Sayonara, based on the James A. Michener novel, is a picture of beauty and sensitivity. Amidst the tenderness and the tensions of a romantic drama, it puts across the notion that human relations transcend race barriers. Joshua Logan’s direction is tops.
Though strongly supported, particularly by Red Buttons, it’s Marlon Brando who carries the production. As Major Gruver, the Korean war air-ace, Brando affects a nonchalant Southern drawl that helps set the character from the very start. He is wholly convincing as the race-conscious Southerner whose humanity finally leads him to rebel against army-imposed prejudice.
Story has combat-fatigued Brando transferred [in 1951] to Kobe for a rest and to meet his State-side sweetheart (Patricia Owens), daughter of the commanding general of the area. They find things have changed and the sensitive, well-educated girl is no longer sure she wants to marry Brando. He in turn is upset because Airman Joe Kelly, played by Buttons, wants to marry a Japanese (Miyoshi Umeki).
Brando meets a beautiful Japanese actress-dancer (Miiko Taka) and gradually falls deeply in love with her. When Buttons and his wife, in desperation, commit suicide, Brando realizes that, regardless of the consequences, he must marry Taka.
Taka plays the proud Hana-ogi, the dedicated dancer, who starts by hating the Americans whom she sees as robbing Japan of its culture and ends in Brando’s arms. Apart from being beautiful she’s also a distinctive personality and her contribution rates high.
1957: Best Supp. Actor (Red Buttons), Supp. Actress (Miyoshi Umeki), Art Direction, Sound (Warner Bros. Sound Dept)
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor (Marlon Brando), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing