Monday, March 11, 2019

Tonight's Movie: The Tuttles of Tahiti (1942) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Charles Laughton stars in the offbeat comedy-drama THE TUTTLES OF TAHITI (1942), recently released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

THE TUTTLES OF TAHITI was based on the book NO MORE GAS by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, who were also the authors of MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY. That book, of course, provided the basis for the 1935 film which led to Laughton receiving a Best Actor nomination for his memorable portrayal of Captain Bligh.

In THE TUTTLES OF TAHITI Laughton plays Jonas, the head of a very large multiracial family living in a rambling mansion on Tahiti. When son Chester (Jon Hall) returns to the island after a long absence, bringing with him what appears to be a prize fighting rooster, Jonas promptly loses all the family's money betting on the bird in a cockfight.

Chester then manages to save the day by salvaging an abandoned ship worth a considerable sum, but that money also quickly disappears. At the rate the family spends or loses its communal funds, how will Chester ever afford marrying lovely Tamara (Peggy Drake)?

This is quite an oddball film which manages to fill a 91-minute running time yet in the end isn't about very much at all. A little cockfighting and financial mismanagement goes a long way, but most of the film is focused on those issues and the ne'er-do-well Jonas, who is frankly rather a boor.

Rather than presenting an attractive depiction of relaxed island life, the Tuttles collectively are so silly that it's hard to work up much interest. Another issue is that the film only manages to differentiate a few characters among the big family; mostly they're just a mob of people, rather than unique characters.

The best scenes are those with Chester romancing lovely Tamara, as well as a couple good sequences with some hip-swinging dancing, but unfortunately they're few and far between. The passion and joy which briefly emerge in the dances causes the viewer to regret what might have been if a completely different script had been used to take advantage of the distinct setting and culture.

Drake and Florence Bates, as her mother, come off best in the large cast. Look for a teenaged Nancy Gates, then about 15 or 16, as one of the family, and Adeline De Walt Reynolds as Jonas's mother. The cast also includes Victor Francen, Gene Reynolds, Curt Bois, Jody Gilbert, Philip Ahn, Willie Fung, and many more.

THE TUTTLES OF TAHITI was directed by Charles Vidor and filmed in black and white by Nicholas Musuraca.

The Warner Archive DVD is a good print with no extras.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger barrylane said...

Similar, but not the same, The Man From Down Under with Laughton, Binnie Barnes, Donna Reed and Richard Carlson. Most enjoyable.

9:39 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I've got a copy of THE MAN FROM DOWN UNDER, I need to check it out, if only for Donna Reed and Richard Carlson! :)

Best wishes,

7:59 PM  

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