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High Barbaree
High Barbaree (1947)
Movie
  • Director:
    Jack Conway
  • Category:
  • Writer:
    Anne Morrison Chapin,Whitfield Cook
  • Cast:
    Van Johnson,June Allyson,Thomas Mitchell
  • Time:
    1h 31min
  • Year:
    1947
Van Johnson is a navy pilot in WWII, who has been shot down in the Pacific on a bombing mission. He and a wounded comrade are the only survivors of the mission and are lost at sea. As they await rescue, Van Johnson recants his life's story and romance with girlfriend, June Allyson. It's a wonderful wholesome movie that the whole family will enjoy. Written by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, the authors of Mutiny on the Bounty.
Casts
Complete credited cast:
Van Johnson Van Johnson - Alec Brooke
June Allyson June Allyson - Nancy Frazer
Thomas Mitchell Thomas Mitchell - Capt. Thad Vail
Marilyn Maxwell Marilyn Maxwell - Diana Case
Cameron Mitchell Cameron Mitchell - Lt. Joe Moore
Claude Jarman Jr. Claude Jarman Jr. - Alec (Age 14)
Henry Hull Henry Hull - Dr. William G. Brooke
Geraldine Wall Geraldine Wall - Mrs. Martha Brooke
Barbara Brown Barbara Brown - Della Parkson
Paul Harvey Paul Harvey - John Case
Charles Evans Charles Evans - Colonel Taylor

High Barbaree (1947)

The original ending for the film had Van Johnson hearing over his radio that the ship on which his lady-love, June Allyson, was serving had been sunk. Johnson then died and the picture ended. The New York Times reported on November 17, 1946 that 40 percent of the audience opinion cards handed out at a preview of the film in Los Angeles demanded that Johnson's character live. MGM spent $50,000 to shoot scenes for a new ending, which also had Allyson's character surviving as well.

Third of six movies that paired June Allyson and Van Johnson.

"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on January 24, 1949 with Van Johnson reprising his film role.

This film received its USA television premiere Saturday 13 October 1956 when it inaugurated the television presentation of the 700+ title MGM film library on WFIL (Channel 6) in Philadelphia; it was next telecast in Los Angeles Friday 26 October 1956 on KTTV (Channel 11) , in Altoona PA Saturday 17 November 1956 on WFBG (Channel 10, in Seattle 2 December 1956 on KING (Channel 5), in New York City Saturday 29 December 1956 on WCBS (Channel 2) and in Chicago Saturday 16 March 1957 on WBBM (Channel 2); in Minneapolis it first aired 2 October 1957 on KMGM (Channel 9) and in San Francisco 2 February 1958 on KGO (Channel 7).

The tornado footage and sounds was recycled from the Wizard of Oz (1939). It was also reused in Cabin in the Sky (1943).

