For Reel

Bird of Paradise (1932)
June 28, 2012, 5:34 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: King Vidor

In an interview that author Barbara Leaming had with Orson Welles, Welles spoke of his romance with Mexican-born actress Dolores Del Rio and cited Bird of Paradise as the film that first made him fall in love with her: “I just waited till I could find her. Oh, I was obsessed with her for years!” Her performance is indeed among the most erotic of the thirties, an unabashed, insensitive male fantasy in which the naive half-naked woman seems to exist solely for the purpose of being lusted after. In the film’s most iconic moment, she swims nude in the ocean, teasing the pining Joel McCrea who is perched above aboard a ship. He jumps in the water, half-naked himself, and chases her to the shore so that he may force her to the ground and kiss her. As is expected in Hollywood, she ceases her protest and, from then on, is utterly devoted to her man. As preposterous as the picture is (if you’ve ever wanted to see McCrea use a tortoise as a boogie board, look no further), director King Vidor is unsparing with detail, showing a particularly pronounced fascination with tribal dances (as choreographed by Busby Berkeley). Outrageous tropical escapism? Sure. But downright impossible to resist.

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