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    Paradise Found

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    “This year…give paradise!” That invitation headlined the ticket-touting newspaper ads Manhattan’s DeMille Theatre ran in December 1966 for their current smash roadshow engagement run of Hawaii, the sprawling adaptation of part of James Michener’s best-selling novel about the turbulent history of our 50th state. As befits most screen epics, its production was not a paradisical experience but the finished product pleased audiences who devoured the book, fell in love with Julie Andrews in the preceding one-two punch of Mary Poppins (1964) and The Sound of Music (1965), and were curious about the other faces of Ingmar Berman alumnus Max von Sydow, who had played a charismatic Christ in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). The adaptation delivered, in The New York Times’ Vincent Canby’s view, “a cavalcade of conventional if sometimes eye-popping scenes of storm and seascape, of pomp and pestilence, all laid out in brilliant strokes of DeLuxe color on the huge Panavision screen.” Dalton Trumbo and Daniel Taradash’s screenplay focused on the sections of the book covering the arrival of the first American missionaries in the 1820s, and George Roy Hill, who stepped into the director’s chair after its first occupant Fred Zinnemann stepped out when he decided he couldn’t shape the streamlining of the book’s colossal narrative to his satisfaction, kept the human relationships front and center amid the elaborate scenic and historical trappings. One of the year’s top box-office successes, it captured seven Academy Award® nominations (including one for Tahitian Jocelyne LaGarde as Best Supporting Actress in what would be her only movie role as the royal Malama Kanakoa), while burnishing the reputations of Andrews, von Sydow and co-star Richard Harris and giving showy roles to future stars Gene Hackman, Carroll O’Connor, John Cullum and Hawaiian-born Bette Midler as (ever so quickly) a seagoing passenger. Elmer Bernstein’s majestic, evocative score (one of the seven aforementioned Oscar® nods) will be showcased on an Isolated Score Track. Andrews, Hill and Bernstein would felicitously reteam the following year on Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), so the experience of making Hawaii might have been at least semi-paradise for some. Twilight Time’s upcoming release contains two versions of the film: the 161-minute General Release Version in 16x9 1080p hi-def and the 189-minute Original Roadshow Version as first reconstructed from pre-print elements and released on VHS and Laserdisc in 1990 but no longer available, in 4x3 letterbox standard definition. Not quite paradise? Take the journey and see if this movie’s potent storytelling, visual beauty and blend of seasoned and novice talents might just colonize you. Hawaii debuts on TT hi-def Blu-ray January 19. Preorders open January 6.