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Sunday, August 14, 2022
Writing in his autobiography, A Tree Is a Tree, Vidor recalled producer David O. Selznick’s rather open-ended request for this film, a Pre-Code romance between a strapping young sailor (Joel McRea) and a Polynesian princess (Dolores Del Rio): “Just give me three wonderful love scenes like you had in The Big Parade and Bardelys the Magnificent. I don’t care what story you use so long as we call it Bird of Paradise and Del Rio jumps into a flaming volcano at the finish.” The movie is something of an outlier in Vidor’s filmography; as an auteur he’s not typically associated with exocitized scenarios, but for this very reason it stands as a testament to his versatility and his ability to bring his unique compositional intelligence to every frame he oversaw, no matter the setting or genre.