Hawaiians (1970)



Director:  Tom Gries.

Starring:  Charlton Heston (Whipple 'Whip' Hoxworth), Geraldine Chaplin (Purity Hoxworth), Tina Chen (Char Nyuk Tsin), John Phillip Law (Noel Hoxworth), Alec McCowen (Micah Hale), Mako (Mun Ki), Don Knight (Milton Overpeck), Miko Mayama (Fumiko), Virginia Ann Lee (Mei Li), Naomi Stevens (Queen Liliuokalani), Harry Townes (Houghton), Khigh Dhiegh (Kai Chung), Keye Luke (Foo Sen), Lyle Bettger (Janders), Mary Munday (Malama Hale).

Americans overthrow the government of Hawaii


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

Captain Whip Hoxworth is commanding a large sailing ship.  In the holds of his ship there are hundreds of Chinese men.   The men below are fighting with each other.  One man is stabbed during the fighting.  Another man tries to help the victim, but still another man, named Mun Ki, throws the man off the wounded man.  It's then that he discovers that the other man is a woman.  She is a Hakka woman with unbound feet on board the ship with the men. The wounded man tells Mun Ki not to talk about this.  The captain and Mr. Morris let themselves down into the hold to stop the fighting.  They can't stop it until two shots are fired.  Then the Chinese all sit down.  Mr. Morris says they told them in Macao that it's not a good idea to mix Punti and Hakka together.  Another crew member says that mountain and valley people have hated each other for years.   [Punti is the the Cantonese term for "original locality" referring to the Cantonese-speaking populations of Guangdong province in southern China.  Hakka refers to settlers in the area who came after the Punti peoples and who follow different cultural traditions.]

The captain sees the woman in the hold and goes ballistic.  He scolds Mr. Morris for having a woman aboard and he demands to know to whom the woman belongs.  Mun Ki speaks up and says she is his wife.  The captain wants to know if he paid the woman's passage and Mun Ki says he did.  Whip pushes the "bastard" into the crowd of seated people. 

Other men try to rape the woman, but Mun Ki says he's her husband as he pushes and pulls the men off her.  He talks to the wounded man who brought her aboard.  He says to him:  "Promise me, if you die, I can have the girl to sell."   The wounded man says he is delivering the woman to a brothel in Honolulu.  She's never been a prostitute.  He stole her from a Hakka village in the mountains.  Her name is Char Nyuk Tsin and she doesn't even speak Punti. 

The wounded man dies and his body is pulled up and out of the hold to be thrown overboard.  On deck Whip says that this is his last voyage.  From now on he is going to be shorebound.    Mr. Morris tells Whip that he doesn't think his grandfather is going to approve of his giving up transporting human cargo.  Whip says he has a plan so big that his grandfather never could have even dreamed about. 

In the hold Mun Ki starts teaching Nyuk Tsin English.  The woman is very head-strong and independent, so he has to be a little rough with her and insist that she learn English. 

The ship is docked in port now.  A ladder is put down into the hold so the people can start leaving the ship.  A man on the dock shouts for Pakes to come his way.  [Pake is a kind of ethnic slur in Hawaii to describe a Chinese person.]  Mun Ki and Nyuk Tsin get in line with the other Pakes. 

Whip looks for his wife Purity on the dock.  Lepers are being put on another ship.  He sees his wife pulling up in a horse-drawn coach. Whip runs to her, grabs her out of the coach and kisses her. 

When the Chinese couple get up to the front of the line, an official tells Nyuk Tsin that she is to go to the Island of Mauie.  She is Prohilde.  The man then tells Mun Ki that he is Janders and Whipple, Island of Kiwai. 

A Chinese man sees Nyuk Tsin and grabs her saying that he bought her.  And he wants half his money back because she is Hakka, not Punti.  There is a bit of a struggle until Whip comes over to stop it.  He gets mad at Mun Ki for telling him that Nyuk Tsin is his wife.  Mun Ki says she is his wife and he pay for her right now.  Whip doesn't want to deal with the matter, but Purity does not want to see a man and wife separated from each other.  Purity asks her husband if the couple might work for them.  Mun Ki jumps at the opportunity and says he's a cook.  So Whip pays off the man from the whore house.

