Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
USA, 1958. Magna Theatre Corporation, South Pacific Enterprises. Screenplay by Paul Osborn, based on the play by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, from the book Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener. Cinematography by Leon Shamroy. Produced by Buddy Adler, Richard Rodgers. Music by Alfred Newman. Production Design by John DeCuir, Lyle R. Wheeler. Costume Design by Dorothy Jeakins. Film Editing by Robert L. Simpson. Academy Awards 1958. Golden Globe Awards 1958.
About as lively as a slug and as enjoyable as the migraine headache you get from watching it for too long. Much of the film’s weakness lies in casting the less-than-stellar Mitzi Gaynor and Rossano Brazzi as two star-crossed lovers on a South Pacific island during World War II who are being torn apart by her inability to accept his having been previously married to a Polynesian woman. Seems stupid now, but for its time it was a pretty progressive statement against racism, though Rodgers and Hammerstein did much better two years earlier with The King And I (and they tackled sexism in that one too). However, Gaynor and Brazzi can’t carry a film to save their lives, and the sideline romance with John Kerr and France Nuyen is so brainless it inspires not a moment of empathy. Great photography and musical numbers are a plus, but the use of colour filters is overdone and the running time stays well beyond its welcome. The great Broadway duo’s beautiful musical score remains intact, with one song (‘My Girl Back Home’) which was originally cut from the stage version restored here. Watch it for the half-naked hunky sailors. (I always do).