Hawaii: aka Hollywood West.
For years, Hawaii has been a favorite location for feature films and TV series. Of course the natural beauty of the place and the warm weather year ‘round is the big attraction. But there are also a lot of people who are experienced and skilled in the production end of things: directors, camera operators, grips and gaffers.
The list of feature films shot here is long and, as you would expect, a common theme is the attack on Pearl Harbor. From Here to Eternity is one of those and it’s probably best remembered by the iconic scene with Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr on the beach. Us locals know that spot as Kumu Cove and always stop there when taking visiting friends and relatives on a tour of Oahu.
Everyone remembers the original Hawaii 5-0, but in the early 1970’s, a TV series called The Little People was shot here. It starred Brian Keith as a pediatrician and featured an array of impossibly cute local kids of all sizes, shapes and colors. The producers obtained a special permit to film the series in a very nice private home located at the base of Diamond Head and that infuriated a woman who’s home was a bit higher up on the crater’s slope. When scenes were being shot, a red light began flashing so everyone on the set would keep quiet. But when her handyman/gardener was around, the crotchety neighbor lady had him fire up a chainsaw whenever the red light started to flash down below. Of course, what she never realized was the crew turned on the red light periodically, but only when they we NOT shooting.
There has always been a lot of very capable on-screen talent here, too. Jean Terrant had had many small roles and bit parts in Hollywood before moving to Hawaii. As the story goes, she ran into Jack Lord one day in the supermarket. He had known her from California and asked why she had not been in any of the Hawaii 5-0 episodes. Jean replied that she had auditioned for a number of parts, but had never been chosen. The very next day, the 5-0 casting director, Bob Busch, called Jean and asked her to audition for a part in an upcoming episode. Jean agreed, of course, but when she appeared for her appointment and Busch handed her the script, she saw that she would have just one line: “I’m gonna call the police.” She looked at Busch and said acidly, “Couldn’t I have just phoned this in?” Lord was furious when he heard about the incident. Bob Busch got his butt kicked and Jean Terrant ended up appearing as a lab technician in a number of Hawaii 5-0 episodes.
Another of the feature films shot here was In Harm’s Way, directed by Otto Preminger. A friend of mine, John Kernell, was cast as an aide to Admiral Chester Nimitz, played by Henry Fonda. In the scene, Fonda signed a piece of paper, handed it to Kernell, who said “Thank you, sir”, and exited. When the scene was shot, Kernell took the paper from Fonda, delivered his line and walked off the set … and Preminger screamed, “CUT!! Who hired that idiot??”
John loved telling that story.