Mun Ki and Nyuk Tsin will be staying in a large shed that is currently being used to store chopped wood.  Nyuk Tsin almost immediately starts cleaning up the place. 

Whip tells his wife that he is going to make Honolulu the crossroads of the Pacific Ocean.  Purity now tells him that his grandfather died six weeks ago  Whip is upset about losing his grandfather. 

Whip goes to a family meeting with the lawyer concerning grandfather's will.  And now Whip learns that his grandfather left all the businesses, including the ships, to the other members of the family.  Whip only gets the Hanakai Plantation.  Whip is furious saying that the plantation is 85,000 acres "of nothing".   He demands to know from his cousin if he used his "influence" on grandfather to write the will the way he did?  The cousin Micah denies it.  The cousin's wife Malama tells Whip that grandfather said that Whip did not need a lot of wealth, because the man can do it all  by himself.  Grandfather did give him an option to buy his old ship the Carthaginian.  The family says that they are willing to give the ship to Whip.  Whip refuses to take their offer.  Still angry he starts walking out of the room.  He stops at the door, turns around and says:  "I envy the pious.  They can be bastards and never know it."

When Whip gets back home there is a man there named Overpeck and he tells Whip that he can make Hanakai bloom for him.  He's a water driller  Whip dismisses the idea saying that his grandfather drilled wells for 20 years and never got any water. Overpeck says he knows about it.  Grandfather drilled six holes and hit caprock before he got any water, but the water is under the caprock.  Whip takes him into the house and gives him several drinks of liquor because the man seems to have a problem with liquor.  Overpeck says he has the only drill around that can bust through the caprock.   

Whip asks him where is his drilling rig?  Overpeck says it's in hock for $900 dollars.  That's no problem for Whip.  But what does Overpeck want?  A quart of whiskey and grub money for everyday that it takes for him to drill for the water.  And if he finds water he wants 3,000 acres of Whip's land.  Whip likes the plan and hires Overpeck.   

Nyuk Tsin is pregnant.  She and Mun Ki go to see a man who sends money back to China for different people. He tells her that when the baby is born, Mun Ki's wife in China will be the mother of the child and Nyuk Tsin will be the auntie.  Nyuk Tsin does not like this idea. 

Overpeck drinks while he drills. 

A son is born  to Nyuk Tsin and he is named Asia.  Whip and Purity come out to see the baby and the parents.  She starts to gets jealous of their situation partly because they seems so happy.  She goes back to the house.  After awhile, Whip notices that Purity has left.  He goes after her to see if anything is wrong.   Purity fears that she will never be able to give birth to a baby. 

Purity does get pregnant and she does give birth to a baby.  Since Purity has no milk, Whip asks Auntie to nurse the new baby.  It's then he notices that Auntie has started a garden.  He asks her who gave her permission to start a garden.  Auntie says she sells the produce in town and makes money to buy land.  Whip laughs and says the Chinese never buy land here.  They always go back to China.  This makes her angry and she says very firmly:  "I never go back."  Her husband hears this and is a bit upset with her.  Whip tells her she can sell her produce in town and she can keep all the money herself.  (She offered to give him 50% percent.)

Whip goes over to check on Overpeck.  He finds him sleeping, drunk as a skunk.  Whip is furious with him and starts kicking the man.  When the fellow is wide awake, Whip takes an ax and busts all his bottles of whiskey.  He starts back for home.  He runs into Auntie bringing food to Overpeck.  He tells her to stop it for awhile because Overpeck sold her vegetables in town and used the money for more whiskey.  Auntie indicates that she will not stop.  She reminds Whip that he said the garden was hers.  Auntie adds that she thinks water will come soon.  Whip tells her this is the fourth well being drilled.  That doesn't discourage Auntie.  She repeats that she thinks water will come soon.  

