Island in the Sun





Island in the Sun

Set in the Caribbean island of Santa Marta, ‘Island in the Sun’ is an intriguing film showing the lives of the island’s residents. The island’s [population is made up of black majority, but the minority white still makes up the leadership of the island. The main economic activity of the island is sugarcane and banana farming in vast plantations. The film concentrates on the social, economic and political landscape of Santa Marta in 1957. Unlike in the Americas, the white and black people mingled freely. There were no segregationist policies, and the people were free to interact with each other. ‘Island in the Sun’ shows the relationship between the blacks and whites in Santa Marta, including romances, scandals and politics.

The film begins with the governor of the island inviting residents to a party at his mansion, both black and coloured. Maxwell Fleury, played by James Mason, is one of the main characters. He suspects that his wife Sylvia (Patricia Owens) might be having an affair with another man. Throughout the movie, Maxwell has several fits of anger due to his jealousy over his wife. Also In attendance at the governor’s party is David Boyeur, a black man played by Harry Belafonte. Boyeur is the leader of the black population of the island; therefore, he occupies a central position in the political affairs of the island. The governor pays particular attention to him. The white population sees Belafonte as a threat to the white ruling class of Santa Marta. Boyeur dared Margot Seaton, played by Dorothy Dandridge, to attend the party with him, and she went to take him up on his dare. At the party, she meets the governor’s aide, Denis Archer, who falls in love with her immediately. Their romance, and several others, blossom and take centre stage in the film.

Romance and scandal go hand in hand, and this is evident in ‘Island in the Sun.’ Maxwell suspicions of his wife’s affair with a man named Hilary Carlson. Things come to a head when Maxwell strangles Carlson to death due to jealousy. Maxwell is also jealous of his younger sister Jocelyn who is in love with Euan Templeton, a visitor to the island. As the film progresses, Maxwell grows increasingly agitated over his wife, sister, parents and his political ambitions. Eaten away by the guilt of Carlson’s murder, he takes a gun likely to try and kill himself. However, he does not and instead confesses to his crime. Jocelyn finds out that she is pregnant by Templeton who wants to marry her. Boyeur similarly is the interest of Mavis Norma. Norman, played by Joan Fontaine, is from the elite white class of the island. Boyeur is unable to reconcile their differences in race and class, and he breaks off the affair. He chose his people over his love.

Politics also takes up a significant part of the film. Santa Marta had a majority black population, yet the whites made up the leadership of the island. To challenge the status quo, David Boyeur emerges as a strong contender for the coming election. Boyeur came from humble beginnings working in a white man’s kitchen. Throughout the film, Boyeur appears to have an inferiority complex, refusing to believe that the white and black people are treated equally. Running for office is his way of fighting for equality. During a political rally pitting Maxwell Fleury and Belafonte against each other, Boyeur challenges Maxwell’s intentions’ claiming that Maxwell simply hates his fellow white men and his political ambitions are a way to show his superiority. Maxwell’s temper once again flares when the crowd jeers and he leaves in a huff. Boyeur represents the oppressed black men eager for a place in the political leadership of the island.

At the end of the film, Maxwell admits to killing Carlson and will likely be jailed on a manslaughter charge. Jocelyn and Euan leave for England. Margot and Denis also leave the country to start a new life in a different country. The relationship between the whites and coloureds in ‘Island in the Sun’ is an interesting one. They are free to mingle socially. The black people work mainly in sugar and banana plantations. However, there are some underlying issues of fear and mistrust among the two races. Belafonte says that the whites still treat the blacks as though they were still slaves. The break-up between Mavis and Boyeur gives a deep insight into the complicated relationship between the two races. Boyeur tells Mavis, “Because it would be inevitable……that night that you forget yourself and call me a nigger.” This statement shows that the black people still feel that the whites view them as inferior. Mavis retorts, telling Boyeur that he wanted to be powerful, but hid under his people.

‘Island in the Sun’ shows the complex relationships of race, politics and romance between the residents of Santa Marta. While the white and people of colour appear equal, there were still deep undercurrents of inferiority, fear and prejudice. However, the relationship between whites and blacks differs from that in other parts of the world, such as America. In these other regions, blacks and whites could not interact or have a romantic relationship, and any crossing of racial lines could be punished by death. Boyeur is unable to overcome his innate beliefs that the black people would not approve of his relationship with Mavis because she is white. Margot and Denis defeat stereotypes and leave Santa Marta for a new life. Other than race, the movie depicts everyday human struggles on a personal level in love, family and society.

Works Cited

‘Island in the Sun’ [Video File] YouTube. Retrieved from