Island in the Sun is a 1957 De Luxe in CinemaScope drama film produced by Darryl F. Zanuck and directed by Robert Rossen. It features an ensemble cast including James Mason, Harry Belafonte, Joan Fontaine, Joan Collins, Dorothy Dandridge, Michael Rennie, Stephen Boyd, Patricia Owens, John Justin, Diana Wynyard, and Basil Sydney. The film is about race relations and interracial romance set in the fictitious island of Santa Marta. Barbados and Grenada were selected as the sites for the movie based on the 1955 novel by Alec Waugh. The film was controversial at the time of its release.
The film follows several characters, black, white and mixed race, and their relationships. It also chronicles the social inequality between the British who colonized the island, and the native population. Maxwell Fleury (James Mason) is a white plantation owner’s son who suffers from an inferiority complex and makes rash decisions to prove his worth. He is tormented by jealousy of his wife, Sylvia (Patricia Owens), and is envious of his younger sister Jocelyn (Joan Collins), who is being courted by the Oxford-bound Euan Templeton (Stephen Boyd), a war hero visiting the Governor of the island, his father Lord Templeton (Ronald Squire).
David Boyeur (Harry Belafonte), a young black man emerging as a powerful politician, represents the common people and is seen by some as a threat to the white ruling class. Mavis Norman (Joan Fontaine), a woman from the elite white class, strikes up a romantic interest in Boyeur and much of the story explores the tension between these two.
There is also an interracial romance between Margot Seaton (Dorothy Dandridge), a mixed-race drugstore clerk, and Denis Archer (John Justin), aide to the Governor.
Maxwell believes that Hilary Carson (Michael Rennie) is having an affair with his wife. He strangles Carson during a quarrel, then tries to make it look like a robbery. Colonel Whittingham (John Williams), the head of police, investigates the murder.
A journalist named Bradshaw (Hartley Power) writes an expose revealing that Maxwell’s grandmother was part black. Maxwell has decided to run for the legislature, but is jeered by the crowd, then insults everyone there.
Jocelyn learns she is pregnant, but does not wish to burden Euan with a child of mixed race. Her mother reveals that Jocelyn’s father was actually a white man, the result of an undisclosed affair. She and Euan board a plane to England, as do Margot and Denis, to begin new lives.
Maxwell, a broken man, contemplates suicide, then decides to go to Whittingham to confess. Mavis wishes to marry Boyeur and begin a new life of her own, but he decides the needs of the island and his people must come first.