Whip wants to have sex with his wife, but she doesn't want to have sex.  She says she doesn't want to stop him, but she is so stiff that he gets the idea.  He leaves her alone. 

It's been two years that Overpeck has been drilling for oil with no success.  Overpeck tells Whip that he can feel the water coming and that's why he called everyone out to see the drilling.  And here comes the water pushing up out of the ground and getting everybody wet.   Whip hugs his wife and  gives out with a big guffaw. 

Now that they have found water, Whip tries to get a loan from his relatives.  They don't believe in his project.  They say he's neither a farmer or a businessman.  One of the men urges him to just go back to the sea.  Whip calls all of them "pious bastards".   Back home, Purity says those men are all just pirates.  She turns hippie and says they could live like their Hawaiian ancestors lived. 

Whip talks to the doctor about his wife's not wanting to have sex.  The doctor says it may or may not be post-natal depression.  Whip complains that she has gone native putting up all kinds of things Hawaiian around the house.  The doctor says that Purity is not only one-quarter Hawaiian, she is one-quarter royal Hawaiian.  Whip asks the doctor if his wife may be losing her mind?  It's possible, says the doctor. 

Whip brings a pineapple to Auntie to see if she can grow it successfully.  She puts it right in her garden. 

Auntie tells her husband that she wants to borrow some money from the Hoxworth family in order to buy a little piece of land.  Mun Ki says no.  She can buy land in China.  Auntie says that she want field here.  Mun Ki says they will stay here one more year for the fifth son.  And then they will go back to China.    Auntie tells him no!

Whip returns home from a trip to town and calls Auntie over to him.  He says he is going to see if the pineapple she grew is any good.  He and she and Mun Ki go over to the garden.  Whip divides the pineapple into three parts so they each can have a taste.  Whip bites into the pineapple and is greatly pleased with the wonderful taste.  He is so pleased that he is going to take Auntie to see her piece of land up the road.  Mun Ki feels betrayed, but Auntie tries to soothe him saying that she is paying $20 dollars and Hoxworth is loaning them $80 dollars to buy the land.  Hoxworth hears this and says the hell with that.  He's going to give the piece of land to Nyuk Tsin for free.  Mun Ki is still not pleased. 

It's a beautiful piece of land and Nyuk Tsin is is so very, very pleased. 

One Sunday Whip shows up at church.  He asks Micah to let him use the Carthaginian for a year and he will give up his option to buy it.  It's a deal. 

Whip and crew take off for French Guinea to steal some pineapple plants from a French pineapple plantation. 

Mun Ki is washing dishes.  Nyuk Tsin pours some boiling water into the sink and pours some on his hand by mistake.  She says she burned his hand, while he says no.  He didn't feel anything.  So Nyuk Tsin takes him over to the sunlight to look at his hand.  She hits the back of his hand with her fingers, but he can't feel anything.  They both start to wonder if it might be leprosy. 

To keep the illness from being found out, Nyuk Tsin goes to get medicine late at night.  When she returns home, she tells Mun Ki that she wants to go see Dr. Whipple and not the Chinese doctor.  Mun Ki says absolutely not, because the white doctor will have him sent to Molokai with the other lepers.  She thinks the Chinese doctor is mixed up with some bad men.  Now Nyuk Tsin tells Mun Ki that maybe it's better if they do go back to China.  Mun Ki refuses to go back because he does not want to have his Chinese wife see him as a leper.  Both of them become very sad thinking about their situation.  Mun Ki comes over to Nyuk Tsin and tells her twice that she's a good woman. 

Whip leads a convoy of four boats up river to reach the plantation.  They see an armed man patrolling the area.  He sees them and starts to run.  Crew member Conway shoots the man and he goes down.  Whip is so angry that he now shoots Conway, who falls into the river.  He tells the crew:  "I said no shooting!".   At night the men start gathering pineapples.  By morning they are in the boat going down river. 

