Roberta Haynes returns to her paradise

The ashes of Hollywood actress, Roberta Haynes, have been returned to Samoa, in the arms of her son Johnathan Ward.

Haynes played Maeva in the 1953 movie Return to Paradise, which was filmed at Matautu Lefaga.

She passed on in April this year at the age of 91 and her son has brought her ashes to Samoa to be laid at her final resting place. 

Ward told the Samoa Observer that Samoa was home for his mother. 

“It has always been her wish to return to Samoa. We came back for the 25th anniversary of the Returned to Paradise movie and there I got to meet her friends that she made in the movie, Frieda and Viola Annandale.” 

Ward attended Leifiifi College for a minimal time when he visited Samoa during his summer breaks. 

“My mom came back for the 50th and the 60th anniversary for the movie and that’s when she decided Samoa would be her permanent home when she passed away,” he added. 

Ward said Haynes has fond memories of working with Gary Cooper and Felise Va who had a supporting role in the movie as a little boy. 

“And I met him, when we came to Samoa and he was working with the local newspaper.” 

Ward said the movie was important to the Samoans as it was about the island and a lot of locals were cast in the movie. 

“And this is because the movie was so true and the story about the island and the Samoan people and how there are a lot of Samoans in the movie and one of the comments that stood out was – even though the movie wasn’t perfect my dad did pretty good with the speaking of the Samoan language in the movie."

At the airport, the Samoa Tourism Authority performers welcomed Mr Ward and his family.  

According to a press statement, the Haynes service will be held next week Tuesday. 


“Her ashes will be deposited in the Memorial Fale that sits in front of the Chapel overlooking the beach that Roberta loved so much.

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“Tributes will be led by Deputy Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa. This is very fitting as Fiame is the Grand-daughter of Le Mamea Matatumua who played a significant part as Chief Tonga in the movie.” 

Roberta also starred in movies with other movie legends of that era including Roger Moore, Lee J Cobb, Rock Hudson, Humphrey Bogart, John Carradine and John Garfield.  

The press statement added that Roberta was also named one of the sexiest women alive by People Magazine and made frequent cover appearances. 

In her later years, she became an executive behind the camera at Twentieth Century Fox, but still appeared as a special guest star in TV dramas including Falcon Crest and Knott’s Landing.

“As well as the grave site, Return to Paradise is also setting up a permanent Roberta Haynes Memorial Fale which will display of memorabilia and tributes to Ms. Haynes next to the chapel. 

Far into the future, people will be able to visit the chapel, hear about the life of Roberta Haynes and visit her grave. 

“We are so honoured to be welcoming Roberta back,” said the resort's general manager and matriarch, Ramona Su’a Pale. 

“Roberta made it clear to us when she visited us four years ago that her heart remained in Samoa and this was where she wanted her ashes to come to. 

She will always be Maeva to the people of Samoa, and we are looking forward to welcoming her home.”

The movie was filmed in Lefaga at what became known thereafter as Return to Paradise Beach, which was renamed the island of Matareva. 

Ms. Haynes portrayed a native on the island who had a romance and then had a child with Cooper's drifter character. 

The movie was directed by Mark Robson and based on a novel by James Michener.

In 2015 Ms. Haynes was flown business class to Samoa from Hollywood, courtesy of Fiji Airlines to be the guest of honour at a movie reunion at the then recently opened Return to Paradise Resort. 

At the Gala Ball held in her honour, she said that her heart was still here in Samoa and she was going to tell her family that she wanted her ashes brought back here. 

This is the wish that her family and the family at Return to Paradise Resort are now going to honour.

 “Roberta is a part of us,” said Ramona.

“She has done so much to raise the visibility of Samoa and we are so glad she is coming back to where she belongs.” 

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