High Barbaree (1947)


High Barbaree (aka Enchanted Island) is a 1947 film directed by Jack Conway.

It stars Van Johnson and June Allyson, in the third of their six screen pairings. The screenplay based on the novel High Barbaree (1945) by authors Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall.

The real-life drama of the Consolidated PBY Catalina aircraft in the Pacific theatre was merged into a search for a mystical “High Barbaree”.


In Hawaii, during World War II, US Navy pilot Alec Brooke (Van Johnson) commands a flying boat, named the “High Barbaree”. During a bombing mission against a Japanese submarine, his PBY Catalina is shot down with all but one of his crew killed, but still able to stay afloat, adrift far from Allied territory. While the crippled aircraft is slowly floating, the two survivors hear the voice of “Tokyo Rose” (Audrey Totter) invoking memories of their past. Alec shares a series of recollections with fellow survivor, Lt. Joe Moore (Cameron Mitchell). His memories concern his boyhood sweetheart in a small Iowa town, Nancy Fraser (June Allyson), now a Navy nurse serving on a ship in the Pacific theatre, commanded by his uncle, Captain Thad Vail (Thomas Mitchell).

Alec and Moore now convert the flying boat into a sailboat by lashing up parachutes as a sail, and head for High Barbaree, a mythical island that his uncle claimed to have once seen in fact. As water supplies dwindle and both men begin to succumb to the conditions, Alec continues his story of a childhood where he had dreamed of becoming a doctor like his father (Henry Hull). After completing the first two years of medical training, he had chosen to become a pilot and rose to the ranks of vice-president of the Case Aviation company, even winning the hand of the boss’s daughter (Marilyn Maxwell). When Nancy comes back for a visit, a terrible tornado destroys the company and town, and because his father suffers a broken arm, Alec takes over the emergency medical care of the victims that are in the town auditorium. Nancy, dismayed at his engagement to another woman and his choice of career, leaves as soon as the airport reopens; they lose contact and Alec cannot tell her that he has rethought both decisions.

The coming of war precludes Alec continuing his medical career, and as a pilot in the highly specialised PBY flying boats that harass the Japanese fleets, he is particularly successful until his last mission. After Joe dies, and Alec goes into a coma, High Barbaree seems only a dream when rescue comes at the last moment, as his uncle steers to the location he had once charted and finds Alec. On board, Nancy and the recovering Alec are finally reunited.

Film Inspiration

The inspiration for the film was the 1945 novel ‘High Barbaree’ by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall.

Trivia & Goofs

  • The original ending for the film had Van Johnson hearing over his radio that the ship on which his lady-love, June Allyson, was serving had been sunk. Johnson then died and the picture ended. The New York Times reported on 17 November 1946 that 40% of the audience opinion cards handed out at a preview of the film in Los Angeles demanded that Johnson’s character live. MGM spent $50,000 to shoot scenes for a new ending, which had Allyson’s character surviving as well.
  • The tornado footage and sounds was recycled from the Wizard of Oz (1939). It was also reused in Cabin in the Sky (1943).

Production & Filming Details

  • Director: Jack Conway.
  • Producer: .
  • Writers: Anne Morrison Chapin, Whitfield Cook, and Cyril Hume.
  • Music: Herbert Stothart.
  • Cinematography: Sidney Wagner.
  • Editor: Conrad A. Nervig.
  • Production: MGM.
  • Distribution: MGM.
  • Release Date: 01 May 1947 (US).
  • Running time: 91 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

YouTube Link

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