Bird of Paradise (1951 film)

Bird of Paradise is a 1951 American color drama film from 20th Century Fox, produced and directed by Delmer Daves, that stars Debra Paget, Louis Jourdan, and Jeff Chandler.[3] The screenplay was also written by Daves and was based on the play by Richard Walton Tully.

Bird of Paradise
Directed byDelmer Daves
Produced byDelmer Daves
Screenplay byDelmer Daves
Based onthe play
by Richard Walton Tully
StarringDebra Paget
Louis Jourdan
Jeff Chandler
Music byDaniele Amfitheatrof
CinematographyWinton C. Hoch
Edited byJames B. Clark
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • March 14, 1951 (1951-03-14) (United States)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,650,000 (US rentals)[1][2]


Andre Laurence (Jourdan) takes a trip to a Polynesian island with his college roommate Tenga (Chandler). He assumes the native life and marries his friend's sister, Kalua (Paget). The island's volcano erupts, and the Kahuna, the island's shaman (Maurice Schwartz), decides that the volcano god can only be appeased by the human sacrifice of Kalua to its molten depths. Following her death, Andre says his goodbye to Tenga and returns to civilization.



Paramount announced the film in May 1950.[4] It reunited several personnel from Broken Arrow including Deborah Paget, Delmer Daves, and Jeff Chandler. Chandler joked that his character was just a variation on his performance as Cochise in Broken Arrow.

The story is really about a conflict of worlds in 1850: a primitive people who live by their beliefs and the civilization - in quotes - brought by the white man. The problem is never resolved; even marriage can't do it - but... we used some wonderful locations and the scenery is breathtakingly beautiful.[5]

Sterling Hayden was mentioned as a possibility for the male lead.[6] Eventually Louis Jourdan was cast. Delmer Daves claims he wrote "a practically new story" from the play.[7] It was Maurice Schwartz's second film role.[8]

The film was shot on location in Hawaii beginning in August 1950.[9] Key locations were Hanalei Bay, Waikiki, Kona Coast and Volcano.[10]

Chandler had to be flown back every weekend to Los Angeles in order to fulfill his radio commitment to Our Miss Brooks.[5]

O'ahu native Queenie Ventura (married name Dowsett), born 1930, who was half pure Hawaiian and half Portuguese, joined the cast as a featured dancer and the local lead actress.


Critical response

When the film was released, The New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther panned the film, writing, "There is certainly nothing original—or particularly blissful, we would say—about the romantic tumble here taken by a visiting white man for a beauteous native maid...Unfortunately, Delmer Daves, who directed and wrote the script, either didn't or wasn't permitted to pitch the whole film in this slyly kidding vein. And the consequence is a rambling mishmosh of South Sea romance and travesty, of solemn high-priesting and low clowning, of never-never spectacle and sport."[11]

On the other hand, the staff at Variety magazine gave the film a favorable review, writing, "Richard Walton Tully's old legit piece, Bird of Paradise, makes another trip to the screen in a refurbished version. Previous filming of the play was in 1932 and, while Delmer Daves' version deviates from the Tully form, the essentials of the drama are still there, plus a beautiful Technicolor camera job, haunting island music and the use of actual locales...Paget hits a high level in her performance as the Princess Kalua. She, as well as the other players give their characters considerable sincerity. Jourdan is an excellent choice as the island visitor, as is Chandler as the prince."[12]


  1. 'The Top Box Office Hits of 1951', Variety, January 2, 1952
  2. Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century-Fox: A Corporate and Financial History Rowman & Littlefield, 2002 p 224
  3. Bird of Paradise at the TCM Movie Database
  4. TWO SIGN FOR ROLES IN PARAMOUNT FILM: Miriam Hopkins, Thelima Ritter to Play Mothers of Leads in 'A Relative Stranger' By THOMAS F. BRADY Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 02 May 1950: 41
  5. Jeff Chandler Finally Gets to 'Act His Age': Rising Young (31) Screens Player Considers Himself 'a Lucky Kid' SCHEUER, PHLIP K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 29 Oct 1950: D3.
  6. FILMLAND BRIEFS Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 24 May 1950: A7.
  7. JOAN BENNETT GETS LEAD IN FOX MOVIE: STAR OF 'MERRY WIDOW' By THOMAS F. BRADY Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 14 June 1950: 40.
  8. Maurice Schwartz Set as Witch Doctor; 'Wild Land,' 'Pantang' Slated Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 29 June 1950: A7.
  9. Polynesian Idyl: Hawaiians, History, Volcanoes and Flora Aid in Filming 'Bird of Paradise' Hot Work Native Tunes – By Grady Jhnson. New York Times (1923–Current file) [New York, N.Y] 20 Aug 1950: 83.
  10. Film Plans For New 'Bird Of Paradise' By Frank Daugherty Special to The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current file) [Boston, Mass] 08 Sep 1950: 5.
  11. Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times, film review, March 15, 1951. Last accessed: February 10, 2011.
  12. Variety. Film review, March 14, 1951. Last accessed: February 13, 2011.

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