The druggist is always hiking the price of the medicine for her husband.  Nyuk Tsin gets angry and says she is going to see Dr. Whipple.  The druggist says the white doctor will turn Mun Ki into the police.  Nyuk Tsin replies that's what the druggist does already. 

Mun Ki and Nyuk Tsin now have a hiding place in the forest.  The druggist has already informed on them to the police.  One night the druggist's henchmen follow Nyuk Tsin from her vegetable garden to the hideout.  When the two people are off guard, the henchmen rush over and grab Mun Ki.  Nyuk Tsin drives a pole with a sharpened end into one of the henchmen.  She then jumps onto the other henchman's back and scratches at his eyes.  He yells in pain and Mun Ki gets free.  They run away from their one-time hide-out. 

Whip arrives back at the dock.  He and his men unload their cargo.  When Whip arrives home he sees that a lot of the furniture has been removed from the house.   He asks the caretaker where is his wife?  The man says that she went away and he doesn't think she's coming back.   The caretaker now says the little Pakes are in deep trouble.  He takes his boss to the former hide-out where one of the henchman still lays with the spear in his back.  They put the dead body in the wagon. 

Mun Ki and Nyuk Tsin have been captured.  The captain drives past them going a different way.  Whip and the caretaker throw the body from a cliff into the sea. 

It's time for the lepers to go to leper island.  A call goes out for all Kokuas.  Nyuk Tsin asks what does the word mean?  It is the wife or another caretaker who goes with those to be put on leper island.  She says good-bye to her children, who the caretaker will care for, and starts to go to the ship.  Whip stops her saying she can't go there.  She explains that she is going to help Mun Ki.  Whip holds her wrists so she can't go anywhere.  She starts to cry and pleads with him to please let her go. He releases his grip from her wrists.  She starts going to the ship.  She turns to look at her four boys who she has to leave behind and feels very sad, but she must help Mun Ki. 

It's a shock for Mun Ki to see Nyuk Tsin coming with him.  They clasp each others' hands. 

Life on the island is going to be rough.  There in virtually no law and order there and the old timer's prey on the newcomers.  The lepers and their caretakers are thrown into the sea and have to walk onto the shore.  They are immediately pounced upon by the veterans.  Some of the new women are raped.  Others are knocked out and have their valuables stolen from them.  Mun Ki and Nyuk Tsin grab some big rocks and get on shore without being hurt because the bad lepers are afraid of being hit with the rocks. 

Whip goes to see Purity in her new home.  He asks her if she still wants him?  He says there is one way to find out.  He carries her to her little hut, but she starts screaming bloody murder.  So Whip gives up on his wife, but he takes his son Noel back home with him. 

Whip goes to leper island.  The men hit him with a big stick but he takes the stick away from its owner and starts knocking the other men down with it.  Now they let him pass for fear of being hit with the stick.  Nyuk Tsin calls out to Hoxworth.  He goes up to their little encampment.  They are happy to see him and wonder if he has leprosy.  No, and neither does Nyuk Tsin.  In fact, Nyuk Tsin has given birth to a girl.   Whip got their message and will take the baby with him. 

Back home Whip opens Hoxworth Enterprises.  He has lots of people working for him on the plantation.   His son wants to go to sea and Whip is ready to send him out on his own. 

Whip has quite a few Japanese workers on the plantation.  They have built some public baths for themselves.  So Whip decides to take a bath with a group of the Japanese.  Other Japanese are curious to see the boss disrobe and get into the bath.   In the bath Whip asks if anyone speaks pidgin English.  No one says yes.  But a new girl arrives and she says her named is Fumiko and she speaks pidgin.  Whip is struck by the beauty of the woman and he says:  "Fumiko, you don't need to speak."

Whip has been seeing Fumiko for awhile.  She tells him that a man wrote a marriage proposal to her, so she came here.  But the fellow turned out to be a very bad man.  Ship kisses her. 

