Tahiti in Fiction and
Over the years, Tahiti and Polynesia provided novelists and movie makers with colorful subjects. Early travelers told about illegal women on tropical banks, and Fletcher Christian added drama to the plot by leading a muitery against tyrannical captain Bligh.
In 1934, American writers Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall released the Bounty Trilogy. This three-quarter novel deals with Christian muery about the Bounty, the escape of Bligh and his loyal crew members to Dutch Timor, and the colonization of Pitcairn Island by Christian and his co-workers.
The novel was an immediate bestseller, and director Frank Lloyd started it soon in a movie, Mutiny on the Bounty, with Charles Laughton and Clark Gable. In accordance with the mood of his time, the muitery was presented as a simplistic battle between good and evil, and the film won an Oscar for the Best Picture in 1935.
Ageneration later Marlon Brando flew to Tahiti into a staggering remake of Mutiny on the Bounty. MGM’s 1962 production is still considered to be the most spectacular film ever made in the Southern Pacific, among other things through the beautiful landscape of Tahiti and Bora Bora. Thousands of Tahitian extras appeared in the film, and Brando is married to his first lady, Tarita Teriipaia.
In 1984, another version of The Bounty was released, with Sir Anthony Hopkins as a decisive Bligh and Mel Gibson as a double-minded Christian. Of the three Bounty movies it is probably the most historically accurate, and it is definitely the one with the greatest psychological depth. It was largely filmed in Moorea’s Opunohu Bay.
Another Nordhoff and Hall novel, The Hurricane, was brought twice to the silver screen. John Hall’s 1937 film depicts a young couple fleeing a despotic governor. In 1978 Dino de Laurentiis reproduced the hurricane on Bora Bora, along with Mia Farrow and Trevor Howard. The resort built for the Laurentiis team still exists as the Sofitel Marara.
British novelist W. Somerset Maugham also had close ties with the Southern Pacific. In 1943 Albert Lewin filmed The Moon and Sixpence, Maugham’s fictional version of Paul Gauguin’s life in Polynesia. The nonconformist painter’s incompatibility with French colonial life gave Maugham an excuse to explore the role of the artist in society. Another famous Maugham story, Rain, which takes place in Samoa, has been made several times in a movie.
Other well-known writers who made Tahitian legend include Herman Melville, Pierre Loti, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jack London, Rupert Brooke and James A. Michener. Their stories, plays and films helped to create the myth of a South Sea paradise. And even today, Tahiti and Polynesia look like romanticists who want to live their part of the dream.