Kahavor
Kahavor
This is just a great movie. Part romance, part Leave it to Beaver, part mystical journey. And part Norman Rockwell, Tom Sawyer, and PT 109 for that matter! It is a very simple story of a downed U.S. Navy flier relating his upbringing and romances to a fellow flier. But it is just so beautifully done and filled with the laughter and tears, triumph and tragedies of life that is is irresistable.
Weiehan
Weiehan
I grew up watching movies from the 30's and 40's as a kid in the 50's. The early days of T.V. had a lot of time to fill and they did it with movies. Remember the Fabulous 52!, a movie of the week at 11:15 on Saturday nights? I probably knew those movies better than the ones from my own era. I was a particular fan of Van Johnson and June Allyson. This movie haunted me and my youthful imagination. I probably first saw this movie at age 12 when it was already 10 years old. Everyone needs a 'High Barbaree' in his life, a dream put there by some crazy uncle like the character Thomas Mitchell plays so well in this movie. I wish they'd put this movie on DVD so I could buy it and show it to my family and friends.
Lo◘Ve
Lo◘Ve
This is a wonderful, romantic drama. A navy pilot played by Van Johnson crashes in the Pacific not far from a make believe island named High Barbaree. June Allyson plays the childhood sweetheart. While the downed flier drifts in his crashed plane, he recounts his life story to his injured buddy. The cast is fleshed out by Thomas Mitchell, Marilyn Maxwell and Cameron Mitchell. A tale of true romance and love never ending. Just super!
Dondallon
Dondallon
I remember seeing this movie when I was around 11, one rainy Saturday afternoon, with my father. It's stuck with me all these years (I'm 46 now) and I wish I could see it again! I could be romanticizing it a bit based on memory of days long past, but I remember it well enough to know that it WAS a great movie despite the tricks the years may have played on me. It was indeed an unusual mixture of adventure, romance and fantasy - but what makes it unusual also makes it unique and well worth watching. I know I turned it on originally because of the phrase 'World War II' that I spotted in the TV Guide - but the war really has little bearing on how the story plays out. If you happen to see it advertised on TV, be sure and watch it - I've been waiting for years now, and have only seen it listed once (but sadly I wasn't home at the time and couldn't see it).
Gravelblade
Gravelblade
Van Johnson and June Allyson head a talented cast in this enchantingly dotty romantic fantasy about true love in peace and war. The romance begins when they're children, and the childhood scenes have some charmingly surreal moments, such as when the two run away to join the circus. Someone must have been reading Freud in his spare time when making this one. There are enough symbols, phallic and otherwise, to fill a fair-sized textbook. Director Jack Conway did an admirable job on the film, with beautifully composed shots which at times recall the best silent pictures. He had flair for investing what are, on the surface, mundane images,--a water tower, a tropical island--with a subliminal power rare in a Hollywood movie. Since much of the story is related in flashback, there's a slight but unmistakable distortion involved in what unfolds on the screen that makes the movie feel at times like a dream. There are strange, abrupt transitions,--a storm comes seemingly out of nowhere--that make the movie resonate in one's memory years after one has seen it. Corny as hell, this is in many respects a remarkable film.
Modifyn
Modifyn
This is one of the stranger plots I've seen in a film in some time. Now I am not saying it's bad--just odd. My advice is stick with it--as the film progresses, it gets better--even if the 'High Barbaree' concept is bizarre and unnecessary.

"High Barbaree" begins during WWII. Van Johnson is the pilot of a Catalina seaplane. During a mission bombing an enemy sub (a pretty typical sort of thing for this slow plane), it gets the sub--but the sub gets the plane. Johnson and one other crew member survive the attack but the plane ditches in the ocean and the engines are shot. Their only hope is to be picked up or find land before they die from lack of food and water. During the interim, Johnson talks to his wounded comrade--telling him his life story as well as stories about his uncle (Thomas Mitchell) and his fictional land of Barbaree (this name, by the way, is taken from a sea chantey). He also talks about his love for his childhood sweetheart (June Allison).

As I said above, the island of High Barbaree was totally unnecessary to the plot in my opinion. However, the love story between Allison and Johnson was very nice, as they both had a nice boy and girl next door look. These parts of the film were quite romantic as well. All in all, the film is a bit flawed but well worth seeing. Thank goodness MGM changed the original ending--it sounds absolutely dreadful (see the IMDb trivia for more on this).
Nawenadet
Nawenadet
Love, innocence, and purity cast into a world gone mad. An eternal tale. Brilliant. Fortuitous in its timing. Simple and uncluttered. I happened upon this film while home during my freshman year in high school. Seems like an eternity ago. Have not seen it since. Not for want of trying but maybe some things are just not meant to be. I cannot find this film anywhere. 46 years old now and with plenty of scars of my own from this world of ours, I seem to recall the film at the oddest times. And in the heat of battle I'm not exactly sure it had me ducking or charging. But it always had me smiling. Frankly I'm not one to judge any film. Certainly High Barbaree tells of the greatest story one can tell. This particular film just seems to tell it unforgettably.
Skillet
Skillet
I first saw this film as a young child and then again as a teen. This is my favorite movie of all time. No sex, no violence, no obscenities, just a fantastic comedic-dramatic romance. Van Johnson and June Allyson probably never made a bad movie but this must be their best. Van is handsome, heroic and lovable as a pilot downed at sea reminiscing about his life and love. June is the girlfriend who refuses to believe her love is lost at sea and searches for him. Of course there is a happy ending. This show is not sappy or silly but I guess it would make a first class "chick flick". Guys, you cannot go wrong watching this with a lady. If you see this film I'm sure you'll agree it is as good as or better than other more famous movies. Don't miss this, you're guaranteed to feel good!
Low_Skill_But_Happy_Deagle
Low_Skill_But_Happy_Deagle
Van Johnson plays a downed flier in the Pacific War, the only survivor with his co-pilot Cameron Mitchell in a plane they've managed to make seaworthy and float. As a lad he was told some tall tales of a legendary island like Shangri-La in the Pacific called High Barbaree. He and that teller of tall tales Johnson's uncle Thomas Mitchell actually plotted where the island should be and low and behold Johnson and Cameron Mitchell are down in the Pacific right where this mythical island is supposed to be.

