During the golden age of Hollywood one genre dominated the scene, the musical. Even in movies that were not musicals per say often included song and dance number or two to the delight of the audience among the most popular movies were the traditional musicals, many of which began as huge hit Broadway hit plays. This was fantastic to the producers of the films since I meant they had a built in audience clamoring to buy a ticket to the film. People were already familiar with the story and songs so for the millions who couldn’t make the pilgrimage to Broadway the film version afforded them access to this wildly popular form of entertainment. With its music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, South Pacific has been a staple of the musical genre for sixty years. From its opening as a Broadway play on April 7, 1949 to the hit widescreen movie made in 1958 this musical has provided many memorable moments to millions of people This story is still able to delight audience today and because of this Fox has re-released the original movie in high definition Blu-ray. This is the kind of film that demands to be presented in high definition. The cinematography was striking, innovative and like nothing seen before. Most distributors are slowly infusing Blu-ray titles into their release catalogue but Fox has been going the extra mile by re-mastering some of their most beloved classics. This is the first Rodgers and Hammerstein films to receive the Blu-ray treatment and hopefully will be the start of a trend. This film is not only one of the best examples of s golden musical but at the time of its release it stirred up more than its share of controversy both in subject and presentation. You might think that s romantic musical would be as benign as possible but this one pushed s few hot buttons with the public. Modern viewers have to remember that the late fifties were a much different time, one on social prejudice. It was just after World War Two when people were suspicious of Asians and they thought communists were lurking in every shadow plotting against our American way of life. This story delves into some of the darker aspects of the human condition and juxtaposes them against some of the funniest and most energetic musical in the history of film.
The basic story, or book as it u called came from the James A. Michener's Pulitzer Prize-winning, 1948 novel, Tales of the South Pacific, adapted for the stage by the acclaimed team of Rodgers and Hammerstein. At its heart this is a classic wartime romance aptly enhanced with song and dance. The setting is a small island in the south pacific that is not directly in the heat of battle but its location is near a Japanese outpost and therefore vital to the war effort. The actual screenplay was provided by Paul Osborn who like most writers of the time started out with dramatic television anthology shows and wrote the script for the romantic fantasy ‘Portrait of Jennie’. He managed to pull off something incredibly difficult; he remained true to the novel and the play. By today’s politically correct standards some of the lyrics of the songs may be viewed as non PC such as the little ditty ‘There Ain't Nothing Like A Dame’. This is an ode to how women are without doubt vital to a happy sane life; it celebrates the joys of women. This is loudly proclaimed by the male chorus line of sailors. Playing the leader of the Seabees, Luther Billis, was a veteran of Broadway musicals, Ray Walston. He may be best remembered for the classic sit-coms, "My favorite Martian’. He had an energy and love for his craft that is still s joy to behold. The two main romances were a departure from the mainstream. The first was between a handsome young navy officer, Lt. Joseph Cable (John Kerr) and the daughter of the local native headwoman, Bloody Mary (Juanita Hall; relationship between an officer and a native as classic forbidden love. The second romance was with Ensign Nellie Forbus (Mitzi Gaynor) and the wealthy plantation owner mile De Becque (Rossano Brazzi). He has two racially mixed children by his first marriage. While now this is no big deal back then it was a social taboo. The children are innocent victims caught in a world of adult prejudices. This leads to the film’s most poignant and moving song, "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught". Where it is described how hatred and prejudice must be carefully implanted in the otherwise innocent children. Balancing this deep social commentary is the light hearted tune ‘Cockeyed Optimist" and some of the greatest love songs ever; ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ and ‘Younger than Springtime’. In short this film has it all. Fortunately, Fox’s new 50th anniversary Blu-ray edition provides the ultimate viewing experience for this classic piece of cinema. The high definition video brings you to the island of Bali-hi with vivid colors that are amazing. The lossless audio is perfect. As if this wasn’t enough there are two discs crammed with extras. This is something that is part of our cultural heritage and some that will entertain the whole family. It combine song, dance, romance with an important moral lesson; quite an accomplishment leaving no doubt as to why this has endured favorite for half a century. Bring this home and introduce a new generation to entertainment in its purest form. While some of the themes have lost their controversial nature the fun remains as strong as ever. Currently there is a stage revival on Broadway but nothing can rival this presentation.