South Pacific is a compelling entertainment. The songs, perennial favorites, are mated to a sturdy James A. Michener story [from his Tales of the South Pacific]. Combination boffo.
Mitzi Gaynor is no Mary Martin but there are millions who never saw the original Nellie Forbush [in the 1949 Broadway production]. Rossano Brazzi may be no Ezio Pinza but the late, great Metropolitan Opera basso profundo hasn’t the global b.o. impact of the Italian film-star-gone-Hollywood. Besides, Giorgio Tozzi’s dubbed basso has been skillfully integrated into the Brazzi brand of romantic antics.
The histrionics are effective throughout and of high standard. John Kerr (vocally dubbed by Bill Lee) is the right romantic vis-a-vis for Eurasian beauty France Nuyen, daughter of the bawdy ‘Bloody Mary’ whom Juanita Hall recreates for the screen. She’s of the Broadway original and like most of the other principals has been given a vocal stand-in (Muriel Smith, but unbilled; Tozzi alone gets screen credit as Brazzi’s ghost voice). Ray Walston is capital as the uninhibited seabee Luther Billis, recreating the role he did in the road company and in London.
Gaynor is uneven in her overall impact. She is in her prime with ‘Honey-Bun’ in that captivating misfit sailor’s uniform, and she is properly gay and buoyant and believable in ‘Wonderful Guy’. In other sequences she is conventional. No dubbee she, Gaynor’s song-and-dance is essentially very professional.
Brazzi is properly serious of mien and earnest in his love protestations. The seabees are forthrightly dame-hungry; and there is enough cheesecake among the nurses corps to decorate the beachhead. Their treatment of ‘Nothing Like a Dame’ is standout.
From ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ to ‘My Girl Back Home’, it’s a surefire score. It’s probably the greatest galaxy of popular favorites from a single show in the history of musical comedy. ‘Home’ was originally in the legit score, was eliminated for show’s length but, a favorite with R&H, reinstated into the film version.
All the other credits are topflight – the Alfred Newman baton, the Ken Darby musical assist, and all that goes with this $5 million spectacle.
[Original roadshow presentations featured an intermission after 105 mins.]
1958: Best Sound (Todd-AO Sound Dept)
Nominations: Best Color Cinematography, Scoring of a Musical Picture