Flower Drum Song (1961)

133 mins | Musical, Comedy-drama | 9 November 1961

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HISTORY

An item in the 17 Jun 1960 LAT announced that Universal-International had acquired screen rights to the 1958 musical Flower Drum Song, and producer Ross Hunter had approached James Shigeta to star. When Miyoshi Umeki joined the cast, the project marked a re-teaming of her and Shigeta, who had recently co-starred in Cry for Happy (1961, see entry). Universal-International’s purchase price was reported as $1 million in the 28 Jun 1960 DV, which also stated that filming would begin in Feb 1961 in Hong Kong, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, CA. The 28 Apr 1961 DV noted that Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, II, who wrote the music and lyrics for the musical, were paid $450,000 plus thirty-three-and-a-half percent of the studio’s net profits as part of their deal. C. Y. Lee, the novelist whose 1957 novel served as the basis for the musical, was set to receive ten percent of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s share. According to a 10 Apr 1961 DV brief, the production budget was $4 million.
       William Batliner was named as casting director in a 13 Dec 1960 DV brief. Anna Kashfi and Stephen Cheng were considered for roles, the 30 Jun 1960 and 3 Feb 1961 DV noted, and Robert Ling, Guy Lee, Al Hueng, James Miya, and Paul Togawa were listed as cast members in DV items published between 13 Mar 1961 and 16 May 1961. As reported in her 4 Feb 1961 LAT obituary, Anna May Wong was “under contract” to appear in the picture before her death on 3 Feb 1961.
       Filming ... More Less

