BrianRxm Coins in Movies 40/115
His Majesty O'Keefe (1954)
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The 1954 Warner Brothers film "His Majesty O'Keefe" is about an Irish-American adventurer
David O'Keefe, who lands in the South Pacific Island of Yap in 1870, sets up a company to employ
the residents to harvest coconuts and produce copra (coconut oil), and later becomes a "king" of the island.
 
The film stars Burt Lancaster as David O'Keefe and was mostly filmed in Fiji. It is based on a true story.
 
Examples of the famous Yap stone "money" (sacred stones or "Fei" stones) are shown along with
copper coins from Canada, Japan, and Russia used as props for gold coins.
His Majesty O'Keefe
1. Title
 
Captain David O'Keefe loses his ship to a mutiny and is washed ashore on the Island of Yap.
 
Yap is located in the Caroline Islands in the South Pacific which are now part of the
Federated States of Micronesia.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
2. O'Keefe arrives in Yap
 
He is rescued by natives and taken to Alfred Tetins, a German trader who has lived on the island
for 20 years.
 
O'Keefe is an entrepreneur and notices the coconuts, which can be harvested and processed to
produce copra sand coconut oil, which had many uses in the days before synthetic oils.
 
O'Keefe becomes friends with a native chief/shaman, Fatumak, who speaks English and acts as a
translator.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
3. O'Keefe with coconut
 
O'Keefe proposes hiring the natives to process coconuts but Tetins informs him that the natives
have everything they need and can not be paid or forced to work.
 
Tetins shows O'Keefe a Yap sacred stone or "Fei" stone.
O'Keefe enters a duel against a native chief Boogulroo and impresses the natives by beating him.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
4. Yap sacred stone
 
These stones are quarried elsewhere and brought to the island.
They are sometimes referred to as "stone money", but they are not moved around as a
medium of exchange.
 
O'Keefe tries out his scheme on the natives by offering them trade goods if they will work for him.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
5. O'Keefe offers a cookoo clock
 
The natives are not interested in "high tech".
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
6. Canoes arrive with stones
 
O'Keefe watches the natives unload the stones and realizes their worth.
 
A boat arrives with Tetins' German partners and they agree to take O'Keefe to Hong Kong,
the center of the copra trade.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
7. O'Keefe at Tetins' house
 
O'Keefe has done some odd jobs for Tetins' and receives five gold coins, four of which are on the table.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
8. Money on the table
 
The coins on the table are supposed to be gold coins but they appear to be copper coins used as props.
 
The top left coin appears to be a Russia 5 kopeks, copper, 32.7mm, issued 1867 to 1912.
The top right coin appears to be a Japan 2 sen, bronze, 31.8mm, issued 1873 to 1892.
The bottom two coins appear to be Bank of Upper Canada tokens, copper, 33.4mm, issued 1850 to 1857.
 
One of the five coins is missing as O'Keefe has given it to Kakofel, a native friend.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
9. Kakofel wearing her coin
 
O'Keefe arrives in busy Hong Kong.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
10. Hong Kong street
 
O'Keefe tries to recruit investors for his scheme.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
11. O'Keefe shows the money
 
The bankers are not interested in loaning him a large amount of money for such a speculative venture.
 
O'Keefe is punched in a bar fight and has to see a dentist, Dr. Tang, who, after making a dental cap,
offers to invest in the scheme.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
12. O'Keefe makes deal with Dr. Tang
 
Dr. Tang loans O'Keefe a Chinese ship and helps to recruit a crew.
Tang's assistant, Mr. Chou, accompanies the crew.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
13. O'Keefe's ship the Kathleen
 
The ship had belonged to a famous pirate who gave it it's name.
The ship sails towards Yap but stops on an unknown island.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
14. O'Keefe arrives on island
 
O'Keefe and Chou go ashore and meet some residents.
They give the native chief a gift.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
15. Gift for island chief
 
The natives are not friendly and chase the men back to their ship.
 
The ship arrives at the island of Palau where O'Keefe meets Friedlander, another German trade agent.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
16. Friedlander's office on Palau
 
O'Keefe quickly becomes friends with Dalabo, Friedlander's daughter.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
17. Dalabo and O'Keefe
 
While wandering around the island O'Keefe makes a discovery.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
18. The source of the sacred stones
 
O'Keefe and Dalabo watch the Yap men mine the stones and grind them to size.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
19. Making money
 
O'Keefe brings some gunpowder to blast part of the quarry and shows the men how to use metal tools
to produce more stones.
 
O'Keefe ships the new stones to Yap on the Kathleen.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
20. O'Keefe arrives with the new stones
 
O'Keefe now has something that the natives will work for, he gets a load of coconut copra,
takes the load and Dalabo to Hong Kong where he sells the copra and marries Dalabo.
They return to the island of Yap, now wealthy.
Kakofel, realizing that her relationship with O'Keefe is over gives her coin necklace to Dalabo.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
21. Kakofel gives coin necklace to Dalabo
 
Bully Hayes is the captain of a pirate ship and his crew land on the island to kidnap natives to be sold
elsewhere as slaves. O'Keefe organizes his Chinese crew and some natives to fight and overcome
the pirates.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
22. Bully Hayes' pirates fight islanders
 
In return for his services in leading the fight against the pirates, the islanders make O'Keefe
an honorary "king".
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
23. His Majesty O'Keefe as king
 
A coronation ceremony is held.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
24. Coronation ceremony
 
Fatumak heads the pro-O'Keefe group and O'Keefe's old enemy Boogulroo heads a group which
does not want to use the new stones which they believe have less power than stones produced
the traditional way.
 
A group of German traders arrive and recruit Boogulroo and his men by giving them rifles in order
to stage a takeover of the island.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
25. O'Keefe confronts Germans
 
O'Keefe brings the two groups together to settle things.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
26. O'Keefe meets Germans to settle dispute
 
O'Keefe sends Mr. Chou to destroy the new stones which are the cause of the conflict.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
27. Blowing up the new stone money
 
O'Keefe's island wealth is also destroyed in the blast but the discord is removed and the Germans,
realizing that there is nothing for them, leave the island.
 
His Majesty O'Keefe
28. O'Keefe and Dalabo
Notes:
 
Cast:
Burt Lancaster as Capt. David O'Keefe
Joan Rice as Dalabo
Tessa Prendergast as Kakofel
Abraham Sofaer as Fatumak (Medicine Man)
Archie Savage as Boogulroo (Native chief)
Philip Ahn as Sien Tang (Hong Kong dentist)
Andre Morell as Alfred Tetins
 
Director: Byron Haskin
Writers: Borden Chase, James Hill, Lawrence Klingman, Gerald Green
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