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The following written statement appears after the film's opening credits: "This story was photographed in its entirety on the island and waters of Hawaii, Oahu and Kauai. All native customs, rituals and dances shown in this film are based on those practiced by Polynesians during the last century." At the film's end, another written statement reads: "Our gratitude is expressed to the United States Department of the Interior, the National Park Service and Hawaii National Park, without whose cooperation this picture could not have been made." According to an August 1950 New York Times article, the erupting volcano photographed for the film was the famed Mauna Loa volcano on Hawaii. A September 29, 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item indicates that, contrary to the onscreen claim that the picture was filmed entirely in Hawaii, some sequences were shot at the Twentieth Century-Fox studio in California.
According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, the studio originally acquired the rights to Richard Walton Tully's play in 1942. Legal records also indicate that Herbert Clyde Lewis, Jo Eisinger and Arthur Kober worked on early versions of the screenplay, but their contribution to the completed picture is unlikely. A 1980 memo in the file reported that while Delmer Daves's screenplay was "loosely based" on the novel Van Zanten's Happy Days by Laurido Bruun, the studio "finally decided any similarities [between the screenplay and Bruun's novel] were public and factual and an acquisition of rights [to the novel] was unnecessary." No contemporary information linking Bruun's novel to the film has been found.
Although a June 19, 1950 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that Twentieth Century-Fox production head Darryl F. Zanuck would personally supervise the film, Harmon Jones, a longtime editor for studio, is the only producer listed in the onscreen credits. According to studio publicity, native Hawaiian Prince Lei Lani, who plays the tribal chief, appeared in the original stage production of Tully's play as "The Kahuna." Well-known Yiddish actor Maurice Schwartz, who portrays The Kahuna in the picture, had not appeared in a film since the 1943 Warner Bros. production Mission to Moscow.
Bird of Paradise features many songs and chants, all sung in Hawaiian. Among the songs submitted to the MPAA/PCA for approval were: "Song of Kalua," music by Ken Darby; "Ke Kali Nei Au (Waiting for Thee)" and "Imi Au Ia Oe (King's Serenade)," music by Charles E. King; "Alekoki (Mother Bray Sings)" by Mrs. David Bray; and "Love Chant of Lokalia" by Lokalia Montgomery. The exact titles and composers of the songs in the film have not been determined.
Tully's play was first filmed by RKO in 1932 in a version directed by King Vidor and starring Dolores Del Rio and Joel McCrea (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). On December 31, 1951, Louis Jourdan, Debra Paget and Jeff Chandler reprised their roles for a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of the story.