Based on James A. Michener’s novel, which embraced centuries of history, Hawaii focuses on a critical period – 1820-41 – when the islands began to be commercialized, corrupted and converted to Western ways. Superior production, acting and direction give depth and credibility to a personal tragedy, set against the clash of two civilizations.
Filmed at sea off Norway, also in New England, Hollywood, Hawaii and Tahiti, this vast production reps an outlay of about $15 million, including $600,000 for film rights, and seven years of work. Fred Zinnemann, originally set to produce-direct, worked four and a half years on it, after which Hill took over.
Dalton Trumbo and original adapter Daniel Taradash are both credited with the screenplay, which develops Max von Sydow’s character from a young and over-zealous Protestant missionary, through courtship of Julie Andrews, to their religious work in Hawaii. Richard Harris, an old beau, turns up occasionally at major plot turns.
Von Sydow’s outstanding performance makes his character comprehensible, if never totally sympathetic. A less competent actor, with less competent direction and scripting, would have blown the part, and with that, the film. Andrews is excellent in a demanding dramatic role.
Hill’s direction, solid in the intimate dramatic scenes, is as good in crowd shots which rep the major external events.
1966: Nominations: Best Supp. Actress (Jocelyn Lagarde), Color Cinematography, Color Costume Design, Color Costume Design, Original Music Score, Song (‘My Wishing Doll’), Sound, Visual Effects