What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
This movie is not on my list of essential films.
For an opening bit of “full disclosure,” I’m not a big fan of musicals. To me, there’s only about six or seven in the history of Hollywood that are worth their weight in Spam. “South Pacific” obviously isn’t one of them. Like the title says, I know I’m in the minority; most classic flims fans love this movie.
Realistically, the only redeeming quality this movie has it Mitzi Gaynor’s ass in those white shorts. At least it has that because there’s so much about this movie that irks the shit out of me.
1) They found a way to make racism look even dumber
The “Bloody Mary” character; a Polynesian being played by a black woman didn’t bother me. As an “old movie” guy, I’m used to seeing all those silly Italian and Jewish “Indians” in westerns. If I can live with Leonard Nimoy as an Indian, if I can Live with Sean Connery trying to pull off “Asian” in “You Only Live Twice,” the question becomes why did this put a burr under my saddle blanket?
I’ll double down on that. The fact this tripped my trigger at all is seriously odd considering I’m the absolutely, positively the LAST person on this planet who would even be remotely thought of as “easily-offended,” and I’m on record railing against people who complain about old movies because they hold them to the moral/cultural standards of today.
The thing that got me about “Bloody Mary” is the needless “Pidgin” English accent used in her portrayal. I’m sorry, but this woman has been around Americans for quite some time. If she’s going to be taken seriously as a trading partner, she’s not going to talk like a cartoon character.
But that’s not even the dumbest thing in this movie. I almost lost my shit when Gaynor’s “Nellie Forbush” recoils in horror at the idea that her love interest Emile de Becque (played by Rossano Brazzi) fathered two mixed-race children.
What the fuck did she expect? The guy has been living on that island for 20 years. What was he supposed to do…pull off a Polynesian impression of “American Pie” with a coconut? Not to mention…look around, you stupid bitch! You’re the one from out-of-town here, perhaps it’s time to re-calibrate your world view given the fact your aren’t in Banjo Falls, Arkansas anymore.
But what really pisses me off about “Nellie” is while she’s bugged-out about Emile’s children (by the way, he looks to be an excellent father), she has no problem with the fact Emile killed a man and told her a quasi-bullshit story about it (which never really gets veted by the way…)
2) All those goddamn color filters
All throughout this movie, director Joshua Logan made heavy use of color filters for reason nobody seems to know. Not only does he use them, he overuses them like a kid playing with a new toy on Christmas morning. I’m surprised he didn’t screw up the entire film with them.
Here’s my problem. I’m in my 50s, and if everything suddenly turns bright red, my first thought is “Holy shit, I’m having a stroke!” That tends to diminish my enjoyment of a film.
3) They didn’t get the cast they wanted, and it shows
At first, the idea was to cast the film with the stars of the Broadway production. The problem was that during the casting process, the “original Emile ” Ezio Pinza dropped dead. The “original Nellie” Mary Martin didn’t want to be cast with a replacement, and the spiral started there.
The role of “Emile” was offered to “established” stars as Charles Boyer, Vittorio De Sica, and Fernando Lamas, all of whom rejected the offer. Eventually, they got Rossano Brazzi, but we are soon going to discover this creates another problem…
Meanwhile, Doris Day turned down the role of “Nellie,” and Richard Rodgers wanted nothing to do with Elizabeth Taylor. Eventually, they settled on Mitzi Gaynor. I’m not the world’s foremost expert on Gaynor’s career, but if the performances she delivered in other efforts was as flat as her “Nellie Forbush,” I hope she held on to those aforementioned white shorts.
If the idea was “Nellie” is supposed to be a (preferably blonde) smoking-hot dish, why didn’t anybody think to call Kim Novak or (gasp) Marilyn Monroe? It doesn’t matter if they can’t sing, because…
4) Almost all of the singing is dubbed
Girl, you know it’s true….had Milli Vanilli come along 30 years earlier, they could have done the soundtrack to this movie. Like the entirety of their career, most of the musical numbers in this film are faked.
There’s two signature songs from this movie. There’s Gaynor’s “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Out of My Hair.” This song is worthy of mention because of all the principal cast members, only Gaynor and Ray Walston (more on him in a bit) didn’t have pinch-hitters doing their singing. Sorry ladies, but that isn’t Rossano Brazzi’s booming baritone belting out “Some Enchanted Evening.” Those pipes actually belong to Metropolitan Opera star Giorgio Tozzi. If you’re paying attention, it isn’t hard to tell that isn’t Brazzi’s voice.
This happens all across this movie. Lieutenant Cable’s vocals were actually done by a professional singer named Bill Lee. “Bloody Mary” had her singing dubbed by Muriel Smith, who played the role in the London stage production. My favorite is the sailor “Stewpot,” whose singing is done by Thurl Ravenscroft, who is best known for singing “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and for being the voice of cartoon cereal pitch-man “Tony the Tiger.”
5) The Type-Casting Of Ray Walston and Tom Laughlin
Let’s talk about two guys indelibly burned into my brain as something other what they are in this movie. While I am well aware that Ray Walston was a well-known and respected stage actor, but there’s no way I can look at him and not see “Uncle Martin” from “My Favorite Martian” or “Mr. Hand” from “Fast Times At Ridgemont High.” As far as Laughlin in concerned, I had no idea he ever did anything other than those 1970s drive-in classic “Billy Jack” movies. In other words, Laughlin’s face will in my mind forever be synonymous with 90 minutes of dudes taking a combat boot in the nuts.
6) Rossano Brazzi on an espionage mission? Puh-leeze.
So, I’ve got a Frenchman being played by an Italian, the two countries who finish first and second in every Surrender-lympics ever held, and yet I’m supposed to buy Emile de Becque pulling off some sort of Navy SEAL stuff? Right after that becomes credible, we can all go visit the fairy princess together.
Nellie Forbush is an idiotic, racist twat. “Bloody Mary” is straight out a 1940s Warner Brothers cartoon. Emile is a murderer fleeing justice. The only straight forward character is Lieutenant Cable, and his reward for that is catching a Japanese bullet.
I wish I had hair, so I could wash this movie right out of it.
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