Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
USA, 1957. Pennebaker Productions, William Goetz Productions. Screenplay by Paul Osborn, based on the novel by James A. Michener. Cinematography by Ellsworth Fredericks. Produced by William Goetz. Music by Franz Waxman. Production Design by Ted Haworth. Costume Design by Norma Koch. Film Editing by Philip W. Anderson, Arthur P. Schmidt.
This South Pacific war drama must have seemed fantastic upon its successful original release, but in the years since it has definitely gathered a little dust. Still, it’s an enjoyable melodrama about an American soldier (Marlon Brando) stationed in Japan who indulges in a forbidden affair with a gorgeous ‘geisha girl’ (Miiko Taka). Less hunky but more personable army man Red Buttons also finds love with a local, played by Miyoshi Umeki in a thoroughly delightful performance that led to a brief and underappreciated career in film (and garnered her an Academy Award to boot). In the foreground, these four ill-fated lovers burn their passions amid gorgeously photographed exotic locales. In the background, the war rages on ignored. It’s not bad in any particular way (though considerably too long for sure), but it seems silly decades later that Hollywood dealt with the huge problem of racism in America by telling stories about sheltered white men finding love with impossibly beautiful Asian women (see also Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing, South Pacific and, if you switch the genders of its protagonists, The King And I).
Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor (Red Buttons); Best Supporting Actress (Miyoshi Umeki); Best Art Direction; Best Sound Recording
Nominations: Best Picture; Best Actor (Marlon Brando); Best Director (Joshua Logan); Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Cinematography; Best Film Editing
Golden Globe Awards: Best Supporting Actor (Red Buttons)
Nominations: Best Picture-Drama; Best Actor-Drama (Marlon Brando); Best Supporting Actress (Miyoshi Umeki); Best Director (Joshua Logan)