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USA 1958
Directed by
Joshua Logan
151 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

South Pacific

Joshua Logan had directed the original smash 1949 Broadway version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical based on James Michener’s 'Tales Of The Pacific', which was in turn based on the author’s tour of duty therein.

Heaving with a Barbara Cartlandish romance that tells of a French planter (Rossano Brazzi) and the young American nurse (Mitzi Gaynor) who falls in love with him during the latter days of WWII. This is padded out by a second romance between an army lieutenant (John Kerr) and a nubile native lgirl.

The first half of this painfully overlong film which was shot in eye-gouging Technicolor on 70mm features a clutch of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s songs of exceptionally high standard both melodically and lyrically, ranging from the catchy “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair” to the classic “Some Enchanted Evening” and its melancholy counterpoint “This Nearly Was Mine” which are gracefully integrated into the narrative.

The second half of the film, however, which turns to the military operations against the Japanese, tackles racial prejudice and the tragedy of war in general (much of which I assume was not part of the original stage production) is at best incongruous at worst amateurish and in every respect could have been omitted to good effect (particularly from today’s perspective when the notion of “mixed marriage”and the hysteria it generated for America's white middle-class is a thing of the past).

In its day however the film version was generally regarded as disappointment largely because of cinematographer Leon Shamroy’s unnecessary and intrusive use of colour filters to emotionally amplify the songs. The stagy antics of the bare-chested beef-cake male chorus who could easily fill a double bill with the Village People also drew criticism in its day.

Brazzi and Gaynor carry the bulk of the vocal duties with Juanita Hall reprising her stage role as Bloody Mary although the voices of all three were dubbed.

One can only say on the strength of this that Logan must have been a much better theatre director than a film director. 

FYI: The original theatrical version was 171m but this was shortened for general release. Full length versions are available on DVD although the quality of the restored footage, to date at least, is less than perfect.




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