Thursday, March 5, 2015

South Pacific

South Pacific
Rachel, Olivia, and Julia
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific was directed by Joshua Logan and released on March 19, 1958. Set on a US Navy base in the South Pacific islands, the musical follows Navy nurse Nellie Forbush, played by Mitzi Gaynor, in her struggles to accept the interracial marriage of the man she is in love with, Frenchman Emile de Becque, played by Rossano Brazzi. Nellie must also deal with the disapproval she is met with from the other nurses for being with an older, foreign man who had to flee his homeland for killing a man. Meanwhile US Marine Lt. Joe Cable is on a secret mission to get behind enemy lines in order to radio information back to the Navy. Cable deals with romantic issues of his own as he falls in love with the daughter of the mysterious Bloody Mary, played by Juanita Hall from the musical’s original cast. The film had an estimated budget of about 6 million dollars and grossed about $36,800,000. Logan’s main regret was the use of color filters due to his fear that the tropical landscapes of Hawaii would not translate well into Technicolor. Logan stated that this was the biggest mistake he made in his career.
There are two main themes that can be interpreted from South Pacific. The first is the issue of racism. The film tries to expose American racism towards Asians but is in some ways accidentally racist. Cable has a problem marrying Liat because she is Polynesian. Nellie almost has more of a problem with the fact that de Becque has a Polynesian ex wife then she does with the fact that he killed a man. In the song "You must be carefully taught" Cable explains why he and Nellie feel how they do. In the end Nellie overcomes her racism and is going to be a mother of an interracial family. The second theme is sex and gender roles. The gender roles that are seen in the film are very similar to what we have talked about in class so far. Women are very feminine. They dress to accentuate their feminine features and hold "female" jobs (e.g. nurses). Nellie also went to work during the war and gave up her job to be a mother and wife. The men are depicted very masculine and are the ones in control.
Throughout the movie there were many connections to the classic 1950’s lifestyle we have been discussing in class. In the very beginning of the movie, we see the lifestyle of the soldiers as a very homosocial environment and this was one of the main concerns for men during this decade.  Another point would be that the women in this movie are always dressed to perfection. Their outfits are incredibly feminine and when Nellie found herself “inappropriately dressed” she apologized to the men for not being dressed up in front of them. Nellie believes she is in love with Emile and she doesn’t want to tell her girlfriends because being in love with a man was an unrealistic ideal in the 1950’s. Marriage is shown to be a business deal through both Nellie and Lieutenant Cable. Lieutenant Cable mentions that a women is waiting to marry him in Philadelphia so he can get a good business deal with his uncle, so this means he won’t marry the love of his life. One of my last points was about how Asians were treated in this movie. They were seen as native, but gentle people, however neither Nellie nor Cable wants an interracial family. Interracial families were not accepted in that society. The question we asked the class was “how would the society at the time take and interracial marriage?” The class discussed how racism was both at its peak and at its end at this time. It was said that this movie was both making fun of racism purposefully, but also there were parts of the movie that were racist by accident which shows the conflicting views during the 1950’s.

Works Cited
"South Pacific." Questia. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Mar. 2015. <>.

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