In reading some of the books on western voyages of discovery a number of mapmakers in the 15th. 16th, and 17th centuries made mention of a mythical island called Hy-Brasil. You'll find it on many charts of the period. How the legend started who knows, but it was real to a lot of people just as High Barbaree is here.

On that voyage Johnson tells Cameron Mitchell all about his life in flashbacks, about High Barbaree and about his life and choice of career. The women aren't left out as he has two women interested in him, girl next door June Allyson and rich girl Marilyn Maxwell.

High Barbaree is a nice film about the hopes and dreams of one young man who went to war. Does Van Johnson find High Barbaree? For that you watch the film for.
Arakus
Arakus
I hope the following words do not turn some folks off on this truly good movie. It is a sweet movie! Want to get lost in something nice, get this movie, want to feel good about friendship and romance, get this movie. I usually say "the actors did their job and earned their pay," well they surely did in this one. With me, anything June Allyson did was super for me. With Mr. Johnson, I can say, I like just about all of the work he has done, that I have seen. Brigadoon, is one of my favorites with him. When the movie started they had me, and took me along with the story, and I am very glad they did. To all involved with this movie, thank you.
BroWelm
BroWelm
I had the feeling while watching this film that MGM though they had something truly special here. In reality, they have -- at best -- a rather average movie. There were two things about the film I really disliked. The pre-teen main character...well, I have seen far better child actors. But what really sealed this picture for me -- and I mean that in a negative sense -- was the segment with the bicycle ride at the circus, which was so preposterous...well, someone should have said to the director and screen writes -- "Are you nuts?" And then there's the ending...which I won't give away. The ending should have been expanded so that the audience would fully understand what High Barbaree actually was. But suddenly, the movie was simply over.

Having said those things, however, I do have to say that this film has some redeeming qualities. There are some very fine segments here, especially back in the home town. But even more impressive is the acting by Van Johnson in the scenes when he is near death...perhaps the finest in his career.

I really suggest that those who have a chance watch this film. It's intriguing, despite its faults. Recommended.
Memuro
Memuro
This movie should be on DVD, and I hope that enough comments to that effect will get it marketed. There are some similarities to the film Captain Eddie, the biopic about the life of Eddie Rickenbacker (aircraft in ocean, survivors drifting, flashbacks of biography), but unlike the highly fictionalized biography of Rickenbacker, High Barbaree deals with fictional characters. Without giving away anything, I should warn anyone who might read the book by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall (who also wrote Mutiny on the Bounty) that the book ending is different than the film ending. Also, not mentioned by the other comments is that this film contains action footage of a PBY attacking an enemy ship, a really rare scene in World War II films. I can't think of another film that shows a PBY in action, and High Barbaree does it very well.
Anardred
Anardred
I haven't seen this for decades, but I do remember it. The pilot, reminiscing to his shipmate, while downed on a tropical island, goes on and on about his past experiences, including his dream since childhood about an island paradise called High Barbaree.

