Hawaii (1966): Big, Lavish, Boring Epic, Starring Max Von Sydow

United Artists (Mirisch Corporation)

The estimable Swedish actor Max Von Sydow plays a stern missionary in Hawaii, a big-budget, bloated, overlong, and vastly disappointing pseudo-spiritual historical epic.

Fred Zinnemann was the original director, but he was replaced by George Roy Hill before shooting began.

Moreover, the role intended for Charlton Heston was assigned to Richard Harris; Heston appeared in the 1970 sequel, “The Hawaiians.”

It took seven years from the book’s publication date to its screen debut, and a budget of $15 million to make the picture.  Based on James A. Michener’s best-selling novel, which spanned several centuries, the film version focuses only on two decades, froms 1820 to 1841. However, Michener’s message, that the virginal sanctity of the Hawaiian islands was shattered by the incursion of the white man, remains intact.

Von Sydow stars plays Abner Hale, an imperious minister who settles in Hawaii with his wife, Jerusha Bromley Hale (Julie Andrews). Abner expects the islanders, who he pereceives as wild aliens, to adapt to him. In contrast, his wife goes out of her way to understand their new neighbors.  She eventually finds comfort in the arms of her former lover, Rafer Hoxworth (Richard Harris).

Despite the lush location footage, spectacular ceremonies and outsized typhoon, the scene most filmgoers remember is Julie Andrews’ childbirth sequence.

George Roy Hill went on to direct such smash hits and Oscar winners as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Sting,”before retiring from the industry to teach drama at Yale.

There are at least two versions of “Hawaii” in terms of running time.   The shorter version (151 minutes) is the one shown on TV.

You can spot Gene Hackman in a small role and Bette Midler as a ship passenger.

Oscar Nominations: 7

Supporting Actress:  Jocelyn LaGarde

Cinematography (color): Russell Harlan

Sound: Gordon E. Sawyer

Song: “My Wishing Doll,” music by Elmer Bernstein, lyrics by Mack David

Original Score: Elmer Bernstein

Costume design (color): Dorothy Jeakins

Special Visual Effects: Linwood G. Dunn

 

Oscar Awards:  None

 

Oscar Context

In 1966, “Man for All Season” won the Best Picture as well as other Oscars, such as Cinematography for Ted Moore and Costumes for Elizabeth Haffenden and Joan Bridge.

The other nominees were the British comedy “Alfie,” the American comedy, “The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming,” the War drama “The Sand Pebbles,” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” the screen adaptation of Edward Albee’s stage play (directed by first-timer Mike Nichols).

The winner of the Supporting Actress Oscar was Sandy Dennis for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

The Sound Oscar went to “Grand Prix,” and the Song and Scoring to “Born Free.”  “Fantastic Voyage” won the Special Effects Award.

 

Cast

Julie Andrews as Jerusha Bromley

Max von Sydow as Abner Hale

Richard Harris as Rafer Hoxworth

Carroll O’Connor as Charles Bromley

Elizabeth Cole as Abigail Bromley

Diane Sherry as Charity Bromley

Gene Hackman as Rev. John Whipple

Heather Menzies as Mercy Bromley

Torin Thatcher as Rev. Thorn

John Cullum as Rev. Immanuel Quigley

Jocelyne LaGarde as Queen Malama

Bette Midler as Passenger

 

Credits:

Running time: 186 Minutes.

Directed by: George Roy Hill

Written by: Dalton Trumbo and Daniel Taradash

Released October 10, 1966

DVD: April 12, 2005