The sons and daughter of  Nyuk Tsin are working the garden on their land.  Up the path comes someone.  The person enters the farm land and the boys recognize their Auntie.  She tells the boys that Mr. Hoxworth got her off Molokai.  She starts guessing the names of her sons, but misses some of them.  Now the little girl Mei Li comes over to see her mother.  Auntie is so happy when the family tells her to go in and see her house. 

It's not long until Nyuk Tsin gets her family working on a big project to get more money.  One of her boys says it's impossible to get more land.  His mother tells him:  "Impossible come back from Molokai."

Whip watches the new queen ride in her coach down the street.  Whip is thinking that maybe this monarchy thing is not a good idea for Hawaii.  He goes to see Nyuk Tsin and tells her that the queen will not let Hawaiians sell their land to the whites, but can sell it to other Hawiians.  So Nyuk Tsin meets a wealthy Hawaiian family and soon one of her five sons marries their daughter.  Now the Chinese family will have more land.

Whip tells Micah that he's not much good as prime minister.  Whip and other Americans are promoting the American annexation of Hawaii and Whip would like a more flexible prime minister with which to work.  He tells Micah that he and a group he belongs to are buying up every firearm available for sale.  Micah says:  "I will not be party to a revolution."  Whip tells him he better be ready for it's inevitable that the revolution is coming.

Whip goes home where Fumiko is waiting for him.  Just as he is settling in, a lieutenant comes to arrest him for the crime of treason.  Later Nyuk Tsin comes to see him in jail.  She offers to lend him some money but he says he doesn't need it. 

Now the town is abuzz with the news of a government take-over.  The queen is reminded that Mr. Hoxworth is an American citizen.  And there are two American warships in the harbor.  The queen says she intends to execute Capt. Hoxworth.  What she doesn't realize is that it's already too late for her to stop the take-over.  And Micah won't support her.  Sailors and marines are in the city and on the palace grounds. 

Whip congratulates Micah Hale for he will be the first president of a new country. 

Noel Hoxworth returns to Honolulu all grown up.  It's not long before he is dating Mei Li.  But Mei Li's mother is already negotiating a marriage on Mei Li's behalf. 

Nyuk Tsin finds a man sick in the middle of the street with a big crowd around him.  Whip reports that there are three cases of bubonic plague in Chinatown.  He tells his son to stay away from Mei Li, but it's already too late.  Noel says he loves the girl.  Whip mentions that he might not be invited to any of the homes of the white people in Honolulu if he marries Mei Li.  . 

Whip goes to Nyuk Tsin to ask her if she can stop the marriage of his son to her daughter?  She will certainly try to stop it. 

Nyuk Tsin meets with her five sons and tells them that whites don't understand Chinese ways.  They don't understand about having very large families and then joining important families to important families.  She wants big influential families all around her.  It seems she's building her own little empire in Honolulu.

With the coming of the plague Honolulu is burning most of Chinatown down.  They also put a quarantine on plague carriers. 

Whip gets an injunction to stop the the plans of the health services.  Noel asks him to get rid of the injunction and let them do their work controlling the plague. 

The law offices of one of Nyuk Tsin's son is going to be dynamited to create a fire break.  Lots of families have to move out of the way.  Whip goes looking for Nyuk Tsin.  He finally finds her and asks her to speak to at least the families that speak Hakka.  The fires are spreading and the people are still jammed up in the streets.  Noel runs into Mei Li and tells her to stick with him. 

The next morning they can see all the damage done by the fires.  Whip talks with Nyuk Tsin.  He says he will come out richer than he was before because now he can buy the property for so much less money.  And he is willing to lend Nyuk Tsin more than $96,000 dollars.  And now he says it might be good for Noel and Mei Li to marry.  Nyuk Tsin says Mei Li is supposed to marry the smart one of the Wong brothers.  But she now thinks it might be good for Noel and Mel Li to marry.  Whip laughs heartily and says he's a damn lucky fellow.  And at his advanced age he still has a big goal in his life and that's to make sure Nyuk Tsin doesn't get the shirt off his back. 

