Hell's Half Acre (1954)

90-91 mins | Melodrama | 1 June 1954

Director:

John H. Auer

Writer:

Steve Fisher

Cinematographer:

John L. Russell

Editor:

Fred Allen

Production Company:

Republic Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

According to the Var review, Steve Fisher collaborated with Jack Pittman on "Polynesian Rhapsody." As noted in reviews and studio publicity, the film was shot in Honolulu. According to a Jul 1953 HR news item, Joanne Dru was being considered for the role of "Dona ... More Less

According to the Var review, Steve Fisher collaborated with Jack Pittman on "Polynesian Rhapsody." As noted in reviews and studio publicity, the film was shot in Honolulu. According to a Jul 1953 HR news item, Joanne Dru was being considered for the role of "Dona Williams." More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
13 Feb 1954.
---
Daily Variety
5 Feb 54
p. 3.
Film Daily
19 Feb 54
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jul 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Aug 1953
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Aug 1953
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Sep 1953
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Feb 1954.
---
Motion Picture Daily
5 Feb 1954.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
13 Feb 54
p. 2183.
New York Times
27 Feb 54
p. 11.
Variety
10 Feb 54
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Cost supv
MUSIC
Kaumakapili Choir dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
SOURCES
SONGS
"Polynesian Rhapsody" and "Lani," words and music by Jack Pittman, sung by the Kaumakapili Choir.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
1 June 1954
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 26 February 1954
Production Date:
mid August--mid September 1953
Copyright Claimant:
Republic Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
7 January 1954
Copyright Number:
LP3259
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
90-91
Length(in feet):
8,153
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16718
SYNOPSIS

Chet Chester, an ex-racketeer, is now a respected Honolulu restaurant owner and amateur composer. While Chet is receiving plaudits for a Polynesian rhapsody he has composed, his protective Chinese lover, Sally Lee, shoots and kills Slim Novak, one of Chet's former criminal associates who has been blackmailing him. Later, when Sally tells him what happened, Chet explains to her that he and Novak robbed a California bank several years ago and later, when Chet was stationed in Honolulu with the U.S. Navy, formed a syndicate with Roger Kong, a Chinese Hawaiian with mob connections. Four years ago Chet, wanting to go straight, dissolved the syndicate by paying off Novak and Roger, but recently Novak had decided he wanted more money. Because Sally killed to defend him, Chet convinces Sally that he will stand trial for the murder and instructs her to deliver $50,000 from his bank vault to his lawyer in San Francisco. In a Los Angeles record store, Dona Williams hears a recording of Chet's rhapsody and recognizes the final line of the lyric, “you are the residue of golden dreams at the rainbow’s beginning,” as being the same as an inscription on a photograph that her newlywed husband, Randy Williams, gave her a few days before he was reported missing in the attack on Pearl Harbor ten years earlier. After learning that the song’s lyricist is in Honolulu awaiting trial on a murder charge, she flies there, believing that the song could only have been written by her husband. Dona leaves her eleven-year-old son Randy, Jr. with her disappointed fiancé, Frank Ulman, who tries to convince her that the similarity of the lyrics is a ... +


Chet Chester, an ex-racketeer, is now a respected Honolulu restaurant owner and amateur composer. While Chet is receiving plaudits for a Polynesian rhapsody he has composed, his protective Chinese lover, Sally Lee, shoots and kills Slim Novak, one of Chet's former criminal associates who has been blackmailing him. Later, when Sally tells him what happened, Chet explains to her that he and Novak robbed a California bank several years ago and later, when Chet was stationed in Honolulu with the U.S. Navy, formed a syndicate with Roger Kong, a Chinese Hawaiian with mob connections. Four years ago Chet, wanting to go straight, dissolved the syndicate by paying off Novak and Roger, but recently Novak had decided he wanted more money. Because Sally killed to defend him, Chet convinces Sally that he will stand trial for the murder and instructs her to deliver $50,000 from his bank vault to his lawyer in San Francisco. In a Los Angeles record store, Dona Williams hears a recording of Chet's rhapsody and recognizes the final line of the lyric, “you are the residue of golden dreams at the rainbow’s beginning,” as being the same as an inscription on a photograph that her newlywed husband, Randy Williams, gave her a few days before he was reported missing in the attack on Pearl Harbor ten years earlier. After learning that the song’s lyricist is in Honolulu awaiting trial on a murder charge, she flies there, believing that the song could only have been written by her husband. Dona leaves her eleven-year-old son Randy, Jr. with her disappointed fiancé, Frank Ulman, who tries to convince her that the similarity of the lyrics is a coincidence. Determined to find out if Chet is the husband she lost, she contacts Honolulu police chief Dan. After learning from Dona that Chet’s mug shot resembles Randy, Dan arranges for Chet to be brought from the jail to meet Dona on the following day. Biding time until the appointment, Dona goes sight-seeing with Lida O'Reilly, an eccentric female taxi driver, who points out Chet's expensive house. Inside, Sally is quarrelling with Roger over whether to use Chet's money for his legal defense. Having long suppressed bitterness toward Chet, Roger feels entitled to the fortune and kills Sally in order to steal the money. When Dona rings the doorbell, Roger, pretending to be an employee, answers it and informs Dona that Sally is not at home. The next day, Chet is grieved to learn about Sally's death and escapes from the police while being taken to meet Dona. Hiding out in Hell's Half Acre, Honolulu's sordid, underworld neighborhood, he begins searching for Sally’s killer. After sharing information, Dona and Dan, who guesses Chet’s locale and intention, conclude that the “employee” at Chet’s house was Sally’s murderer. Disregarding Dan’s warning that she stay at the hotel to avoid the killer, who knows she can identify him, Dona has Lida drive her into the tenement area and poses as a taxi dancer to try to locate Chet. Ippy, an underworld resident who has been following Dona since seeing her meet with Dan, reports her movements to Tubby Otis, a sleazy businessman whom Roger is paying to find Chet. Later, Otis approaches Dona, and after convincing her that he can take her to Chet, drugs her and takes her to his apartment, which he shares with his wife Rose. Meanwhile, Dan orders a raid of Hell’s Half Acre, but Chet eludes the police, with Ippy’s help, by hiding in the same apartment building where Dona is being held. When Otis tries to rape Dona, Chet hears her scream and rescues her. While denying that he is Randy, Chet risks recapture to arrange for Dan to escort her to safety and then listens to Dona talk about her husband and the son he never knew about, who believes his father died a hero. Chet remains at the hideout under police guard as bait to attract Sally’s killer. Later Dan and Dona devise an alternate plan to trap the killer by starting a rumor that Dona is Chet’s wife. After hearing the rumor from Ippy, Roger suspects a setup and breaks Ippy's neck in anger, but then sends Otis to investigate. After Otis walks into the police trap and is captured in the ensuing chase, Dan, believing that Sally’s killer has been apprehended, is taking Chet back to jail when a dispatch reports that Ippy muttered Roger’s name before dying. Chet again escapes to meet with Dona and finally admits that he is her husband. After convincing her that “Randy Williams” must remain officially dead for the sake of their son, Chet, unknown to Dona, makes out a will leaving his fortune to Randy, Jr. Then, he deliberately allows Roger to ambush and kill him, in order to lure the murderer into a police trap. Before Dona leaves Hawaii, Dan assures her that she can truthfully tell Randy, Jr. that his father died a hero. To shield the boy from his father’s dishonorable past, Dan tears up Chet’s will.


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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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