A shanghaied cowboy jumps ship in Hawaii and becomes the business partner of a widow who owns an ailing potato farm. Filmed on location amid the lush tropical forests of the Hawaiian islands.
James Garner ... Lincoln Costain
Vera Miles ... Henrietta MacAvoy
Robert Culp ... Calvin Bryson
Eric Shea ... Booton 'Little Maca' MacAvoy
Elizabeth Smith ... Liliha (MacAvoy housekeeper)
Manu Tupou ... Kimo
Gregory Sierra ... Marruja (Bryson's henchman)
Shug Fisher ... Capt. Cary
Nephi Hannemann ... Malakoma (witch doctor)
Lito Capiña ... Leleo
Ralph Hanalei ... Hopu
Kim Kahana ... Oka (as Kahana)
Lee Woodd ... Palani
Luis Delgado ... The Hatman (loses hat to Costain)
Buddy Joe Hooker ... Boatman taking Costain to ship
It has the benefit of being one of the most Kauai-intensive movies ever filmed. Not only was 90% of the movie actually made on that beautiful Hawaiian island, but it's actually SET there, too -- and there are very few movies both shot AND set in Hawaii.
The photography is excellent; the score is very good (but would have been better with a little more island influence), and the use of the Kauai locations, though limited to just a few, is first-rate. Garner is fine, and Culp makes a good, if foggily-motivated, villain.
However, the attitude toward the Hawaiians is painfully paternalistic, and there's a stupid, TRULY stupid, subplot involving "sorcery" and some extremely improbable caves, full of Tahitian statuary. Very bad idea.
Historically, it's a bit muddled; much is made of the idea that no one has found a way to load cattle aboard a schooner at this time. (Somewhere around 1870, I guess.) But over on the Big Island, this problem had been licked, and the founder of the Parker Ranch was already getting rich selling King Kamehameha's "big dogs.
If the script had been better, with a less predictable story, THE CASTAWAY COWBOY could have been a little gem. As it is, it's mostly a pretty time-passer.
Having been to Hawaii and actually going through the famous Parker ranch on the big island, I'm in a better position to comment on this film now than before.
The Castaway Cowboy is one of two films James Garner made for the Disney studio in the Seventies. He's a Texas cowboy who got himself shanghaied in San Francisco and jumped ship and washed ashore on Kaui. Right into the arms of widow Vera Miles and her son Eric Shea who are struggling to make a living as farmers.
A lot of wild cattle keep trampling up their crops. So Garner gets the idea that they ought to start cattle ranching instead. Of course the Hawaiian farm hands don't readily take to the American cowboy culture. Of course they eventually do in the end.
Cattle came to Hawaii courtesy of British explorer George Vancouver who left them on the big island. It was the descendants of those cattle with which John Parker founded his ranch. No doubt some of them made it to the smaller islands in the chain.
Of course there's a villain in the piece and it's Robert Culp. He's a banker with eyes to grab Vera Miles land and maybe Vera herself. Culp does resist the tendency to model his performance on Snidely Whiplash and he's a worthy rival of the resourceful Garner.
Of course there are paternalistic attitudes towards the native Hawaiians. But if you want to see a serious film about those attitudes than watch the film made of James Michener's novel Hawaii. This is a Disney family product and doesn't pretend to be social commentary.
The Castaway Cowboy is a good entertainment. How could it be anything else with James Garner starring.