On and on he goes, as one reviewer observed, slowly boring his companion to death. And the theme and throughout his ramblings, the subject of High Barbaree recurs.

SPOILER FOLLOWS: Toward the end of the film, a Polynesian native appears, and offers him entry to High Barbaree, but he realizes that he shouldn't go there then. Not if he wants to keep on living. For High Barbaree _is_ Paradise (as in Heaven).

It's a very slow film, but there have been far worse.
Vudogal
Vudogal
This is truly awful stuff from MGM for two of its most popular stars during the forties--and even the presence of CAMERON MITCHELL in a supporting role--where he must listen and listen to VAN JOHNSON rambling on and on about his childhood past and his attachment to sweetheart JUNE ALLYSON, doesn't save the film from floundering in a sea of sentimental mush. Nor does the presence of THOMAS MITCHELL as Johnson's uncle help matters.

A plane crash has the two men (Johnson and Cameron Mitchell) sitting on a raft in the middle of the ocean awaiting uncertain rescue and much of the story is told in boring, sentimental flashbacks to the Navy flier's early life and subsequent romance. Johnson has long-winded monologues and all of them are dreadful to listen to. It's a wonder he and Allyson kept their box-office popularity as long as they did with flimsy material like this.

Even the good support from CAMERON MITCHELL and MARILYN MAXWELL doesn't help overcome the weak script, an odd blend of fantasy about an island called High Barbaree and idealized romance. Unfortunately, it doesn't work on any level at all, let alone as a vehicle for Van Johnson and June Allyson.
SmEsH
SmEsH
Today, I took out a disc of June Allyson & Van Johnson films I had recorded when she was Star of the Month earlier this year. The first film I watched is the one I want to mention now. It was HIGH BARBAREE. Another reviewer on the IMDb says it is part Leave It to Beaver and part mystical journey, and I really like that description. I think it also resembles a well-crafted episode of The Twilight Zone.

The picture is bolstered by MGM's top-notch production values, and the leads are well restrained and ably supported by Thomas Mitchell and Cameron Mitchell (no relation). There is also an early performance by Claude Jarman Jr. that really stands out and captures the viewers' attention. I feel like with so many excellent elements, this is a film that should be more widely known. It's a relatively unheralded classic.
Mala
Mala
This film is good to see because you may follow some logics of the development of two children, a boy (Van Johnson) and a girl (June Allyson), but to me this is doubtful to happen. You may love a girl living together in the same site and house, but as a sister, to have other feelings seem to me difficult and strange. However, the film can be seen and it is certainly nice. Van Johnson acts as the eternal US navy officer, so many films and he is acting in one way or another as a military, while Allyson is as usual tender and nice. Good acting as usual from an underrated wonderful supporting actor as Thomas Mitchell.
Crazy
Crazy
Director: JACK CONWAY. Screenplay: Anne Morrison Chapin, Whitfield Cook, Cyril Hume. Based on the 1945 novel by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall. Photography: Sidney Wagner. Film editor: Conrad A. Nervig. Music: Herbert Stothart. Art directors: Cedric Gibbons, Gabriel Scognamillo. Set decorators: Edwin B. Willis, Ralph S. Hurst. Costume supervisor: Irene. Special effects: A. Arnold Gillespie, Warren Newcombe. Technical adviser: Lieutenant John B. Muir, Jr. Assistant director: George Rheim. Sound supervisor: Douglas Shearer. Western Electric Sound System. Producer: Everett Riskin.

Copyright 6 March 1947 by Loew's Inc. An M-G-M picture. New York opening at the Capitol, supporting Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians, plus Jean Carroll, The Pitchmen and Lathrop & Lee: 5 June 1947. U.S. release: May 1947. U.K. release: 23 June 1947. Australian release: 22 May 1947. 8,294 feet. 92 minutes.

SYNOPSIS: Adrift in the Pacific during WW2, the survivor of a downed aircraft tries to keep his companion's spirits up by telling him the story of his life.

