Bird of Paradise is a 1932 American romantic adventure drama film directed by King Vidor, starring Dolores del Río, Joel McCrea, and Richard Skeets Gallagher and released by RKO Radio Pictures.
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As a yacht sails into an island chain in the South Pacific, a large number of natives in pontoon boats sail out to greet them. The natives dive for the trinkets the yacht's crew throws them. A shark arrives, scaring most of the natives away. In an attempt to catch a shark by throwing it bait that has been tied to a harpoon-sized hook, a young man (Joel McCrea) accidentally steps into a loop that tightens around his ankle. The shark takes the bait, and the rope grows tighter, causing the rope to yank the young man overboard. The daughter of the chief rescues the young man by leaping into the water, swimming down to where the man is. He cannot get his foot loose from the tangle, so she pulls out a knife and cuts the rope, saving his life.
The beautiful Polynesian girl named Luana (Dolores del Río) becomes an irresistible object of desire, and it is not long before they meet in the middle of the night. Swiftly falling in love, they discover she has been promised by her father to another man – a prince on a neighboring island. An arranged wedding with an elaborate dance sequence then follows, during which the young man appears at the nick of time, runs into a circle of burning fire, rescues her as the natives kneel to the fire, bringing her back to a distant location on another island where they hope to live out the rest of their lives.
He builds her a house with a roof of thatched grass, and as for food, the fruit of the earth, mangos and coconuts, are all within easy reach. Fishing is plentiful, whether by creeping out to rocky outcroppings and using tridents, or swimming down into the local waters to hunt giant turtles. It is like paradise. However, their idyll is smashed when the local volcano begins to erupt. The man discovers that the local custom is to sacrifice a young woman to the volcanic gods. They try to escape but realize that "east is east and west is west, and never the twain shall meet."