George Clooney, Elvis, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon Star in Hanalei Movies
If you love Hanalei (and who doesn’t!) and you also love movies, then you may want to check out some of the major Hollywood movies that have featured this beautiful town and bay on Kauai’s north shore.
Hanalei first came before the eyes of the world in the 1950 film Pagan Love Song, a Technicolor musical that was the first major movie to be filmed totally on Kauai and included scenes filmed in Hanalei. Actress Esther Williams played Mimi Bennett and a highlight of the movie was her water ballet.
The on-site filming of Pagan Love Song was the beginning of a new trend in Hollywood in which authentic scenery was brought to the big screen for the millions of GI’s coming back from World War II.
In 1951 a Technicolor Polynesian epic called Bird of Paradise was filmed on Kauai including scenes on Hanalei Bay. Starring Jeff Chandler, one memorable scene in Bird of Paradise included hundreds of Hawaiian dancers as well as a Polynesian voyaging canoe near the Hanalei Pier.
In 1953 Rita Hayworth starred in Miss Sadie Thompson with scenes filmed in Hanalei which represented New Caledonia. She plays a nightclub singer who encounters some tough United States Marines.
The young Tony Curtis starred in Beachhead in 1954 including scenes filmed at Hanalei Pier. The plot of Beachhead involves a courageous unit of U.S. Marines before a major U.S. assault, and Kauai represents a dense jungle island which has been taken over by the Japanese. Also starring in Beachhead were Mary Murphy and Frank Lovejoy.
When the award-winning South Pacific was filmed on Kauai in 1957 the island of took on a new role as a preferred setting for enchantment and romance. The Birkmyre Estate overlooking Hanalei Bay was used in the movie, and the opening scenes were filmed at Black Pot Beach Park at the mouth of the Hanalei River.
Hanalei Bay was also featured in Naked Paradise/Thunder Over Hawaii in 1957. The movie is about three modern-day pirates who sail a yacht around and rob plantation owners. Stars of the movie include Beverly Garland as well as Richard Denning (as Duke) who later starred as the Governor on the Hawaii Five-O television series.
Hanalei Bay was featured yet again in the movie She Gods of Shark Reef in 1958 starring Don Durant and Lisa Montell. Hanalei and nearby Haena represent a tropical paradise that is ruled by a stone god and inhabited by exotic pearl-diving women, one of whom is chosen to be sacrificed setting the stage for her rescue by two American brothers.
Hanalei Movies of the 1960s – Jack Lemmon and Elvis
In 1961 Hanalei Bay was a New Guinea allied base in Wackiest Ship in the Army starring with Jack Lemmon portraying Lieutenant Rip Crandall in charge of a crew of misfit sailors, one of whom was Ricky Nelson.
National Guardsmen drove vintage army transports to Hanalei and portrayed Japanese and Allied soldiers. Unfortunately the filming barge at Hanalei Pier came loose twice and damaged the pier. Repairs had to be paid for by the film studio and barge company.
In 1965 Elvis Presley starred as Rick Richards in Paradise Hawaiian Style with some scenes filmed at the Princeville Airport. In the movie Elvis plays Rick Richards who runs a tour aircraft business and gets into trouble due to his affection for different girls.
Hanalei Movies of the 70s and 80s – Gene Hackman and Patrick Swayze
Hollywood was back in Hanalei in 1978 to film scenes for Acapulco Gold in which drug smugglers hijack yachts creating a series of escapes. Hanalei was also the backdrop for the tongue-in-cheek low-budget adventure film Seven in 1978 with a plot involving seven men hired to stop a crime syndicate trained in martial arts.
In 1983 it was Behold Hawaii that featured the Hokulea voyaging canoe sailing off of Hanalei Bay. The movie is about Hawaiian youths rediscovering the spiritual beliefs of their ancestors.
That same year Hanalei’s taro patches represented Vietnamese rice paddies in Uncommon Valor starring Gene Hackman and Patrick Swayze. A daring rescue of G.I.’s from the Viet Cong in Hanalei Valley included two Vietnam-era Huey helicopters shipped to Kauai just for the scene.
Recent Movies Featuring Hanalei – Kevin Costner and George Clooney
Dragonfly in 2002 starred Kevin Costner and was another major movie showing local scenes including the Princeville Airport as well as many scenes of north shore Kauai wilderness representing the Venezuelan jungle.
In The Descendants which wrapped up filming in Hanalei last spring Kauai will play itself rather than portraying some other exotic location. In the film George Clooney plays a Honolulu attorney who is also a descendant of a Hawaiian princess.