By Raquel Stecher, a classic film blogger
The much beloved fictional character Charlie Chan was created by author Earl Derr Biggers and inspired by a real-life Honolulu police detective. Although Charlie Chan’s home base is Oahu, the film series takes the detective all over the place to solve mysteries. In The Black Camel (1931), Charlie Chan solves the murder of a Hollywood movie star that was filming in Honolulu. The movie stands out because it’s the only one in the entire series of almost 50 films to be shot on location in Hawaii. You’ll see scenes from the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Waikiki, Punchbowl Hill, as well as Kailua Beach.
Released several months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Abbott & Costello movie In the Navy (1941) is a comedy released during a time when the US was actively training service members. Dick Powell plays a crooner who escapes fame for a stint in the Navy, but a pesky reporter wants to expose him. World War II sweethearts The Andrews Sisters have several song numbers, as does Dick Powell. The hilarious duo Abbott & Costello are up to their usual hijinks. While mostly filmed in California, some of the movie was actually filmed at Pearl Harbor. This movie was intended as a follow-up to the army service comedy Buck Privates (1941).
This classic movie has it all. First, there is the stellar cast of Hollywood greats including Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed, and Ernest Borgnine. Then, you have the intriguing characters, dramatic and engaging plot lines, actors and actresses effectively playing against type, and plenty of on-location shooting. Set in the months just before the attack on Pearl Harbor, From Here to Eternity tells the story of soldiers stationed in Oahu. This film swept the Oscars and single-handedly revitalized Frank Sinatra’s then-waning career. The iconic scene of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr rolling around in the waves was filmed on Halona Cove beach on Oahu.
Pair previously mentioned classic From Here to Eternity with Otto Preminger’s WWII film In Harm’s Way. This film also has an amazing cast including John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Patricia Neal, Burgess Meredith, Dana Andrews, and Henry Fonda. It follows Navy officers starting on the eve of the Pearl Harbor attack and into the first year of America’s involvement in the war. Scenes were shot both in Hawaii and in California. Preminger’s epic recreates moments during WWII with attention to realism and the help of the US Department of Defense, who allowed the crew access to Navy cruisers and even provided them with transportation. If you’re like me and enjoy Preminger’s movies, this one is a must-see.
Filmed during the prime of Elvis Presley’s movie career, Blue Hawaii is the first of three Hawaii themed movies made by the legendary singer. Presley plays Chad, a young man fresh out of the army who decides not to take a job in the family business and becomes a tour guide instead. The soundtrack to the movie, including the classic Can’t Help Falling in Love, was a hit. The film was shot on location in Oahu as well as parts of Kaua’i. Locations include Hanuma Bay, Diamond Head, Waikiki and the Coco Palms Resort hotel. This film is best enjoyed with a Blue Hawaii cocktail complete with a wedge of pineapple and a little umbrella.
Raquel Stecher has been writing about classic films for the past decade on her blog Out of the Past. She attends the TCM Classic Film Festival as well as other events where old movie fanatics get together to geek out. Raquel has been a devoted DVD Netflix member since 2002! Follow her on her blog Out of the Past, or find her on Twitter @Quellelove and @ClassicFilmRead, Facebook, and Instagram.