Ricardo Montez (Ricardo Montalban) and Rosalind Rennolds (Esther Williams) are young Hollywood stars in love… on screen and off. Engaged to be married in the real world, the pair are on the island set of their latest film, he playing a Navy man and she an island native.
Larry Kingslee (Peter Lawford), a Navy lieutenant, is also on set. He’s been hired as an advisor, to double-check the accuracy of little things like uniform adornments. Ignoring the fact that Rosalind is engaged to Ricardo, Larry is totally smitten with the actress.
Determined to win the lady and steal her away from Ricardo, Larry plants a smooch on Rosalind and later tries to get her to dance with him on a night out at the Royal Aloha Hotel.
Meanwhile, Ricardo has an adoring fan of his own in the form of Yvonne Torro (Cyd Charisse), another actress appearing in the Navy romance.
Plenty of complications ensue for Ricardo and Rosalind as they’re both pursued by persistent admirers.
Richard Thorpe directs 1948’s On an Island with You.
Those familiar with Esther Williams’ filmography can expect some of those ever-present swimming scenes, but On an Island with You also includes several very nice dance numbers conducted on land. These lovely, choreographed moments are fun to watch in and out of the water! Ricardo Montalban and Cyd Charisse make a crazy good pair on the dance floor.
Less fun is the fact that Lawford’s character of Larry is a genuine creep. Kidnap the woman you’re crushing on and refuse to return her to set until she dances with you? Uh… NOPE. That is never okay. This turn of events planted me firmly on Team Ricardo and kind of squashed my enjoyment of the film, since the potential Roz/Larry romance is such an integral part of the plot.
With the word “island” in the title, you can expect a little bit of that trademark old Hollywood cultural insensitivity here, too. Fake tans, poorly-executed accents, and a “tribal” dance scene all surround the movie-production-within-the-movie — the film that Roz and Ricardo are working on throughout On an Island with You. A later scene involves Jimmy Durante stumbling upon a “native” ritual and assuming he’s going to be cannibalized. This was obviously played for laughs back in 1948, but will put off the modern viewer.
Still, there’s a lot to be enjoyed here. The swimming and singing both bolster the picture enough to make for a spot of escapism and easy viewing.
Jimmy Durante is a total scene-stealer. I love his musical numbers, and he brings many laughs when he’s not busy interrupting island feasts. And those scenes with the puppy! Too cute.
Esther Williams’ performance is also a delight to watch. In this film she reminds me so, so much of Doris Day… her voice, her mannerisms. Both actresses are energetic performers best known for their musical romances so naturally, a comparison can be drawn between the two, but more here than in any other Esther film I’ve seen, the resemblance is very clear! They could’ve played sisters.
Not Esther Williams’ best film by any stretch, On an Island with You is still an enjoyable film when all is said and done, with nice performances and a bright mood brought on by its lovely musical numbers.