The Blue Lagoon (1949)

Synopsis:

Two young cousins survive a shipwreck with help of an old sailor. The castaways find a gorgeous island and the old man teaches the young kids survival techniques. After the sailor dies, the kids grow into adolescence and discover love and sex.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Henry De Vere Stacpoole’s 1908 novel The Blue Lagoon is largely known today through the 1980 smash hit, starring Brooke Shields. Directed by Frank Launder (I See a Dark Stranger), this nearly-forgotten British adaptation of the turn-of-the-century novel has the same flaws and virtues of its ’80s counterpart. The Blue Lagoon is a technically proficient, good-looking film with likable actors, hampered by lazy writing. The script by Launder, John Baines, and Michael Hogan needed some sprucing up!

I was a bit surprised that the movie past the censors of the time. There is, of course, no nudity, but the filmmakers don’t do much to hide what’s really happening on the island. It’s clear that these youngsters spend all their time having sex, which eventually result in a pregnancy. Ah, horror, horror, horror! They aren’t even married! (there IS a “mock wedding,” a silly attempt to appease moralists). The Blue Lagoon parallels the Biblical story of Adam & Eve — there is even a forbidden fruit — so I’m assuming that the censors felt that anything inspired by the Bible must be okay.

Jean Simmons (Elmer Gantry) and Donald Houston (Room at the Top) play the lustful teens (Marilyn Monroe and Roger Moore were among the actors who auditioned for the roles!). The actors are very good at suggesting sexual desire. A look, a smile, a gesture, Simmons and Houston work hard to clue you in on what’s going through their minds. Simmons, in particular, is very effective at acting with her eyes. Cyril Cusack (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold) has a small role as a villainous sailor.

It’s too bad that I couldn’t fully appreciate the film’s biggest asset, Geoffrey Unsworth’s (Cabaret and Superman) Technicolor cinematography, because the print I watched is in much-need of restoration. There is also the then practice of combining studio footage with outdoors scenes that works against the movie.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Aside from a subplot about pearl-thieves, the older The Blue Lagoon is very similar to the remake. This is actually the second version of the story. The novel was first filmed in 1923 (it looks as if the silent version has been lost forever). Taking in consideration the huge popularity of the 1980 movie, I’m not sure why the 1949 version is not more readily available. I’m sure that fans of the remake will enjoy the 1940s British film. At the very least, it is great fun to compare the two movies. Color, 101 minutes, Not Rated.

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5 responses to “The Blue Lagoon (1949)

  1. Wow, I am impressed they were able to get this past the censors, too. It makes one wonder very much what the silent film was like, too.

    I hope they restore this sometime. It looks like it would be lovely to behold!

    Liked by 1 person

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