The Girls of Pleasure Island is a 1953 romantic comedy set near the end of World War II. Roger (Leo Genn) is a British man living on the aptly named South Pacific land mass known as Pleasure Island.
Roger has three very sheltered daughters named Gloria (Dorothy Bromiley), Hester (Audrey Dalton) and Violet (Joan Elan) who live on the island along with himself and the family’s housekeeper. The rest of the island is inhabited by natives who don’t seem to have much interaction with Roger’s daughters.
Life is pleasant on the beautiful island, but anxiety strikes this protective father when he is informed that a group of 1500 American Marines will be coming to Pleasure Island to set up a new base.
Roger becomes very worried about his daughters, who have spent very little time with any man other than himself. The girls will soon be tossed together with a bunch of rowdy Marines who haven’t been in contact with any ladies in months due to their deployment. Will they be able to handle themselves respectfully, or will the girls bring shame to their father by spending a bit too much time with those pesky, gum-chewing Marines?
The Girls of Pleasure Island is a fast-paced and very fluffy comedy. It is based on a novel written by a former Marine.
When viewed through a modern lens, Roger seems representative of all of the conservative values that are typically correlated with mid-20th century society. Most modern viewers would probably call him very oppressive, given how much control he has over the lives of his daughters and how much he worries about their romantic relationships.
However, speaking as the daughter of a man who jokes about shining his shotgun at the mere mention of a male friend, I saw Roger more as a representation of the fears that all parents have about their children, and the trouble (usually exaggerated by the wonder of parental imagination) that they can potentially get into. Leo Genn gives a great, anxiety-ridden performance in this role.
As for the daughters, they are obviously the real stars of the show here. Joan Elan in particular gives a striking performance as Violet, though all of the girls are believable.
The characters themselves are very funny, looking up “men” and “love” in the encyclopedia, practicing how they will act in front of the men in the mirror and generally appearing as exaggerated caricatures of the confusion that most young girls face when they begin to take an interest in dating. The relationships that they form with the Marines are quite typical romantic comedy fare and generally predictable, but fun to watch nonetheless.
Despite the saucy title, the film is relatively tame. There is some very frank and hilarious dialogue from the girls, especially while they are waiting in anticipation for the men to arrive at Pleasure Island. But at its heart, this is a slightly corny but very enjoyable romantic comedy, worth watching if you’re a fan of the genre. The score: 3.5/5