Return to Paradise (1953)

“The great South Pacific adventure!” Not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, Return to Paradise is a simple tale about the South Seas that kept me reasonably entertained during its 100-minute running time. Directed by Mark Robson, the film was based on a short story by James Michener. Gary Cooper stars as “Mr. Morgan,” a drifter who washes up on a once idyllic South Pacific island now ruled over with an iron fist by fanatical missionary “Pastor Corbett” (Barry Jones) and his gang of thugs. Morgan just wants to be left alone and build a hut but Corbett views him as a direct threat to his authoritative rule and unleashes his “wardens” on the laid-back islander. Of course, Morgan ends up kicking some ass – “I’m not asking for the keys to the city but I’m not taking orders from any two-bit Mussolini” – and the other islanders take his lead and quickly overthrow Corbett and send the wardens into exile. Morgan also sparks up a romance with beautiful island native “Maeva” (Roberta Haynes), who dies while giving birth to the couple’s daughter “Turia” (Moira Walker). Morgan departs the island but is destined to return upon the outbreak of World War II and face the ghosts of his past. Return to Paradise was filmed on location on the island of Upolu in Western Samoa.

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