An item in the 17 Jun 1960 LAT announced that Universal-International had acquired screen rights to the 1958 musical Flower Drum Song, and producer Ross Hunter had approached James Shigeta to star. When Miyoshi Umeki joined the cast, the project marked a re-teaming of her and Shigeta, who had recently co-starred in Cry for Happy (1961, see entry). Universal-International’s purchase price was reported as $1 million in the 28 Jun 1960 DV, which also stated that filming would begin in Feb 1961 in Hong Kong, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, CA. The 28 Apr 1961 DV noted that Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, II, who wrote the music and lyrics for the musical, were paid $450,000 plus thirty-three-and-a-half percent of the studio’s net profits as part of their deal. C. Y. Lee, the novelist whose 1957 novel served as the basis for the musical, was set to receive ten percent of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s share. According to a 10 Apr 1961 DV brief, the production budget was $4 million.
       William Batliner was named as casting director in a 13 Dec 1960 DV brief. Anna Kashfi and Stephen Cheng were considered for roles, the 30 Jun 1960 and 3 Feb 1961 DV noted, and Robert Ling, Guy Lee, Al Hueng, James Miya, and Paul Togawa were listed as cast members in DV items published between 13 Mar 1961 and 16 May 1961. As reported in her 4 Feb 1961 LAT obituary, Anna May Wong was “under contract” to appear in the picture before her death on 3 Feb 1961.
       Filming was preceded by a lavish “sendoff” party held on Stage 12 at the Universal-International studio lot in Universal City, CA, as stated in the 17 Mar 1961 DV. The start of principal photography followed on 20 Mar 1961, on a large set built on Stage 12 that was modeled after St. Mary’s Square in San Francisco. According to a 23 Apr 1961 LAT item, the $310,000 set covered 51,300 square feet and included fifty-four buildings, some three-stories high. In early May, filmmakers took a two-week hiatus to run rehearsals of the three musical numbers that had yet to be filmed. Shooting resumed on 24 May 1961, as reported in that day’s DV.
       An article in the 10 Feb 1961 DV announced that Decca Records would record and release a soundtrack album before the completion of principal photography. Recording sessions were scheduled to take place on 9 and 10 Mar 1961. During post-production, music supervisor and conductor Alfred Newman reportedly protested when credits were trimmed for length and the names of the music arrangers who had worked on the film were left out, as stated in the 22 Sep 1961 DV. Newman wrote a letter beseeching Ross Hunter to include the credits, and Hunter agreed to reinsert the name of associate music supervisor Ken Darby. Newman was credited in DV as being “the first to give screen credit to arrangers and also to battle for raising the price per page of orchestrations.”
       The 30 Aug 1961 DV announced that a world premiere would take place at the Golden Gate Theatre in San Francisco, CA, on 17 Nov 1961. The planned event was preceded by theatrical release in New York City, where the film opened on 9 Nov 1961 at Radio City Music Hall. Shortly after, a private screening was arranged for President John F. Kennedy and his family in Hyannis Port, MA, at the request of the White House, according to a 24 Nov 1961 DV brief. In Los Angeles, the film opened on 22 Dec 1961 at the Warner Hollywood Theatre, the 11 Dec 1961 DV reported.
       Following mixed reviews, Flower Drum Song was nominated for Academy Awards for Art Direction (Color); Cinematography (Color); Costume Design (Color); Music (Scoring of a Musical Picture); and Sound. The film also received Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Picture – Musical, and Actress in a Leading Role – Musical or Comedy (Miyoshi Umeki), and was awarded the Family Medal for the month of Jan 1961 by Parents magazine, according to the 28 Nov 1961 DV. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
4 Nov 1957
p. 15.
Daily Variety
28 Jun 1960
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
30 Jun 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
20 Jul 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
29 Nov 1960
p. 4.
Daily Variety
13 Dec 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
3 Feb 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
10 Feb 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
13 Mar 1961
p. 13.
Daily Variety
17 Mar 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
24 Mar 1961
p. 14.
Daily Variety
10 Apr 1961
p. 10.
Daily Variety
28 Apr 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
5 May 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
16 May 1961
p. 7.
Daily Variety
24 May 1961
p. 6.
Daily Variety
30 Aug 1961
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
31 Aug 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
22 Sep 1961
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
8 Nov 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
24 Nov 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
28 Nov 1961
p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
17 Jun 1960
Section A, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
4 Feb 1961
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
23 Apr 1961
Section L, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
30 Nov 1961
Section B, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
11 Dec 1961
Section C, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
22 Dec 1961
p. 19, 21.
New York Times
9 Nov 1961
p. 39.
New York Times
10 Nov 1961
p. 40.
Variety
6 Jul 1960
p. 3.
Variety
21 Sep 1960
p. 17.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Ross Hunter-Joseph Fields Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus supv & cond
Assoc mus supv
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Tech adv
Tech adv
Orig title paintings
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the musical Flower Drum Song , music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, book by Hammerstein II and Joseph Fields (New York, 1 Dec 1958), which was based on the novel of the same name by C. Y. Lee (New York, 1957).
SONGS
"You Are Beautiful," "A Hundred Million Miracles," "I Enjoy Being a Girl," "I Am Going to Like It Here," "Chop Suey," "Don't Marry Me," "Grant Avenue," "Love, Look Away," "Fan Tan Fanny," "Gliding Through My Memoree," "The Other Generation" and "Sunday," music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.
DETAILS
Release Date:
9 November 1961
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 9 November 1961
Los Angeles opening: 22 December 1961
Production Date:
began 20 March 1961
Copyright Claimant:
Ross Hunter Productions
Copyright Date:
18 November 1961
Copyright Number:
LP24722
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
133
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Newly arrived in San Francisco's Chinatown is Mei Li, a "picture bride" from Hong Kong who has been chosen to be the wife of Sammy Fong, a nightclub owner. Sammy, however, is opposed to Old World marriage traditions and wants to select as his wife Linda Low, a singer and exotic dancer in his night spot. Consequently, he tries to unload Mei Li on the wealthy Wang family, who are seeking a bride for their eldest son, Wang Ta. But Ta has also been dating the wily Linda, unaware that she is merely interested in his money. At a party celebrating Ta's graduation from college and Auntie's graduation from citizenship school, the betrothal of Linda and Ta is suddenly announced, leaving Mei Li heartbroken and Sammy enraged. The latter soon has his revenge when he invites the Wangs to celebrate the Chinese New Year at his club. They abruptly call off their son's engagement when they see Linda do a spicy striptease dance. Although Ta realizes his mistake and admits his love for Mei Li, she rejects him and forces Sammy to fulfill his contractual obligations. But in the middle of the wedding ceremony, Mei Li confesses that she entered the country illegally, thereby invalidating the marriage contract. Ta happily volunteers to marry her, and Linda and Sammy decide to make it a double wedding. ... +


Newly arrived in San Francisco's Chinatown is Mei Li, a "picture bride" from Hong Kong who has been chosen to be the wife of Sammy Fong, a nightclub owner. Sammy, however, is opposed to Old World marriage traditions and wants to select as his wife Linda Low, a singer and exotic dancer in his night spot. Consequently, he tries to unload Mei Li on the wealthy Wang family, who are seeking a bride for their eldest son, Wang Ta. But Ta has also been dating the wily Linda, unaware that she is merely interested in his money. At a party celebrating Ta's graduation from college and Auntie's graduation from citizenship school, the betrothal of Linda and Ta is suddenly announced, leaving Mei Li heartbroken and Sammy enraged. The latter soon has his revenge when he invites the Wangs to celebrate the Chinese New Year at his club. They abruptly call off their son's engagement when they see Linda do a spicy striptease dance. Although Ta realizes his mistake and admits his love for Mei Li, she rejects him and forces Sammy to fulfill his contractual obligations. But in the middle of the wedding ceremony, Mei Li confesses that she entered the country illegally, thereby invalidating the marriage contract. Ta happily volunteers to marry her, and Linda and Sammy decide to make it a double wedding. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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