Island in the Sun (film)

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Island in the Sun
Island in the Sun 1957.jpg
Film poster by Jock Hinchliffe
Directed byRobert Rossen
Produced byDarryl F. Zanuck
Written byAlfred Hayes
Based onIsland in the Sun
by Alec Waugh
StarringJames Mason
Harry Belafonte
Joan Fontaine
Joan Collins
Dorothy Dandridge
Michael Rennie
Music byMalcolm Arnold
CinematographyFreddie Young
Edited byReginald Beck
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • June 12, 1957 (1957-06-12)
Running time
119 mins
CountryUnited States
Box office$5 million (US and Canada rentals)[2]

Island in the Sun is a 1957 De Luxe in CinemaScope drama film produced by Darryl F. Zanuck and directed by Robert Rossen. It features an ensemble cast including James Mason, Harry Belafonte, Joan Fontaine, Joan Collins, Dorothy Dandridge, Michael Rennie, Stephen Boyd, Patricia Owens, John Justin, Diana Wynyard, and Basil Sydney. The film is about race relations and interracial romance set in the fictitious island of Santa Marta. Barbados and Grenada were selected as the sites for the movie based on the 1955 novel by Alec Waugh. The film was controversial at the time of its release for its portrayal of an interracial romance.


The film follows several characters, black, white and mixed race, and their relationships. It also chronicles the social inequality between the British who colonized the island and the native population. Maxwell Fleury (James Mason) is a white plantation owner's son who suffers from an inferiority complex and makes rash decisions to prove his worth. He is tormented by jealousy of his wife Sylvia (Patricia Owens), and he is envious of his younger sister Jocelyn (Joan Collins), who is being courted by the Oxford-bound Euan Templeton (Stephen Boyd), a war hero visiting the governor of the island, his father Lord Templeton (Ronald Squire).

David Boyeur (Harry Belafonte), a young black man emerging as a powerful politician, represents the common people and is seen by some as a threat to the white ruling class. Mavis Norman (Joan Fontaine), a woman from the elite white class, strikes up a romantic interest in Boyeur and much of the story explores the tension between these two.

There is also an interracial romance between Margot Seaton (Dorothy Dandridge), a mixed-race drugstore clerk, and Denis Archer (John Justin), aide to the governor.

Maxwell believes that Hilary Carson (Michael Rennie) is having an affair with his wife. He strangles Carson during a quarrel, then tries to make it look like a robbery. Colonel Whittingham (John Williams), the head of police, investigates the murder.

A journalist named Bradshaw (Hartley Power) writes an exposé revealing that Maxwell's grandmother was part black. Maxwell has decided to run for the legislature, but is jeered by the crowd, then insults everyone there.

Jocelyn learns she is pregnant, but does not wish to burden Euan with a child of mixed race. Her mother reveals that Jocelyn's father was actually a white man, the result of an undisclosed affair. She and Euan board a plane to England, as do Margot and Denis, to begin new lives.

Maxwell, a broken man, contemplates suicide, then decides to go to Whittingham to confess. Mavis wishes to marry Boyeur and begin a new life of her own, but he decides the needs of the island and his people must come first.


  • James Mason as Maxwell Fleury, the family's son, who is a successful, but hot-tempered plantation owner.
  • Harry Belafonte as David Boyeur, a black politician representing the common people, who falls in love with Mavis Norman.
  • Joan Fontaine as Mavis Norman, an upper class white woman, who is a member of the richest family on the island and wants to marry David Boyeur.
  • Joan Collins as Jocelyn Fleury, the alluring sister of Maxwell, who is the romancer of Euan Templeton.
  • Dorothy Dandridge as Margot Seaton, the beautiful Indian[citation needed] drug store clerk, who is pursued by governor-aide Denis Archer.
  • Michael Rennie as Hilary Carson, a retired war hero, who is assumed to be having an affair with Sylvia Fleury.
  • Patricia Owens as Sylvia Fleury, the wife of Maxwell, who Maxwell assumes is having an affair with Hilary Carson.
  • John Justin as Denis Archer, the governor's aide, and the romancer of Margot Seaton.
  • Stephen Boyd as Euan Templeton, the governor's young son, who is also courting Jocelyn Fleury.
  • Diana Wynyard as Mrs. Fleury, the mother of Maxwell and Jocelyn, who is hiding things from her children.
  • Basil Sydney as Julian Fleury, the husband of Mrs. Fleury and father of Maxwell and Jocelyn, who also is hiding things.
  • John Williams as Colonel Whittingham, the head of police, who investigates Hilary Carson's murder.
  • Ronald Squire as Governor Templeton, the governor of the island, and Euan's father.
  • Hartley Power as Bradshaw, an American journalist visiting Santa Marta.


The ruins of the Farley Hill mansion

Alec Waugh's 1955 novel Island in the Sun was a best-seller, and it secured from Hollywood the highest amount ever paid for a novel up to that time.[3]

A proposal was floated in 2009 to demolish the remains of the real mansion used in the film.[4] The mansion is located at Farley Hill, Barbados. The mansion was gutted by fire in the mid-1960s, and all that remains are the foundations and exterior walls of the building.

This was Dorothy Dandridge's "comeback" movie, as she hadn't made a film since 1954's Carmen Jones, in which she played the lead. In 1955, she had been offered supporting roles in The King and I and The Lieutenant Wore Skirts but Otto Preminger, her lover and Carmen Jones' director, advised her to turn down the roles. This was Dandridge's first film role in three years: She was billed third, but appeared in only a supporting role.[5]


Premiering in June 1957, Island in the Sun was a major box office success. The film earned $5,550,000 worldwide, and finished as the sixth highest-grossing film of 1957.

It was the 8th most popular movie in Britain of that year.[6]

As a result of playing many interracial love scenes with Harry Belafonte, Joan Fontaine received poison pen mail, including some purported threats from the Ku Klux Klan. Fontaine turned the letters over to the FBI.[7]


The title song "Island in the Sun" was written by Harry Belafonte and Irving Burgie. There are now over 40 cover versions recorded by various artist such as The Merrymen, José Carreras, Caterina Valente in German, Henri Salvador in French ("Une île au soleil") and The Righteous Brothers, just to name a few. It briefly was featured (and parodied) in the 1992 film The Muppet Christmas Carol.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p250
  2. ^ Cohn, Lawrence (October 15, 1990). "All-Time Film Rental Champs". Variety. p. M166.
  3. ^ Nicholas Shakespeare, "Which of today's novelists will stand the test of time?", The Telegraph, 9 January 2016. Retrieved 22 February 2016
  4. ^ Goddard, Richard (March 22, 2009). "Farley Hill Great House National Theatre for the Performing Arts". Barbados Advocate. Archived from the original on February 26, 2012. Retrieved June 5, 2010.
  5. ^ Government of Barbados: Places of Interest - Farley Hill National Park Archived March 8, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ LINDSAY ANDERSON, and DAVID DENT. "Time For New Ideas." Times [London, England] January 8, 1958: 9. The Times Digital Archive. Web. July 11, 2012.
  7. ^ Higham, Charles (1984). Sisters: The Story of Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine. Dell Publishing. p. 228. ISBN 0-440-17866-5.

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