South Sea Woman: WWII Action Comedy Starring Burt Lancaster and Virginia Mayo

South Sea Woman, an action-comedy-court melodrama set during WWII, is directed by Arthur Lubin, a B-level filmmaker, starring Burt Lancaster and Virginia Mayo at the height of their popularity.

Based on the play General Court Martial by William M. Rankin, the film was initially titled Sulu Sea.

Lancaster plays U.S. Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant James O’Hearn who, as the movie begins, stands trial at the San Diego Marine base for desertion, theft, scandalous conduct and destruction of property. Surprisingly, he refuses to testify or plead guilty to the charges.

Though mostly set in the courtroom, the tale contains flashbacks, which relates episodes from his life by various witnesses who give testimony.

First off is showgirl Ginger Martin (Virginia Mayo), who relates how when she was broke, she met in Shnaghai O’Hearn and his Marine friend, Private First Class Davy White (Chuck Connors), two weeks before earl Harbor.

White proposes marriage so that Ginger can be evacuated from China as his wife. O’Hearn tracks him down at the nightclub where Ginger works.

When the club’s manager objects to Ginger quitting, a brawl breaks out, and the couple along with O’Hearn escape in a motor boat.

The two men start fighting, and Ginger accidentally disables the boat.  Drifting out to sea, they are picked up by a passing boat.

When the Marines quarrel over White’s future, they accidentally set the sail on fire. As a result, they are put ashore on the island of Namou, then under Vichy French occupation.

To avoid jail, the Marines persuade Governor Pierre Marchand (Leon Askin) that they are deserters, and they are placed in in a hotel run by Lillie Duval and her three “nieces,” which amuses O”Hearn.

O’Hearn tries to book passage on a boat, but its captain, Van Dorck (Rudolph Anders), refuses to take the risk. O’Hearn then discovers that Van Dorck is a Nazi setting up radar stations on the islands around Guadalcanal, plotting to seize the ship with the help of expatriates like ex-U.S. Navy sailor “Jimmylegs” Donovan (Arthur Shields),fugitive bank embezzler Smith, and Free French liberated from the prison.  O’Hearn forces White on board the yacht at gunpoint.

When Van Dorck and his men find him, O’Hearn kills them and overthrows the governor. He loads the island’s armory on the ship, intending to join the fighting at Guadalcanal, not realizing that Ginger slips is aboard as a stowaway.

O’Hearn engages the Japanese in a fierce battle, and White blows up the destroyer, losing his life. O’Hearn and Ginger survive, but he rest of the crew die heroically.

The court martial exonerates O’Hearn and recommends White for a posthumous Medal of Honor. In the predictable happy ending, O’Hearn and Ginger realize that have always been in love.