Sunday, May 11, 2008

Joel McCrea and the Bird of Paradise

Muse complained recently that the blog isn't sexy enough. A fair point, actually. Well, I don't know if she'll consider this a step in the right direction, but I've been meaning to mention an old movie I recently watched called Bird of Paradise. Directed by King Vidor and starring the great Joel McCrea, I was quite impressed by its pre-Code sexuality (1932). Hardly a great movie, but it did remind me of several other films, most especially: the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films, for their bold fantasies of sexual liberation in "primitive" settings; to the far superior Tabu (1931, the previous year), another story set in the South Seas; and to George Cukor's Girls About Town (also 1931), a terribly underappreciated gem of a film also starring Joel McCrea in a story that requires him to take off his clothes and dive in the water. (Not on dvd, to my knowledge.)

Joel McCrea is one of my favorite actors, and it's said that he was a good guy through and through, something you don't hear about actors/actresses one admires. I've also enjoyed his work in: The More the Merrier, The Palm Beach Story, Sullivan's Travels, Foreign Correspondent, and Stars in My Crown.

Bird of Paradise, I hasten to add, is a mediocre narrative but it has some beautiful imagery, some lovely moments. And for anyone who finds McCrea handsome, it's a particular treat. The film co-starred Dolores del Rio, a Mexican actress who became an international star and sex symbol (and also, apparently, an admirable person responsible for significant acts of charity). At any rate, yes, this film pretty much had one concern: sex. And what's wrong with that? (Click on images for larger versions.)

Joe McCrea as a sailor

McCrea dives in and emerges, following the playful maiden, a full two years before a similar racy (and beautiful) sequence in Tarzan and His Mate

Why is this captive smiling?

A game of "share the coconut milk"...or something.

And Delores Del Rio dancing (and no, that's not actually the start of the film):


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