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Waikiki Wedding is a 1937 American musical film directed by Frank Tuttle and starring Bing Crosby, Bob Burns, Martha Raye, and Shirley Ross.[1] Crosby plays the part of Tony Marvin, a PR man charged with extolling the virtues of Hawaii. The female lead, played by Shirley Ross is a local beauty queen who makes unhelpful comments about the islands. Bob Burns, along with Martha Raye, are the "comic relief". Amongst the supporting cast was a young Anthony Quinn. It was made by Paramount Pictures as a rival to the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films then being made by RKO Pictures.

Waikiki Wedding
Waikiki Wedding.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFrank Tuttle
Produced byArthur Hornblow Jr.
Written by
Music byLeo Shuken (uncredited)
CinematographyKarl Struss
Edited byPaul Weatherwax
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • March 23, 1937 (1937-03-23) (US)
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited States

The film is best remembered for the song "Sweet Leilani" with words and music by Harry Owens, which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1937. Other songs included "Blue Hawaii", "In a Little Hula Heaven", "Nani Ona Pua", "Okolehao", and "Sweet Is the Word for You".


Crosby is cast in a romantic Hawaiian setting as Tony Marvin a publicity agent for Imperial Pineapple Company. The atmosphere is captured from the start with a Hawaiian song over the opening credits and with Tony and his friend Shad, with pet pig 'Walford', present at a native wedding ceremony where Tony joins in the song. In the boardroom of the Imperial Pineapple Company, the President, J. P. Todhunter, defends Tony against charges of neglecting his duty, pointing out that it was Tony who thought of the idea of the 'Pineapple Girl' contest. The winner of the contest was promised 'three romantic weeks' in Hawaii and her happy impressions are to be syndicated in the press for publicity.

Unfortunately it seems Georgia Smith, the girl from Birch Falls who won the Pineapple Girl contest, and her friend Myrtle are bored and intend to return home. The prospect of such adverse publicity enrages J. P. who tells Tony that he must do something to stop the girls leaving. To give a little romantic colour therefore, Tony sings 'Blue Hawaii' outside the girls' bungalow helped by a Hawaiian chorus. When Myrtle opens the door he mistakes her for Georgia and is therefore unaware that it is Georgia he later meets at the dockside. Whilst helping to repair the heel of her shoe he accidentally tips her into the water; drenched and angry she, equally unaware of his identity, tells how she came to be in Hawaii and says that she could murder the one who got her into the whole mess.

When, shortly afterwards, she and Myrtle are about to board ship bound for home a stranger thrusts into her hand a black pearl and asks her to get it through Customs. Consequently, they are prevented from leaving and Tony and Shad arrive opportunely to offer help. Apparently the pearl is sacred and must be returned to a shrine on a smaller island from which it has been stolen or, according to a native legend, the volcano will erupt and destroy the village. Kimo, a native, says the girls must themselves return the pearl and he takes the four of them in his boat. The whole business has been arranged by Tony to prevent Georgia from returning home and he has also written, in her name, glowing reports for press hand-outs. On the trip across to the island Tony and Georgia sing 'Blue Hawaii'. Meanwhile, J. P. receives a long-distance call from Georgia's fiancé, dentist Dr. Quimby, who says that he is coming to fetch her. On the island Georgia offers to hand over the pearl but is told to await the arrival of the High Priest.

While they are detained on the island Shad and Myrtle become well acquainted and enliven the scene with comedy episodes involving Walford the pig. Tony, with Hawaiian chorus, sings 'Sweet Leilani' to a little native girl. When the High Priest arrives the pearl is handed over and at a celebration ceremony Georgia sings 'In a Little Hula Heaven', with Tony singing and whistling a few lines. Myrtle sings 'Okolehao', the name for a potent native drink. When the volcano continues to rumble and smoke the High Priest announces that the pearl must be fake and arrests Georgia. The volcano's activity is, at Tony's instigation, manufactured by natives maintaining the fire and flames. Tony helps Georgia escape and the four make for the boat. Tony sings 'Sweet Is the Word for You' and it is also sung by Georgia.

