South of Pago Pago

South of Pago Pago is a 1940 American South Seas adventure film directed by Alfred E. Green and starring Victor McLaglen, Jon Hall and Frances Farmer.[2]

South of Pago Pago
Directed byAlfred E. Green
Produced byEdward Small
Written byGeorge Bruce
Kenneth Gamet
StarringVictor McLaglen
Jon Hall
Frances Farmer
Music byEdward Ward
CinematographyJohn J. Mescall
Edited byRay Curtiss
Edward Small Productions
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • July 19, 1940 (1940-07-19) (United States)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States


In the 1880s a group of adventurers look for pearls in the Pacific Islands: Bucko Larson, Ruby Taylor, Williams and Peg Legged Foster. They arrive at an island.

Ruby is desired by Kehane, the chief's son. Her friends use this to steal pearls from the island. Ruby genuinely falls for Kehane and has a crisis of conscience.




Producer Edward Small announced the project in 1938 with the stars to be Jon Hall and Sigrid Gurie, both of whom would be borrowed from Sam Goldwyn.[3] Small had a deal with United Artists. Howard Emmett Rogers was working on the script.[4]

In August 1938 Small sent a unit under John Burch to film in second unit footage in American Samoa[5].

In March 1939 Small announced the film as part of his $5 million seven film program for 1939-40. (The other movies would be Kit Carson, Two Years Before the Mast, Valentino, Quantrill, My Son, My Son and Food of the Gods. Small would end up only making a few of these.)[6] For a time it seemed Clayton Moore might be cast instead of Hall.[7]

Filming was to begin on 1 September 1939.[8] Tom Neal and Diane Lewis joined the cast.[9] Filming was pushed back to 15 September so Small could borrow director Charles Vidor from Columbia.[10]

Eventually Small decided to put Vidor on My Son, My Son instead, feeling he was better suited to that.[11] Production on Pago Pago was temporarily postponed due to World War II and trouble in finding a director.[12]

In February 1940 Victor McLaglen was signed to costar alongside Clayton Moore and Alfred Werker was signed to direct.[13] Filming was to begin on 1 March 1940 in American Samoa.[14] Moore did not appear in the final film. Small borrowed Frances Farmer to play the female lead; Farmer had been fighting with Paramount over roles and it was reported that this would be her last film under her Paramount contract.[15]

Rita Hayworth was discussed for the role of the lead native girl.[16] Olympe Bradne ended up playing it.


Filming eventually began 26 March 1940. Locations included Balboa Beach with underwater scenes shot at Santa Catalina.[17][18][19][20]

On 3 April it was reported that Werker had "retired as director" after an "argument over the script."[21] He was replaced by Alfred E. Green. Green had directed Farmer in her last film, Ride a Crooked Mile and described her as a "different girl" on this one.[22]

After completion of the film, Hall immediately went into Kit Carson for Small.[23]


Reviews were poor.[24] The New York Times listed it as among the worst films of the year.[25]


  1. Louella O. Parsons: Close-Ups and Long-Shots Of the Motion Picture Scene The Washington Post (1923-1954) [Washington, D.C] 03 Aug 1939: 6.
  2. South of Pago Pago at TCMDB
  3. "Frawley Awarded New Paramount Contract: Rita Johnson Assigned Small Debates Plans Brown to Meet Corrigan Korda Seeks Arlen" Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 3 Aug 1938: 8.
  4. SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD New York Times 2 Aug 1938: 15
  5. "Unique Army Ready to 'Fight' in Hollywood" Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) 23 Aug 1938: 8.
  6. SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD: Three Pictures Announced by Small Productions New York Times 28 Mar 1939: 20.
  7. Louella O. Parsons: "Close-Ups and Long-Shots Of the Motion Picture Scene" The Washington Post30 Aug 1939: 6.
  8. SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD New York Times 3 Aug 1939: 21.
  9. JIMMIE FIELDER IN HOLLYWOOD THE STAFF. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]28 Aug 1939: A14.
  10. DRAMA: Golden Boy Hits Trail Anew as Raft Brother 'Roz' May 'Willow Walk' Leigh Story Huddle On 'Pago Pago' Director 'Disraeli' Comes to Life Rush Trips in Evidence Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times28 Aug 1939: A14.
  11. DRAMA: Dramatic Subject to Star McLaglen, Cooper Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 26 Sep 1939: A17.
  12. "PRODUCERS GIRD FOR WAR: The Cinema Capital Contemplates Its Probable Effects Upon the Industry" By DOUGLAS W. CHURCHILL. New York Times 10 Sep 1939: X3.
  13. NEWS OF THE SCREEN: George Brent Gets Lead Opposite Merle Oberon in 'House on the Hill'--'Pinocchio' Opens Tonight Laraine Day Gets Role Of Local Origin By DOUGLAS W. CHURCHILL New York Times 7 Feb 1940: 24.
  14. SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD New York Times 10 Feb 1940: 22.
  15. SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD New York Times 29 Feb 1940: 15.
  16. R.K.O. Uses News Story as Basis for Picture: Comedienne in Air Film Miss Campbell Assigned Fields Book Due Soon Donat's Return Seen Lessey to Play Lawyer Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 5 Mar 1940: 12.
  17. 'Scattergood Baines' Series to Be Filmed Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 09 May 1940: A10.
  18. Hedda Hopper's HOLLYWOOD Los Angeles Times 12 Apr 1940: A11.
  19. "South Seas". The News. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 14 November 1940. p. 10. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
  20. "CAMERAS ON THE HALF SHELL" New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 14 July 1940: 104
  21. NEWS OF THE SCREEN New York Times 4 Apr 1940: 31.
  22. TOWN CALLED HOLLYWOOD: Town Called Hollywood Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]28 Apr 1940: C3.
  23. Looking at Hollywood: Jon Hall, a Forgotten Hero Chicago Daily Tribune 7 July 1940: d3.
  24. "THE SCREEN: 'Andy Hardy (Mickey Rooney) Meets Debutante' at Capitol--New Films at Music Hall and Palace At the Music Hall At the Palace" By BOSLEY CROWTHER. New York Times (1923-Current file) 2 Aug 1940: 12.
  25. A FEW HUSKS FROM A FIELD OF CORN: Condensed Roll-Call of The Worst Offerings of The Passing Year By THEODORE STRAUSS. New York Times 29 Dec 1940: X5.
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