Production in paradise

Production in paradise

Altadena author Luis Reyes teams up with writer Ed Rampell for a book spotlighting the history of Hawaii in films and TV shows

By Carl Kozlowski 01/16/2014

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Growing up in New York City, Luis Reyes always loved movies about Hawaii, with its warm climate and tropical surroundings. He saw as many films and TV shows as he could about the islands, yet when he visited there for the first time 25 years ago he was disappointed to find there was no definitive guidebook directing people where to find the hot spots featured in those productions.  

Reyes vowed to fix that problem, and now he has as the co-author (with former Pasadena Weekly freelance contributor Ed Rampell) of “The Hawaii Movie and Television Book: Celebrating 100 Years of Film Production Throughout the Hawaiian Islands,” which offers a lush look at the history of film production in the Aloha State. Including chapters that focus on film locations, a history of the present-day Hawaii film industry and iconic onscreen Hawaiian crime fighters, the book mixes vibrant photos with crisp and informative writing to provide fans of both the island paradise and its filmic depictions with a treasure trove of memories. 

On Friday, Reyes will appear at Vroman’s Bookstore for a discussion and signing of the book. Between Reyes’ lifelong interest in Hawaii-set films and Rampell’s history of living in Makaha, Tahiti, Samoa and Micronesia, it should be a colorful evening of information and storytelling. 

“This year was the centennial year for feature films shot throughout the Hawaiian Islands,” says Reyes. “When Hollywood needed a South Seas location, they’d go to Hawaii. Hawaii had been annexed by the US in 1898 and Hawaii became the playground of the rich and famous. Hawaii was only a five-day ship voyage and they could put everything, including cars, aboard and all go over to film.” 

The new book marks the third collaboration between Reyes and Rampell, who previously released “Made in Paradise: Hollywood’s Films of Hawaii and the South Seas” and “Pearl Harbor in the Movies.” They felt the time was right for the latest tome because 2013 and 2014 mark all sorts of anniversaries for Hollywood, including the 60th anniversary of the, post-World War II classic “From Here to Eternity.” 

“’Eternity’ was one of the most honored films of Hollywood history,” says Reyes. “It was one of the first films after World War II that was shot in Hawaii; it won eight Oscars and has been iconic in the career of Frank Sinatra, because his role reestablished his career when he won Best Supporting Actor.”
While the book spotlights dozens of productions, it is surprising how many island-based shows were in the crime and police genres. The 12-season run of “Hawaii Five-O” is the centerpiece of a chapter on crime-fighting shows, which is particularly good timing considering that “Five-O” just recently was released in a deluxe box set on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Since the one-two punch of “Five-O” from 1968 to 1980 and “Magnum PI” from 1980 to 1988, the Hawaiian film and TV industry has been on a hot streak. “Lost” and the current CBS reboot of “Five-O” have been small-screen successes, while “The Descendants” won Oscar gold a year ago  and “The Hunger Games” clobbers films worldwide as a global box-office champ. 
“I’m a firm believer that if you don’t document your history it doesn’t exist,” says Reyes. “People wear aloha shirts and listen to Hawaiian music because it was a big part of the American popular culture. Tiki culture faded as Hawaii became more affordable. For $400 you can hop a flight to Hawaii and get the real thing.”  

Luis Reyes will discuss and sign “The Hawaii Movie and Television Book” at 7 p.m. Friday at Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. Call (626) 449-5320 or visit


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