Revisiting Jamaican Satirical Comedy ‘Smile Orange’ (1976)

Julien Neaves, Caribbean Head Writer

When some folks think of holidaying in the Caribbean the three “S” words come to mind: sun, sand and sea. And a segment of these folks include another “S” — sex. The various islands, however, are far more diverse, unique and have much more to offer than this, but the stereotype sadly endures. And this is one of the stereotypes that the 1976 Jamaican satirical comedy Smile Orange gleefully lampoons.

The film, written and directed by Trevor D. Rhone and based on his play of the same name, tells the tale of waiter, lothario, hustler and con man Ringo Smith and his misadventures at a beach-side hotel in Jamaica.

Coo pon dat big batty gyal by de desk. Translation: Check out that large bottom woman by the desk

Ringo is played by veteran Jamaican actor Carl Bradshaw who had previously showed off his dramatic skills in the 1972 classic musical crime drama The Harder They Come, and 15 years later crafted a hilarious comedic character in sex comedy The Lunatic. Bradshaw is easily the best actor in Smile Orange, and his smooth-talking, self-serving, surprisingly philosophical antics are dependably amusing. The guy is so cool he even has his own them music like Shaft. The rest of the cast are also solid and deliver on their comedic set-ups.

The film opens with Ringo seducing a young woman and then having sex with her in some bushes. Unfortunately, their sexual congress is in the middle of some cow itch, a bean as itchy as it sounds. You then have a shot of them running naked, bare bottoms to the viewer. But that’s about the extent of the nudity, however, and the film talks more about sex than actually showing any. So if one is looking for a raunchy Jamaican comedy then the aforementioned Lunatic would be more your speed.

When you gotta look fresh for the ladies

The film is more concerned with how the hotel staff view their foreign clientele and how the clientele view them, though to a lesser extent. Smile Orange, which came out just 14 years after Jamaica gained independence, is a light deconstruction of the relationship between the former slaves and newly independent black people with their former white “masters”.

The staff view the tourists as a pay day and are willing to stoop, serve and “service” them if it gets them a financial benefit. And some of the tourists fetishise the black men and women, a desire which found its climax (no pun intended) with the phenomenon of the “rent-a-dread” male sex workers. In watching the film it is a bit tough sympathising with any of the characters here, other than the dim-witted young waiter Cyril, as they are either pompous, like the snooty assistant manager, or manipulative, like Ringo and the sexy receptionist.

This bin is killing meh back!

My favourite scene is where Ringo teaches (or tries to teach) Cyril how to seduce the tourists. It just gets funnier as it goes on. There is also the scene where Ringo hides in a large bin from the assistant manager that produced a few chuckles. And the image of Ringo’s baby mother and her brothers walking and walking was also quite memorable.

Despite all the shenanigans there is no “justice” at the end and the final scene feels like it comes out of nowhere. But there are enough laughs here, and an enlightening look at the relationship between the tourist and the tourist worker, to makes Smile Orange a pretty sweet time.

Editor Jules’s Score: 7 out of 10

For my review of classic Jamaican comedy The Lunatic you can click here. And for reviewed of more than 60 Caribbean films and series you can click here.

B0FC059B-BBEE-47CF-90E4-D588C1BACD93 Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. I can also be found posting about TV and movie memes, news and trailers on Facebook at Movieville.