally, Paul Newman's film debut, and is a film he still derides as the worst of his career.
Realizing that her future in movies was slowing down, she turned to the supper club circuit in the 60s with her husband, Michael O'Shea, touring the country in such productions as No, No Nanette, Barefoot in the Park, Hello Dolly, and Butterflies Are Free. Like most performers who had outdistanced their glory days with the film industry, Mayo turned to television for the next two decades, appearing in such shows as Night Gallery, Police Story, Murder She Wrote, and Remington Steele. She even earned a recurring role in the short-lived NBC soap opera, Santa Barbara (1984-85), playing an aging hoofer named "Peaches DeLight." Mayo was married to O'Shea from 1947 until his death in 1973. She is survived by their daughter, Mary Johnston; and three grandsons.
by Michael T. Toole
Virginia Mayo (1920-2005)
You know, it's a funny thing. Even when I hated you, I loved you.- Rita Delaine
The working titles of this film were Black Pearls and the Western, Black Pearls and Call of the Tropics. Filmcrest Productions, Benedict Bogeaus' company, borrowed Virginia Mayo from Warner Bros. for the production. Hollywood Reporter news items announced Michael Dengate and Diana Darain as cast members, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. According to a March 1955 Los Angeles Times news item, Anita Dano was signed for a "featured part" and was to perform three "special numbers," but her appearance in the completed film also has not been confirmed. An early February 1955 Los Angeles Examiner item notes that location shooting was to take place on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. According to reviews and a news item, background footage was shot on the Fiji Islands. Although a May 31, 1955 Daily Variety news item announced that the picture was to have its world premiere on June 28, 1955 in St. Louis, MO, Mayo's home town, no additional information about the premiere has been found.