Nyuk Tsin visits the grave of Mun Ki and explains to him why his only daughter is going to marry a white boy. 



I saw this movie as a young man and was very impressed.  Even though it was some 35 years or so ago that I saw the movie, there are scenes that still remain very vivid in my memory.  And it re-confirmed something I had heard from a professor at the University of Florida at Gainesville around 1965-1966: that the United States itself had been deeply involved in imperialism and that Hawaii is an extreme example of this imperialism, being taken over as it was by the Dole Pineapple Company. 

It's a real shame that this film is rarely, if ever, shown on television. 

Charlton Heston plays the part of Whip, the man who started the pineapple industry in Hawaii (hints of President James Dole of the Dole Pineapple Company).  Heston has a relationship with some of the Chinese in Hawaii (complete with a very moving fight with leprosy) who help him build his empire.   Whip, separated from his wife, takes a Japanese concubine (Miko Mayama).

The last part of the film is more interesting for the historian.  It deals with Whip becoming involved with the fate of Queen Liliuokalani (Naomi Stevens) of Hawaii.  The Queen has to give way to the power of the wealthy Americans and Hawaii is annexed by  the U.S.  

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


1778 (January 18)  --  Captain James Cook was surprised to find high islands so far north in the Pacific Ocean. He named them the Sandwich Islands (after the First Lord of the Admiralty, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu). 

1793  --  Kamehameha I unites Hawaii under a single ruler. 

until 1816  --  the Hawaiian chiefs fly the British Union Jack.

1819  --  Kamehameha II ascends to the throne. His stepmother, Ka'ahumanu, was his co-regent.

1820  --  missionaries from a New England Congregationalist group, the ABCFM, arrive.

c. 1821  --  some of the highest-ranking chiefs convert to Christianity.  It was not long before the non-royalty also converted to Christianity.

1848  --  King Kamehameha III signed the Great mahele (land division) into law.  This new law made it possible for Westerners to purchase Hawaiian land.

1874  --  Hawaii signs a treaty with the US granting Americans exclusive trading rights. 

1876  --  the Reciprocity Treaty between Hawaii and the US starts to change the Hawaiian landscape as great sugar cane and pineapple plantations become common. 

1887  --  a group of American-born cabinet officials and advisors to King David Kalākaua with their militia, the Honolulu Rifles, force the king to accept the "Bayonet Constitution," which stripped the monarchy of much of its authority. Sanford Dole and other American lawyers drafted the document. Dole becomes president of the Provisional Government of Hawaii.  The Asian immigrants manning the plantations completely lost any right to vote and the same fate applied to over 75% of the native Hawaiians.  Now, only wealthy Europeans, Americans and Hawaiians had full voting rights.

1891  --  death of King David Kalākaua.  He was replaced by his sister Liliuokolani.  She tried to restore the monarchy's authority. 

1893  --  Hawaiian government overthrown, by the same people behind the 1887 Bayonet Constitution.  The US government, responding to the claims of the United States Government Minister John L. Stevens, used force to prevent the Hawaiians from regaining control over their own Kingdom.  President Grover Cleveland felt that a wrong had been done to Hawaii and recalled Stevens.  He tried to restore the status quo of 1891. 

But President Sanford Dole of the Dole Pineapple Company wasn't having it; he simply refused to reinstate the Queen. 

1894  --  the Morgan Report exonerated Stevens and the U.S. troops. Cleveland did a complete turn around and now accepted the US take over.

1894 (July 4)  --  the Republic of Hawaii established under President Sanford Dole.

1898  --  President William McKinley officially annexes Hawaii.

1900  --  Hawaii becomes a US Territory. 

1901 James Dole opens his first pineapple plantation in the central plateau of the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Sanford Dole was the cousin of James.


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