When she returns to her hotel next day she finds Quimby and her uncle Herman awaiting her and they explain how she has been tricked. Meanwhile, Tony, regretting his actions, has called on J. P. and told him not to publish the articles he has written. When he calls for Georgia he tells her they will be married but she is angry with him and says she will return home with Quimby and her Uncle. When the three are ready to leave, Quimby is tricked by Shad into involvement with the police which results in Quimby being arrested for assault. When, however, Shad tries the same trick on Uncle Herman he himself is arrested. Tony boards the ship and in the next cabin to Georgia whistles 'Sweet Is the Word for You' but she reports him to the purser and he is put off the ship. Myrtle arrives at the jail with Walford disguised as a dog, and pays the fine to release Shad. Tony and Georgia are re-united after he hires an old lady to pose as his mother who visits Georgia aboard ship and persuades her that it is Tony she should marry. Over the closing credits a chorus sings 'Blue Hawaii' and 'In A Little Hula Heaven'.[2]



Frank S. Nugent writing in The New York Times commented: "Regretting that he has but one voice to give, Bing Crosby is surrendering it cheerfully at the Paramount to the uses of the Hawaiian Board of Trade, the pineapple industry and sundry tourist agencies. His “Waikiki Wedding” places him in a welter of grass skirts, tropical sunsets, Martha Raye and a razorback pig called Walford...It is, at least, a workable idea for a musical comedy, even though the fabric has been stretched so far that it has burst in places...Mr. Crosby is still the pleasantest of our crooners and Miss Ross was all right, too."[3]

Variety had minor doubts about the songs. "A romantic picture, pure and simple, Waikiki Wedding should have no difficulty getting by anywhere. It’s saccharine celluloid, sugar coated by Bing Crosby’s and Shirley Ross’ crooning in a surefire palmetto setting. The prime possible box office deterrent with this pic is that it comes so soon after the release of Crosby’s Pennies from Heaven for Columbia, but this damper should not be drastic. While none of the songs here will hit the top performance brackets, they fit the picture’s theme and the voices of Crosby, Shirley Ross and Martha Raye. They should get at least a minor play on the air. . . (Crosby) also makes the best of his songs, a couple of them spotted in night sailboat scenes that are very well photographed and directed."[4]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


  • "Sweet Leilani" - sung by Bing Crosby
  • "In a Little Hula Heaven" (Ralph Rainger / Leo Robin) - sung by Shirley Ross and Bing Crosby
  • "Blue Hawaii" - sung by Bing Crosby and Shirley Ross
  • "Sweet Is the Word for You" (Ralph Rainger / Leo Robin) - sung by Bing Crosby
  • "Okolehao" (Ralph Rainger / Leo Robin) - sung by Martha Raye
  • "Nani Ona Pua" (Ralph Rainger / Jimmy Lowell) - sung by Bing Crosby and chorus.
  • "Aloha Oe" (Queen Lydia Liliuokalani / Jimmy Kennedy) - sung by chorus

Bing Crosby recorded several of the songs for Decca Records.[6] "Sweet Leilani" was top of the charts of the day for ten weeks during a 25-week stay. "Blue Hawaii" reached the No. 5 spot and spent 13 weeks in the charts.[7] Crosby's songs were also included in the Bing's Hollywood series.


  1. ^ "Waikiki Wedding". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
  2. ^ Reynolds, Fred (1986). Road to Hollywood. Gateshead, UK: John Joyce. pp. 83–84.
  3. ^ Nugent, Frank S. (March 25, 1937). "The New York Times". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ "Variety". March 31, 1937. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-05.
  6. ^ "A Bing Crosby Discography". A Bing Crosby Discography. Retrieved December 29, 2015.
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1986). Pop Memories 1890-1954. Wisconsin, USA: Record Research Inc. p. 106. ISBN 0-89820-083-0.

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