Reel Travel: Kaua’i
by Marla Norman, Publisher
Kaua’i’s lush, exotic scenery has served as inspiration and backdrop for Hollywood productions since the Fifties. If you can’t make it to the island yourself, drop into one of these films and enjoy the views!
South Pacific (1958, 2001)
One of the earliest film productions to make use of Kauai’s gorgeous scenery, was this adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Broadway musical South Pacific. Based on James Michener’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Tales of the South Pacific, the stage version is considered one of the greatest musicals of all time, and the film version was a box-office success as well.
A bit of interesting movie trivia: both Doris Day and Elizabeth Taylor were offered the lead role. However, Doris Day wasn’t interested and declined. Elizabeth Taylor, who wanted the part, was later rejected because of her inferior singing. Mitzi Gaynor was eventually cast as nurse Nellie Forbush, a role Glenn Close reprised in the 2011 TV-movie, which also stars Harry Connick Jr.
Donovan’s Reef (1963)
Iconic director John Ford and John Wayne collaborated on a number of films which have became movie classics, including Stagecoah and The Quiet Man (See our Ireland archives: http://travelcuriousoften.com/september11-reel-travel.php ). Donovan’s Reef was their last project together. Filmed in Kaua’i, the movie is an action/comedy which also attempts to address serious social issues concerning racial bigotry.
Lee Marvin and Dorothy Lamour star with Wayne in the production, which received mixed reviews. A New York Times review described the film as a “sheer contrivance effected in hearty, fun-loving, truly infectious style.” But as always, when Kaua’i’s landscapes are involved, the cinematography was praised as “quite remarkable.”
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
This Steven Spielberg/George Lucas thriller was shot in multiple locations, from Tunisia to San Francisco. But the Kaua’i footage is unmistakable and adds to the sense of exhilaration, as Harrison Ford’s intrepid Indiana Jones takes on Hitler to secure the Ark of the Covenant and save the world. Karen Allen also stars in this first installment of the Indiana Jones chronicles, which was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won four. The film has now also been included in the U.S. Library of Congress’ National Film Registry for its “cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance.”
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1981)
After the enormous success of the original Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg directed this sequel, based on the bestselling novels of Michael Crichton.
The action this time around takes place on a deserted island (aka Kaua’i) where dinosaurs have somehow managed to survive.
Although considered to be darker and much more frightening than the first Jurassic film, this second installment was also very successful. Both Jeff Goldblum and Julianne Moore turn in noteworthy performances, and the movie received Oscar nominations.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
The fourth episode in the rollicking series featuring Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow was inspired by both the notorious pirate Blackbeard and his search for the Fountain of Youth. Penelope Cruise, provides the love interest as Angelica, who is not only Blackbeard’s daughter, but Captain Jack’s former girlfriend.
In spite of mixed critical reviews, On Stranger Tides broke many box office records and is currently the 19th highest-grossing film of all time, worldwide.
The Descendants (2011)
George Clooney’s nuanced performance in this Alexander Payne-directed production earned the actor an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe Best Actor award. Wall Street Journal film critic Joe Morgenstern wrote “Clooney gives a perfect performance in a production filled with superb ones.” Robert Ebert gave the movie a perfect four -star rating, as did Peter Travers of Rolling Stone. The film also won an Oscar for best screen play and a Golden Globe for Best Drama.
Filmed almost entirely in Kaua’i, the plot revolves around lawyer Matt King (George Clooney) and 25,000 acres of land he controls on the island — property that has real estate developers salivating. King’s life is tragically complicated when his wife is injured in a waterskiing accident and left in a coma. Her absence requires King to assume full-time parental duties for his two daughters, a responsibility he’s shirked in the past.
The movie closely follows the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, who makes a cameo appearance as King’s secretary. Not surprisingly, however, many viewers find that the film’s real “star performer” is the lush, spectacular scenery of Kaua’i.