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South Sea Woman (1953)

Passed | | Action, Adventure, Comedy | 27 June 1953 (USA)
AWOL marine Sgt. Jim O'Hearn is court-martialed for a variety of offenses that carry 143 years in the stockade or the death penalty but refuses to aid in his own defense.


Arthur Lubin


Edwin Blum (screenplay), Earl Baldwin (adaptation) | 2 more credits »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Burt Lancaster ... Master Gunnery Sgt. James O'Hearn
Virginia Mayo ... Ginger Martin
Chuck Connors ... Pvt. Davey White
Arthur Shields ... 'Jimmy-legs' Donovan
Barry Kelley ... Col. Hickman
Leon Askin ... Pierre Marchand
Veola Vonn Veola Vonn ... Lillie Duval
Bob Sweeney ... Defense Lt. Miller
Hayden Rorke ... Prosecution Lt. Fears
Raymond Greenleaf ... Captain at Court-Martial
Paul Burke ... Ensign at Court-Martial
Henri Letondal Henri Letondal ... Alphonse
William O'Leary William O'Leary ... Smith - Embezzler
John Alderson John Alderson ... Fitzroy - Baritone
George Saurel George Saurel ... Jacques (as Georges Saurel)


Marine Sergeant James O'Hearn is being tried at the San Diego Marine base for desertion, theft, scandalous conduct and destruction of property in time of war. He refuses to testify or plead guilty or not guilty to the charges. Showgirl Ginger Martin takes the stand against his protest. She testifies O'Hearn won't talk because he is protecting the name of his pal, Marine Private Davey White. Ginger tells how she, broke and stranded, met the two marines in Shanghai two weeks before Pearl Harbor. White proposes marriage so that Ginger can be evacuated from China as his wife. Before the ceremony, the two Marines get into a fight with the natives and escape with Ginger aboard a small motor boat. They wind up in Namou, a Vichy French island, and are quartered in a run-down hotel. O'Hearn discovers a Nazi yacht delivering radar supplies to the island, and plans to seize it with the help of the Free French. White refuses to join and says he is deserting and intends to remain on the island ... Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The toughest Marine that ever sank a saloon in the China Seas of left a trail of broken knuckles from San Diego to Shanghai! (original poster) See more »


Passed | See all certifications »





English | French | Japanese | Mandarin

Release Date:

27 June 1953 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Sulu Sea See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The "Japanese" landing craft are actually American craft of the type used at Normandy and elsewhere. The front of the two types of boat are shaped differently. See more »


The yacht is flying a Dutch flag, implying that it was a neutral. The Dutch were at war with Japan. A Dutch flagged vessel would never be allowed passage through Japanese controlled waters. See more »


Master Gunnery Sgt. James O'Hearn: [opening up Ginger's coat and seeing her shapely figure and scanty costume] Hey, that's nice candy!
Pvt. Davey White: Don't let him bother you, baby. He just wishes he met you first.
Master Gunnery Sgt. James O'Hearn: [ogling her] You're so right! I could go for her on a rainy afternoon.
Ginger Martin: [to Davey] It couldn't rain hard enough for me to go for him!
See more »


Referenced in Queer as Folk: Stand Up for Ourselves (2004) See more »


If I Could Be with You
Music by James P. Johnson
Played when Ginger tries to leave the Shanghai saloon
See more »

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User Reviews

SOUTH SEA WOMAN (Arthur Lubin, 1953) **1/2
19 September 2009 | by Bunuel1976See all my reviews

The least significant entry in Warners' 5-Disc "Burt Lancaster Signature Collection" is this obscure but harmless WWII action comedy that is sufficiently enjoyable without being remotely memorable. The film starts out with Lancaster refusing to defend himself in the court-martial he is facing and the events unfold in flashback as the various witnesses give their testimony: Lancaster is a U.S. marine who (together with his pal Chuck Connors and the latter's fiancée Virginia Mayo) 'deserts' to a tropical island on the eve of the Pearl Harbor sneak attack where they proceed to live it up over there for a while, in the company of local madame (Veola Vonn), her three nieces and assorted beachcombers (including Arthur Shields). However, when a Dutch captain visits the island on his yacht, Lancaster and Co. steal it to go "have a crack at those Japs" – to borrow Errol Flynn's famous last words in Raoul Walsh's DESPERATE JOURNEY (1942); this leads to a rousing action climax in which the renegade band of islanders take on the Japanese fleet and manage to sink one of their ships – with Connors sacrificing his life in the process and leaving the way open for the budding romance between Lancaster and Mayo (reunited here three years after their joint participation in Jacques Tourner's colorful adventure, THE FLAME AND THE ARROW) to bloom. Two final things worthy of note: a young Strother Martin is clearly recognizable sitting next to Mayo in the courtroom and the eventual fate of the seaside dive might well have inspired a similar incident in, of all things, PORKY'S (1982)!!

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