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'Hawaii' Cast List: Surprise Best Supporting Actress Nominee In James A. Michener's 1966 Epic

Entertainment | October 23, 2020

Richard Harris, Julie Andrews and Max von Sydow in 'Hawaii.' Source; IMDB

How do you tell the truly epic story of America's colonization of Hawaii? You put some of the biggest stars of the '60s together in a film to make it truly epic. Max von Sydow, Julie Andrews, Gene Hackman, and Carroll O'Connor star in this film based on the novel Hawaii by James A. Michener. To tell the story of the Calvinist missionaries who brought Hawaii to the attention of the west United Artists brought together a group of stars as well as a native Tahitian woman who earned an Academy Award nomination for her one and only role.

Hawaii was all about the stars

source: United Artists

To tell the story of the Calvinist colonization of Hawaii the film combines the real story of Henry ʻŌpūkahaʻia, one of the first native Hawaiians to become a Christian, along with James Michener's novel that softly fictionalizes the events of the early American missionaries to the islands. Covering the third chapter of the book, "From the Farm of Bitterness," the film takes a deep dive into the initial Christian missionaries who made their way to Hawaii in the 19th century and made a huge stamp on the culture.

While the story of the Hawaii's colonization is grim in many aspects, director George Roy Hill (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting) assembled an all-star cast to tell this iconic story while keeping its many warts intact.

Julie Andrews as Jerusha Bromley Hale

source: United Artists

Julie Andrews has held down many an epic in her day, and she plays protagonist Jerusha Bromley Hale, a young New England woman who finds herself torn between the Reverend Abner Hale and Rafer Hoxworth. Andrews is able to use her inherent sweetness to empathize with the islanders and bring them to the side of the shipmates. One of the most memorable parts of the film is the childbirth sequence, something that audiences weren't ready for when they arrived at the theater. The year Hawaii was released, Andrews was coming off the success of Mary Poppins (1964) and The Sound of Music (1965), both of which had been the biggest moneymakers in their respective years. Andrews was the number one box office draw in the United States, and the eighth biggest draw in the UK, a trend that continued the next year. Hawaii was the second biggest movie of 1966, behind The Bible: In The Beginning...

Max von Sydow as Reverend Abner Hale

source: United Artists

Max Von Sydow plays Abner Hale, a minister who settles in Hawaii with his wife, Jerusha Bromley Hale. At this point in Von Sydow's career he was just breaking into the American film industry with a series of epics after making a huge splash in Ingmar Berman films like The Virgin Spring and The Seventh Seal. Sydow is the perfect guy to take on the role of an austere missionary who ignores his wife. His real life sons, Henrik von Sydow and Clas S. von Sydow, played the son of his character, Micah, at various ages. Sydow had an illustrious career, that saw him do everything from classy horror movies like The Exorcist to amazing camp like Flash Gordon.

Jocelyne LaGarde as Ali'i Nui, Malama Kanakoa

source: United Artists

The only performance nominated for an acting award in Hawaii was Jocelyne LaGarde, a native Tahitian woman who only spoke French and who'd never acted before. Even with her lack of credentials LaGarde gave such a knockout screen test that producers hired her immediately, and brought on a coach to teach her the dialogue phonetically. 

LaGarde stole the show, not only because of her imposing frame, but because she's impossible to ignore. Critics of the film noted that she was more alive on screen than any of her co-stars, and that she made the movie all that more enjoyable. She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, the first Indigenous person to receive the accolade. The same year she won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress, this was her only role.

Gene Hackman as Dr. John Whipple

source: United Artists

Hawaii tells a fictionalized version of the very real colonization of Hawaii, albeit a more uplifting version than the real events. Hackman has a small role as Dr. John Whipple who is removed from the church only to start a lucrative business on the island. In the early '90s, Richard Harris, who plays Captian Hoxworth in this film, introduced himself to Hackman and noted that he was happy they were finally working together. When Hackman reminded him that they met on the set of Hawaii Harris allegedly said, "No, I would remember that."

In an interview for Get Shorty, Hackman talked about the making of Hawaii and noted that Bette Midler was a child extra on the film. He noted that she never stopped performing and often sang on the bus to and from location.

 Richard Harris as Capt. Rafer Hoxworth

source: United Artists

Richard Harris is one of the most lauded Irish actors of his generation, and even in 1966 he was well known for his emotional delivery in huge epics like Mutiny on the Bounty and The Guns of Navarone, which makes it all the more odd that he wasn't the first choice to play Captain Hoxworth, the whaler whom Julie Andres believes has deserted her. Initially, Charlton Heston was wanted for the role but he dropped out long before production began. Weirdly enough, Heston actually appeared in the film's sequel The Hawaiians as Whipple Hoxworth.

Carroll O'Connor as Charles Bromley

source: United Artists

For some reason Carroll O’Connor just doesn't have a lot to do in this movie. Sure, he's not a missionary and he's nowhere near a native Hawaiian, but it's weird that he's just around to play the father of Julie Andrews. Like many actors of his day, O'Connor got his start in westerns and war movies throughout the 1960s, but it wasn't until he took the role of Archie Bunker in All in the Family that his career really took off.

Manu Tupou as Prince Keoki

source: United Artists

Born on the Fiji Islands, Tupou made significant strides in order to become an actor. After graduating high school he moved to London where he studied acting on a BBC scholarship before appearing in Hawaii. Following the making of this film he moved to New York where he studied at the Actors Studio with the Al Pacino and Robert De Niro  and found a love for teaching. He ended creating the "New Era Acting Technique" of acting, which tells actors that they're a unique essence unto themselves. That all came after he portrayed island missionary Keoki. It's a relatively small part, but it helped Tupou get his foot in the door.

Tags: Hawaii | Julie Andrews | Max Von Sydow | Richard Harris

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Jacob Shelton

Writer

Jacob Shelton is a Los Angeles based writer. For some reason this was the most difficult thing he’s written all day, and here’s the kicker – his girlfriend wrote the funny part of that last sentence. As for the rest of the bio? That’s pure Jacob, baby. He’s obsessed with the ways in which singular, transgressive acts have shaped the broader strokes of history, and he believes in alternate dimensions, which means that he’s great at a dinner party. When he’s not writing about culture, pop or otherwise, he’s adding to his found photograph collection and eavesdropping on strangers in public.