61st anniversary of film that helped put Samoa on the map
The Lefaga district of Samoa is celebrating the 61st anniversary of the Hollywood film that put Samoa on the world map.
The Lefaga district of Samoa is celebrating the 61st anniversary of the Hollywood film that helped put Samoa on the map.
Roberta Haynes, the star of the Hollywood epic, Return to Paradise, has flown in for the event.
A resort in Lefaga, named after the film, is hosting the celebrations as Indira Moala reports.
It was just a few years after the second World War when 25 year old Roberta Haynes flew into Samoa to play an island native Maeva.
Now 87 years-old and long retired from acting, she is a writer based in Florida.
Ms Haynes has visited Samoa four more times since the film but says things are very different to when she first arrived.
ROBERTA HAYNES: I came in 1952 and it was very different than it is today. I mean, in Samoa we landed in a grass field coming from Nandi. It was not that long after the war. There were very few tourists. The island was still run under the auspices of the New Zealand High Commissioner. Everybody was lovely to us and I made many good friends that I still have. And people treated me beautifully in those days.
The chairman of the Return to Paradise Resort, Hinauri Petana, says Ms Haynes return has huge significance for Samoans because the film brought recognition for Samoa.
Ms Petana, whose grandfather played the main chief Tonga in the movie, says cast members who have since passed away, often shared stories of how the film's production had affected day to day living.
HINAURI PETANA: There were places in Apia itself where some of the scenes were shot where traffic came to a halt so that the shooting could continue. When I asked my mother, she was so specific about this - my father had approached her father to ask for her hand in marriage and the old man said, well you'll just have to wait until after the shooting of the film.
Mamea Matatuamua made history as the first native actor to have a speaking role in a Hollywood film.
HINAURI PETANA: He could speak English so that was the other credit to why he was selected for that movie. He was a translator at the time for the government. I'm not sure how much coaching it took him to play his role. But you know, it's funny how growing up, all he would say was 'oh there was a film shot here'. And we just took it for granted until we saw the film and realized oh my goodness, it is a big thing for Lefaga, the districts and the village of Matautu itself.
Ms Haynes recalls her shock when she visited a dentist in American Samoa during the production and realised segregation occurred there.
ROBERTA HAYNES: It was only later when the film was released in 1953 that there were problems. They refused to show it in parts of the South. Because of what they called miscegenation, you know. Because in America they considered Polynesians black, which they weren't.
Ms Haynes says because of her age this may be the last time she returns to the paradise of Samoa.
A charity event during her stay will auction off a lavalava she wore in the film, with the money raised going to the paraplegic unit at the main hospital.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: