His Majesty O'Keefe
|His Majesty O'Keefe|
|Directed by||Byron Haskin|
|Produced by||Harold Hecht|
|Written by||Lawrence Klingman (novel)
Gerald Green (novel)
|Music by||Dimitri Tiomkin (original score)
Robert Farnon (alternate score: UK release)
|Edited by||Manuel del Campo|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$2.5 million (US & Canada rentals)|
His Majesty O'Keefe is a 1954 adventure film starring Burt Lancaster. The film was directed by Byron Haskin and Otto Heller and included choreography by Daniel Nagrin. The cast also included Joan Rice, André Morell, Abraham Sofaer, Archie Savage, and Benson Fong.
Captain David O'Keefe (Burt Lancaster), seeking his fortune in the 19th century South Pacific, decides to enlist island natives to harvest copra, but runs into a wall of cultural problems. Backed by a Chinese dentist, he obtains a ship and sets about harvesting copra while fending off cantankerous native chieftains and ambitious German empire-builders. The natives, happy with their existence, see no reason to work hard to obtain copra, either for a German trading company or for O'Keefe. He finally motivates them by showing them how to produce large quantities of Rai stones, the stone money of Yap, their valued coinage.
The film was partly shot on location in the South Pacific in Fiji - not Yap. Also, indigenous people and customs/dances portrayed in the movie were Fijian. Some pre-production was done out of Sydney, Australia and a number of Australian actors had roles in the supporting cast. Haskin later returned to Australia to make Long John Silver (1954).
- Burt Lancaster as Captain David O'Keefe / Narrator
- Joan Rice as Dalabo aki Dali
- André Morell as Alfred Tetens
- Abraham Sofaer as Fatumak, Medicine Man
- Charles Horvath as Bully Hayes
- Lloyd Berrell
- Grant Taylor
- Guy Doleman
- Tessa Prendergast as Kakofel
- Harvey Adams
- Muriel Steinbeck
- Philip Ahn as Sien Tang, Dentist and O'Keefe's partner
The story is based on the life of a sailor named David O'Keefe who in 1871 was shipwrecked on Yap in the Caroline Islands, where he found the natives highly prized Rai stones quarried at great effort and danger on the island of Palau. He organized the natives to produce the large stone disks by employing modern methods and then used them to buy copra for coconut oil. The stones he produced were not valued as highly as those obtained by traditional methods due to the lack of personal sacrifice in their production, and the effect of an inflationary over-production.
- Kate Buford, Burt Lancaster: An American Life, Da Capo 2000 p 124
- 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1954', Variety Weekly, January 5, 1955
- Klingman, Lawrence; Green, Gerald (1950). His Majesty O'Keefe. NY: Charles Scribner's Sons.
- Chujoy, Anatole. The Dance Encyclopedia. (Simon and Schuster, 1967)