Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
USA, 1961. Universal International Pictures, Fields Productions. Screenplay by Joseph Fields, based on the stage play by Joseph Fields, Oscar Hammerstein II, from the novel by C.Y. Lee. Cinematography by Russell Metty. Produced by Ross Hunter. Music by Alfred Newman. Production Design by Alexander Golitzen, Joseph C. Wright. Costume Design by Irene Sharaff. Film Editing by Milton Carruth. Academy Awards 1961. Golden Globe Awards 1961.
The least known of the Rodgers and Hammerstein movie musicals is this charmer that features an all-Asian cast. It centres around a young girl (Miyoshi Umeki) who immigrates illegally with her father from China to San Francisco to marry her arranged fiance (Jack Soo). Soo has a mistress already (Nancy Kwan), a sexy nightclub singer who has no intention of giving him up to any tradition, so she pushes Umeki in the direction of James Shigeta, a plot which works quite well when the two end up falling in love. The great musical team behind the film tried to battle important social issues with their stories, and racism was a particular favourite, here done a particularly good service with their concentrating on a minority group that was completely under-represented in cinema at the time (and still remains marginally seen on movie theatre screens). The outcome is too frothy to be notable, however, and the songs aren’t among their best, so the audience can’t be fully blamed for having completely ignored it (especially considering it came out the same year as West Side Story). The visuals are extremely lovely, and Umeki delivers her songs about discovering the joys of life in America with delightful relish.