“South Pacific”

Our chosen classic musical is “South Pacific”, a very interesting film.

This is from 1958, directed by legend Joshua Logan and filmed in Todd-AO, though 70mm versions exist.

The plot: on a South Pacific island in World War II, Lieutenant Cable (John Kerr) arrives with instructions to contact Emile de Becque. The plan is to camp secretly on an island to spy on the Japanese and report back. Meanwhile, love blooms…

The stage version was one of the most successful ever produced. When it is revived even today it packs them in. It ran for nearly 2000 performances in New York alone.

The film stars Mitzi Gaynor as Nellie Forbush and Rozanno Brazzi as de Becque. Neither had appeared on the stage with this show. Mary Martin had made her name in one role and Giorgio Tozzi in the other. Both were passed over for the film. While Gaynor did her own singing, Brazzi did not. He was dubbed, not an uncommon thing, by Tozzi. Breathtaking cheek, though he does get a big credit.

The songs are well known, with additions and removals from the original version. The order of scenes was changed but the basic story not. The Bali Ha’i scenes are somewhat boring in our opinion.

What makes this film very interesting, and perhaps rather controversial, is the use of coloured filters to set a mood. It’s somewhat like what was done with silent films when they would be tinted to represent day, night or whatever. The whole film has a rather odd colour pallette anyway but the filters are very strange.

Logan says somewhere that the labs overdid it, this was not what was intended and it could not be altered. But it makes interesting viewing.

The film was a massive success. It ran in London for nearly four and a half years. Unheard of these days…

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