Saturday, August 3, 2013

South of Eden

South Sea Woman (1953) is a funny one - a Burt Lancaster comedy. Funny odd, though.

Lancaster is a Marine MP who is being court-martialed for desertion and other crimes. He refuses to testify or plead, so it is up to the witnesses to tell the story in flashback style.

It seems that he was in Shanghai, rounding up all the Marines as they withdrew in late 1941. Pvt. Chuck Connors has one thing he wants to do first - marry bar girl Virginia Mayo so that she can get evacuated as a spouse. Between one thing and another, they miss the boat, hijack a yacht, get lost, and land on a South Sea island (the woman of the title is a red herring) occupied by Vichy. To stay free, they "pose" as deserters. I use quotes, because by this time Connors really is deserting - he doesn't care about the war, he just wants to shack up with Mayo for the duration. But Lancaster is always looking to get back to the fight, especially when he finds out about Pearl Harbor.

Here come the SPOILERS -- Connors stays pretty resolutely "make love not war" until he decides to go on a suicide mission, freeing Mayo up to fall for Lancaster. Her testimony gets him acquitted (he couldn't testify himself without sliming Connors, so he had to keep stumm), and they live happily etc.

Except Connors, who is probably dead! Nice way to honor his sacrifice, but he was just a dirty deserter, I guess. Really, this was my biggest problem with the movie. Lancaster apparently got this role for Connors, and he is written as a lovable, loving lunkhead, but also: deeply dishonorable, cowardly and treasonous. Of course, the loser in these romantic triangle comedies has to be shown to be unworthy of the love of the girl. But they went too far in this.

Still, now I've seen Burt Lancaster try comedy.

No comments: