James Island Cinemas 8

This week’s selection as part of TODD MASON’S weekly series OVERLOOKED FILMS is the 1957 feature directed by Robert Rossen, Island in the Sun. The film has an all-star cast that includes Stephen Boyd, Harry Belafonte, Joan Fontaine, Joan Collins, Dorothy Dandridge and James Mason.

Controversial at the time of release, the film deals with the topic of miscegenation. Check out the trailer below:

Surely the film has some flaws, namely the lack of chemistry in the Fontaine/Belafonte dynamic. I for one never buy them as a plausible couple. And the Dandridge / John Justin coupling is only that much more believable. Much like Darryl F. Zanuck’s other attempt to tackle racial issues, Pinky (1947), fires but ultimately does not strike a resonate chord.

At the time of the film’s release, critical reception was largely negative with several groups concerned with the ‘unsuitability’ of the film’s central plotline. In spite of this, the film was financially successful for the studio (20th Century Fox).

So you may ask, why am I highlighting it as an overlooked film? Despite its shortcomings, I think that it is a film that should be seen for the following reasons:

  • Given the era in which it was produced, it was an admirable effort to tackle racial politics. In that way, it is a ‘successful failure.’
  • Any opportunity to see Dorothy Dandridge on screen is well worth it. She was an immense talent who unfortunately did not fit the mold of Hollywood starlet and her career tragically suffered for it.
  • For viewers who only know Joan Collins (below) from her TV role in Dynasty, here is an opportunity to see her in an earlier role. Stay tuned for a plot twist involving her character.
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