Classic Film Guide

Sayonara (1957)

The story is about the restrictions placed upon American servicemen stationed in Japan during the Korean War - "there will be no sanctioned fraternization between Americans and the natives" - and racism. Red Buttons, as Joe Kelly, and Miyoshi Umeki (later, TV's Mrs. Livingston on The Courtship of Eddie's Father), as Katsumi in her film debut, earned Supporting Actor/Actress Oscars (their only nominations) playing one of the film's taboo couples, the most tragic one; Marlon Brando and Miiko Taka play the other. Brando's character is a good old boy hotshot flying ace Air Force officer who'd initially been charged with discouraging such relationships, but ironically falls in love with a famous Japanese performing artist himself. In fact, Major Gruver (Brando) had initially been transferred to Japan by his would-be father-in-law (Kent Smith), who'd been encouraged by his wife (Martha Scott) and daughter Eileen Webster (Patricia Owens), Gruver’s fiancée, to facilitate their wedding. James Garner plays a fellow (womanizing) officer, a Marine Captain, who befriends Gruver, his BOQ roommate. Ricardo Montalban plays another native performing artist, Nakamura, who helps Gruver’s now former fiancée Eileen overcome her prejudices about (dating, falling in love with) the Japanese. James Stacy appears as a reporter.

Directed by Joshua Logan (Picnic (1955)) who earned his second and last Best Director Academy Award nomination, and based on the James Michener novel, Paul Osborn (East of Eden (1955)) earned his second and last nomination for his Screenplay. This Best Picture nominee's Art Direction-Set Decoration and Sound won Oscars; its Cinematography and Editing were also nominated.

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