South Pacific (1958)

"Excellent"

South Pacific (1958) Review


This is an embarrassing statement for a man to make but I think that South Pacific is one of my favorite old movies. As an art form, the musical is dubious at best. And Joshua Logan was not one of the great Hollywood directors -- as demonstrated by the film's uneven pacing and use of colorful camera filters during certain intense scenes.

So why is this movie a classic? Because it was produced soon after WWII, when even Hollywood war romances had a serious edge. Because it was filmed on location (well, Hawaii, I think) and in full Technicolor glamour. And because the occasion brought out the best in Rodgers and Hammerstein, when the songwriting team wrote poignant and thoughtful lyrics put to classic melodies.

The musical was based on James Michener's novel, which was based on Michener's tour of duty in the Pacific. So the novel, musical, and movie all have more authenticity than is typical of musicals or war movies (or Michener novels). Most of the script's pathos and drama stem from the forced clash of American and island cultures, and the film captures the tragedy of war without on-camera blood. The romance between an American sailor and a Tonkinese island girl is an interesting case of Hollywood tackling a sensitive subject head-on. The movie's treatment of racism is not its greatest strength, but still is less awkward than a lot of movies that won plenty of Oscars.

A few years ago, I read an article in the New York Times accusing Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals of being inferior to today's musicals because no lead character ever dies in them. I'm not sure that the number of dead bodies should be the only criterion for judging art -- was Die Hard 2 a thousand times better than Citizen Kane? -- but the Times reporter was guilty of sloppy reporting, because one of the leads in South Pacific does, in fact, die at the end of this movie. That's still a low body count by today's standards, but there's enough drama in this film to make it clear that the filmmakers, and their audience, knew that war is hell.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

Advertisement
A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

At just 27 years old, Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan has an almost overwhelming set of...

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.