1 August 2015 | bkoganbing
New found black heritage
Having never read the book I can't comment on it, but it seems that the political implications of Alec Waugh's novel was largely sacrificed for the romance. Island In The Sun is a big old romance novel set in a British crown colony just as the United Kingdom was getting shed of its colonial empire. The island at one time was a part of the French empire to explain the name of Fleury as one of the island's big plantation owners. Their romantic entanglements form the basis of the novel.
Basil Sydney and Diana Wynyard are the head of the Fleurys and they have two surviving children James Mason and Joan Collins. Mason is married to Patricia Owens and he suspects her of having an affair with a rather dissolute, but charming doctor Michael Rennie. Collins is kanoodling big time with Stephen Boyd the governor's son and would be peer. The governor's aide John Justin is having a fling with Dorothy Dandridge. But most shocking of all another plantation heiress Joan Fontaine is considering taking up with Harry Belafonte who sings a couple of Jamaican ballads which is always good.
That interracial kiss between Belafonte and Fontaine was daring and groundbreaking and no doubt Island In The Sun had zero bookings in the American South. How silly we were back then.
A story about the Fleury family reveals that Sydney's grandmother was black though I'm sure she could have passed. That sets in motion some radical reassessment of the family's status. They still have their money, but not entry into some of the best homes. Mason who has decided to stand for the local parliament with his opponent being Belafonte tries to exploit his new found black heritage with disastrous results. It ends in tragedy, but also in a strange twist happiness for one of the Fleurys as it is discovered the parents have their secrets.
Harry Belafonte and James Mason stand out in this film. Belafonte has some real screen charisma. As for Mason his is a complex role of a strange man with a brooding inferiority complex that was acting out even before the news of his great grandmother.
And of course the West Indies looks nice. I'm sure the original novel had more of the political situation of the time in it. Island In The Sun the movie drained most of that and we get a tropical soap opera instead.