Joshua Logan's South Pacific: John Kerr, Mitzi Gaynor, Rossano Brazzi (top); John Kerr, France Nuyen (bottom)
Tonight at 7:30 p.m., a recently restored 70mm print of the Joshua Logan-directed film version of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II's musical South Pacific will be screened at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. South Pacific stars Rossano Brazzi, Mitzi Gaynor, John Kerr, Ray Walston, Juanita Hall, and France Nuyen.
The Academy screening is presented in association with Center Theater Group, currently hosting the touring version of the South Pacific Broadway revival.
Following the screening, Center Theatre Group's artistic director Michael Ritchie will lead an onstage discussion featuring veteran Mitzi Gaynor (above), a superb dancer who starred (or was featured in) several 1950s musicals, including There's No Business Like Show Business, Anything Goes, and Les Girls.
Based on James Michener's novel, South Pacific premiered on stage in 1949. The plot revolves around romantic encounters and ethnic bigotry on a fictitious South Pacific island, where members of the U.S. Navy are stationed. The film adaptation was a major box office hit in 1958, despite complaints that most of the leads couldn't sing.
Among the songs featured in South Pacific are “Some Enchanted Evening,” “A Wonderful Guy,” “Happy Talk” and “Bali Ha'i.”
Black American actress Juanita Hall (above, with John Kerr, Ray Walston, and a bunch of buffed-up navy types) possessed good vocal cords, but Hall is more than a little out of place as a Pacific Islander nicknamed “Bloody Mary,” who happens to be the mother of France Nuyen's Liat. But then again, it could be worse: just watch Hall playing Chinese and singing “Chop Suey” in Flower Drum Song (1961).
Also of note is that long before Tom Cruise's Top Gun and Taylor Lautner's Jacob Black in the Twilight series, Joshua Logan put semi-naked male bodies to good use in South Pacific. Gay erotica probably owes quite a bit to films such as these.
South Pacific (above, Mitzi Gaynor and Rossano Brazzi) won an Academy Award for Sound (Todd-AO Sound Department, Fred Hynes, sound director), and earned nominations for Color Cinematography (Leon Shamroy) and Music - Scoring of a Musical Picture (Alfred Newman, Ken Darby).
The current Broadway revival, the first since the show's premiere, won seven 2008 Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical.
Tickets for South Pacific are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. For more information, call (310) 247-3600 or visit www.oscars.org.
Photos: Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library