For the first time since "Where the Pavement Ends," his outstanding success, Ramon Novarro plays a native boy, a role to which he is eminently suited. He gives profound understanding and pagan grace to his characterization of a half-caste youth whose "only god is nature, and whose only law is love." Dorothy Janis, a new screen find, plays her first big role as Ramon's native sweetheart, combining the warmth of the tropics with irresistible appeal.
This tropical idyl establishes W.S. Van Dyke as an unusual artist and director. In "White Shadows" he shared honors with Robert Flaherty; here he stands alone. To him and to John Russell, the author, a coral reef is a halo and the South Seas are heaven.
The story unfolds the romance of two natives. If left alone, they would have mated as naturally as birds. Enter the white man, with his superior knowledge of good and evil. He tries to make the girl Christian, and cheats the trusting boy of his birthright. Back of this apparently simple tale lies the terrific tragedy of the South Seas. It is a tremendous indictment against the Anglo-Saxons, who arrogantly entered these magic islands to "save," and remained to betray and pollute. Under the delicate story surges the powerful undercurrent of Polynesian history, portrayed with heartfelt sympathy by the perfectly-chosen cast.
Both Renee Adoree and Donald Crisp are splendid — Renee as the generous-hearted French adventuress, and Crisp as the white trader whose greed and lust are a deadly menace to the lovers. The entire production was made in Papeete, Tahiti.
Photoplay April 1929
Books with substantial mentioning of The Pagan