COMMENT: A perennial Friday flick, "High Barbaree" was still being booked for midweek double bills in the early 1960s. The reason for its remarkable longevity wasn't due to any entertainment merits in the movie itself. Universally judged to be a very mediocre show, "High Barbaree" had the box-office strength of June Allyson and Van Johnson (two of MGM's most popular stars), plus its intriguing premise and catchy title, plus its basis in a novel by "The Mutiny on the Bounty" team, Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall — plus a great trailer.

All of these pluses drew the patrons in. And if they left the theater a bit unsatisfied, they had only themselves to blame for expecting too much from a Friday feature.

In actual fact the script is just awful. Full of sickening sentiment and hogwash philosophy! The acting of the principals is likewise below par. Johnson especially tends to out-stay his welcome. And even normally steady character players like Thomas Mitchell don't shine so brightly.

Maybe director Jack Conway can carry the blame. Not only is the acting ragged, but compositions appear haphazard, angles don't match, and lighting changes abruptly. My guess is that Conway and Wagner didn't start the film at all but were brought in halfway through to try to clean up someone else's mess.

Whatever, the direction is mostly inept, the photography jarringly inconsistent.

Nonetheless, despite their surrounding seas of trouble, some scenes do have a certain appeal: The water-tower. The circus bicycle. The tornado. These sequences, and a few others, are genuinely moving. But all that stuff on the ocean waves with Cameron Mitchell — a boring actor if ever there was one — is strictly for poverty lane.
Liarienen
Liarienen
***SPOILERS*** Crash landing their plane in the far out South Pacific during a bombing run on the Japanese fleet the two surviving pilot and navigator Let. Alec Brook & Let. Joe Moore, Van Johnson & Cameron Mitchell, find themselves low on water and on the verge of dying of dehydration if their not found on time. It's during that time in waiting and hoping to be rescued that Alec goes into this long narrative, coupled with an almost hour long flashback, about this mythical island High Barbaree in the South Pacific that his uncle Thad Vail, Thomas Mitchell, always told him about until it came out of his ears. As luck would have it, and Brooke & Moore needed all the luck they can get, that island is supposed to be in the vicinity where their plane, ironically also named "High Barbaree",crash landed!

We get to see the life and times as well as loves of young and later grown up Alex Brooke in a number of flashbacks that mostly take place in his hometown Westview Iowa. it was in Westview that Alec met little Nancy Fraser, June Allyson, whom he planned, at the age of 10,to marry when the two grew up. As it turned Nancy and her parents moved to the state of Montana and Alec soon lost track of her. Now, still in flashback, Alec has become the vice president of an aircraft company and is engaged to the boss' classy and beautiful daughter Diana Case, played by the drop dead gorgeous Marilyn Maxwell, when what seems like out of nowhere Nancy, now a navy nurse, pops back into his life! You can just imagine what major complications that brought into poor, in choosing between Nancy & Diana, Alec's life.

Saved by the bell or the attack on Pearl Harbor Alec now in the Navy fighting the Japs, and not sitting behind a desk, seemed to have dropped Diana,what a jerk, and is now free to marry his long lost love Nancy! But as things or fate turned out Nancy dropped him in return and is now engaged to marry this navy man that she met while on duty in Honolulu! So where does the mythical island of High Barbaree fit into all this?

****SPOILERS**** Well between all the BS that we and Joe go through listening to Alec story about the mythical island of High Barbaree it did served it's purpose in keeping the two clinging to life in hoping they'd find it up until help finally arrived! It's there in a dream sequence at High Barbaree that Alec, Joe by then had died from thirst and high fever, met this smiling Polynesian Chieftain Tangaror, played by native Hawaiian actor Al Kikume, who guided a shocked as well as happy Alec not only onto the island of mystery but to his hometown of Westview Iowa as well! The very predictable ending which shall remain nameless had all the qualities and trappings of your typical and phony Hollywood feel good happy ending! And it was that ending as well as Alec doing the brainless as well as unthinkable by dumping Diana for Nancy , which was like trading in a RollsRoyce for a Volkswagen, that made to film not all that believable to begin, or end, with.