Watching the film version of South Pacific again after a while is always a surprise. I always enjoy it more than I think I will and today I probably like it more than I ever have.
Some things I liked:
1. Mitzi Gaynor. I like her more and more each time I see the film. Yes, there are two scenes (in my opinion) where her acting is perhaps a little weak – when she breaks down during the rehearsal for “Honey Bun” and just after “My Girl Back Home”. But she generally does a great job, and even does all own her singing!
2. The locations. I think these are beautiful and really well used throughout the film. It’s great when a film actually uses its locations to its advantage, to tell the story and create the world of the film, rather than just as a gimmick.
3. The storytelling. Perhaps a this is about the stage show as well as the film, but I love the way the two stories complement each other so perfectly. They are such well written characters. It’s immensely compelling.
4. The score. It’s a truly great one, even if the last half hour is a little “plotty”. There are some strange little cuts here and there, but the score is served much better here than in the recent television adaptation. And “This Nearly Was Mine” is a beautiful – one of my favourite Rodgers and Hammerstein songs.
5. A great supporting cast: Ray Walston and Russ Brown as Luther Billis and Captain Brackett are just great!
Some things I didn’t like:
1. The colour filters, which are just distracting and don’t enhance the film one bit in my opinion.
2. The singing to the camera in “A Wonderful Guy” and “My Girl Back Home”. This is my number one pet hate in movie musicals. I don’t think it EVER works, and I just find it frustrating here.
3. I’m not crazy about the casting of John Kerr as Cable, and I don’t think Bill Lee is the greatest match as his singing voice. I find his dubbing a bit distracting. It’s certainly not as good a match as Emile or Bloody Mary.
4. I’m also not sure I like the shuffling of the scenes at the top of the film. I love the symmetry that opening with “Dites-Moi” would have given to the film, in the way that is does on stage. Also, this is a love story taking place within the setting of the war, not a war movie that happens to have a love story in it. Starting with Cable in the plane shifts the focus of the material away from its heart.
Give it a watch. You’ll enjoy it!