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  • A younger, cuter Bobby than seen in the already available 'ESCAPE TO PARADISE', so all due thanks to the Perlinger Archive. Caught up, as usual, in a paper-thin storyline, Master Breen continues to cope well enough to emerge as that rare commodity, a likable moppet who fills his role in a delightfully natural way. A pre-Pearl Harbor Japanese bad guy is as tense as the drama ever gets but there are a couple of decent songs which almost survive the IL' missing frame caper. One thing about the Breen movies, money and time WERE spent on the musical side of things - and it shows. Despite this, the Archive is doing more to keep the 30's and alive than any other single source so, as an important part of that decade, this earns its place on any 30's listing.
  • The copy that I saw was cut down from 91 minutes to 62, and it shows the effect in some occasionally abrupt cuts. What remains gives a decent idea of what the plot is; Orphan Bobby Breen and pal stow away from San Francisco to Hawaii, get caught, charm Ned Sparks (!) and all, hotfoot it from the authorities in Honolulu and travel the islands, singing a lot of songs.

    Breen has a sweet boy's tenor, and he sings a lot of standards of the era, including an Irish ballad and "Song of the Islands". There's also a fine big-band version of Chabrier's "Espeana". It seems as if there's more singing than story in this Sol Lesser production; my guess is they cut story, which is fine by me. It's not as if it were a startling or particular original tale.

    There are lots of good actors in this Sol Lesser production, so that will amuse those who like to spot well-known faces. The Hawaiians seem to be played by ethnic Hawaiians. Bobby Breen's role and acting seem bland under the direction of Eddie Cline, but he certainly can sing.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    It's the friendship between young Breen and Hawaiian Pua Lani that is the highlight of this independent programmer focusing on the pre-teenaged soprano Breen who is due to be returned to San Francisco after stowing away on a ship bound for Honolulu with his Hawaiian pal Lani. They befriend brittle Ned Sparks who hides them in his room, but after they are discovered by the portly ship's captain, Irving S. Cobb, scheme to remain together once the ship reaches Hawaii. There, Breen hides out on a Maui plantation with the stereotypical Hilo Hattie look-alike. Of course, Breen is the one to uncover a plot by foreign agents to get their hands on secret papers, and this leads to an action-packed conclusion. Along the way, Breen sings, Hula dancers swing and sway, Sparks and Cobb continue to look sour (although Sparks gets in some good sarcastic lines while you fear that Cobb's face might crack into pieces if he smiles once Breen sings), and motherly passengers aboard the ship take an interest in the orphaned young lad. Gloria Holden, best known for her controversial role as "Dracula's Daughter", has a small part as one of the women on the ship, while producers predict conflict with the Japanese by having one of them involved in the spy ring. All in all, not bad, but Breen's singing voice might grate on some audience's nerves.
  • bkoganbing11 March 2012
    Hawaii Calls finds young Bobby Breen on a boy's life adventure trip to what would become our 50th state. The film is complete with Japanese spies and everything three years before we got into World War II.

    Truth be told orphan Breen hasn't got a whole lot going for him. His parents were killed in a plane crash, but he dreams of being a pilot like his aviator dad. On an impulse Breen and his pal Pua Lani stow away on a cruise ship bound for Honolulu. Would you believe that Ned Sparks takes pity on them and Breen gets to sing for his supper with the Raymond Paige orchestra which is the nightly entertainment on the boat.

    But Bobby and Pua jump ship and swim to shore before the law catches him and can send him back to the mainland. And on shore he gets involved with Pua's family and with another pair of tourists Naval commander Warren Hull and wife Gloria Holden. It's here where the nasty Japanese spies come into the story.

    No one outrightly says that the foreign power after some top secret documents that Hull is carrying is Japan, but in 1938 the Sino-Japanese War was in full swing with Japanese atrocities in China part of the newsreel footage being shown, no doubt with this film among others. A better picture could not be drawn.

    Some traditional Hawaiian songs were given to Bobby to sing and some new stuff written by Hawaiian composer Harry Owens who doubled as conductor of the Orchestra at Honolulu's famous Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Owens was fresh of his Oscar for Sweet Leilani which Bing Crosby introduced the year before in Waikiki Wedding.

    All in all a nice film from far more innocent times.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The awesome, curmudgeon-ly, cigar smokin', slow talking' Ned Sparks is "Strings"... a musician on a cruise ship to Hawaii. He comes across two munchkin stowaways, and helps them hide out. Bobby Breen is "Billy", who sings a couple songs in the film... but something doesn't sound quite right... the voice doesn't really match as he's singing, but if it's really him, maybe they are just playing a recording of him singing, as he lip-synchs to himself? anyway... the captain of the ship catches on, and puts him to work singing for his ticket. Billy (and Pua) escape to Hawaii, and meet up with Hina (Mamo Clark), who takes them in. Not much of a plot, really, and the sound and picture quality is terrible, but this is such an obscure film, I guess we're just lucky it's still around in any condition. and available on tcm.com! the editing is choppy and horrible. Interesting note -- on IMDb, the production for this film is listed as ""Bobby Breen Productions" .... which produced films 1936 - 1939. did they film this just for him to showcase his singing? looks that way. Ned Sparks in a sarong... looks like Hilo Hattie. Director Ed Cline had started out acting in the silent films, but quickly moved into directing, and into the talkies. It's a silly little story, but still a fun, south sea adventure, as long as you don't take it too seriously. Hawaii must have been just beautiful before it became tourist central.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This movie kind of gives me the creeps. While I loved seeing Ned Sparks and his deadpan delivery in films, here he is clearly in a strange plot. Two little orphan boys (one of whom is Bobby Breen) stow away on a cruise ship and are discovered by nice-guy Sparks. Instead of reporting them to the Captain like a sane person would, Sparks inexplicably agrees to hide them and befriends the pair of scamps. Creepy, huh? Would you let your kids hang out with a guy who looks and acts like Ned Sparks?! I think not! But in those days people didn't readily assume that the man was a pedophile, so I guess this weirdness and horrid adult behavior can be ignored....hopefully. It was actually not an original idea, having been done a year earlier in Paul Robson's "Big Fella"--and probably in quite a few other films as well.

    Unfortunately for the film, there really is no other plot through the first half of the film. It mostly just consisted of one musical number after another--not all of which featured Breen. Now as for Breen's singing, he was an incredible talent and was sort of like a boy version of Shirley Temple---though his voice was considerably higher and more feminine. Talented, surely, but also a bit strange when you hear this girlie and very refined voice coming from the lad. Hmmm...a boy with a girl's voice hanging out with Sparks and another boy...this DOESN'T look good, does it?! In the second portion, there is a bit of a plot involving some crooks and the ship's Captain but none of this really was developed properly, as the film had song after song after song--and the plot seemed rather unimportant, actually. As for the songs, they're pretty pleasant but old fashioned and probably NOT the type the average viewer would enjoy. As a result of this plethora of songs and darn little plot, I really wouldn't really recommend this film. However, history buffs might find this interesting as this 1938 does have a subplot involving enemy agents trying to sabotage our bases in Hawaii--just three years before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor!