Sayonara (1957)

146-147 mins | Romance | 28 December 1957

Full page view
HISTORY

The opening and closing cast credits differ slightly in order of appearance. Red Buttons' opening credits reads: “and presenting Red Buttons.” The last opening cast credit, Ricardo Montalban, reads: “also starring Ricardo Montalban.” After the ending credits, a written acknowledgment thanks “the officials and people of Japan” for their help in making the film. The name of the technical advisor for the Japanese theater scenes was shown as “Masaya Fusima” onscreen, but a document in the film’s copyright record lists the name as “Masava Fujima.” Onscreen ending credits list the character played by Douglas Watson as “Colonel Crawford.” However, in the film the name is pronounced “Craford,” which is how Michener’s book, copyright records for the film and the Var and NYT reviews spell the name. The onscreen dialogue coach credit for Carlo Fiore is misspelled Fiori.
       Several months before James Michener’s novel Sayonara was published, and before a serialized version published in McCalls (Oct-Dec 1953) magazine was released, Paramount, M-G-M and Twentieth Century-Fox were bidding for the rights to make the film, according to Aug and Sep 1953 DV news items. The Sep 1953 DV item reported that Michener insisted on a seven-year lease and no sequel rights.
       Then, according to a 9 Sep 1953 HR news item, Michener withdrew Sayonara from the film market “in order to secure a stage production, a dramatization by Joshua Logan and Joseph Mankiewicz.” A 14 Sep 1953 HR news item reported that a group headed by Logan, who had produced Michener’s South Pacific on ... More Less

The opening and closing cast credits differ slightly in order of appearance. Red Buttons' opening credits reads: “and presenting Red Buttons.” The last opening cast credit, Ricardo Montalban, reads: “also starring Ricardo Montalban.” After the ending credits, a written acknowledgment thanks “the officials and people of Japan” for their help in making the film. The name of the technical advisor for the Japanese theater scenes was shown as “Masaya Fusima” onscreen, but a document in the film’s copyright record lists the name as “Masava Fujima.” Onscreen ending credits list the character played by Douglas Watson as “Colonel Crawford.” However, in the film the name is pronounced “Craford,” which is how Michener’s book, copyright records for the film and the Var and NYT reviews spell the name. The onscreen dialogue coach credit for Carlo Fiore is misspelled Fiori.
       Several months before James Michener’s novel Sayonara was published, and before a serialized version published in McCalls (Oct-Dec 1953) magazine was released, Paramount, M-G-M and Twentieth Century-Fox were bidding for the rights to make the film, according to Aug and Sep 1953 DV news items. The Sep 1953 DV item reported that Michener insisted on a seven-year lease and no sequel rights.
       Then, according to a 9 Sep 1953 HR news item, Michener withdrew Sayonara from the film market “in order to secure a stage production, a dramatization by Joshua Logan and Joseph Mankiewicz.” A 14 Sep 1953 HR news item reported that a group headed by Logan, who had produced Michener’s South Pacific on the stage, and Irving Berlin acquired stage and film rights to Sayonara and planned to produce the property as a musical first, with book by Logan and score by Berlin. The news item also stated that David Merrick, stage designer Jo Mielziner and Michener had spent several weeks together in Japan two years earlier and, at that time, Logan had suggested the idea of a story using Japanese theatrical companies. A 16 Sep 1953 Var article also stated that Michener was considering co-writing the musical’s book.
       According to the Sep 1953 Var article, the three bidding companies and independent film producer William Goetz were considering filing suit, on the grounds that they had already come to an agreement with Michener over the property. A 30 Sep 1957 DV article reported that M-G-M, Fox and Goetz were preparing a joint lawsuit against Michener to enjoin the sale to Logan and to force Michener to sell to one of the three plaintiffs, which was possibly the first time an author was sued to force a sale “elsewhere than his choice.”
       A joint-action breach of contract suit was filed with the Supreme Court in New York, according to a Nov 1953 HR news item, by Fox, Goetz and Loew’s, Inc. against Michener, Logan and Michener’s agent, the William Morris Agency. The plaintiffs claimed that the film rights were offered for a $150,000 down payment and an additional $100,000 if the film’s gross reached $5 million, that Michener was to pick from those companies who agreed to the terms by a specific deadline, and that the three parties had agreed to the terms. Although Michener made a motion to have the case dismissed, according to Dec 1953 DV , HR and Var news items, the judge upheld the contention of the plaintiffs, ruling that “the communication made on behalf of…Michener constituted an offer rather than an invitation to bid” and that the sale to Logan was illegal.
       Negotiations to settle the action were still in motion when, according to a 14 Dec 1955 DV news item, Warner Bros., which had registered the title with the MPAA Title Registration Bureau, became connected to the property. Logan had recently signed a non-exclusive producer-director deal, which called for four films in six years, with Warner Bros. A 19 Dec 1955 HR news item, which reported that M-G-M and Fox dropped their claims, accurately predicted that Logan would direct and that Goetz would produce the film for Warner Bros. release.
       The song “Sayonara Goodbye,” according to Sep 1957 NYT and Mar 1958 HCN articles, was written by Berlin when the property was being considered as a Broadway musical. The articles state that rights to the song were sold to Goetz for one dollar. According to an Oct 1957 HR news item, sheet music for the song was selling at a rate of one thousand copies a day. The song was recorded by several artists, among them, the Ames Brothers.
       Paul Osborn, who, according to a Mar 1958 HCN article (that reported his first name as “John”) was already working on the book for the musical and was signed to do the screenplay. In a Mar 1957 Var article, Logan mentioned that Truman Capote read the script and “made a few suggestions,” although his input was minimal. According to the Mar 1958 HCN article, actor Marlon Brando requested that the ending of Michener’s novel, in which “Gruver” and “Hana-Ogi” do not end up together, be changed to a happy ending. A modern source reported that it was Brando’s idea to make Gruver a Southerner, which he was not in the original novel.
       Brando also, according to the HCN article, requested that a Japanese actress fill the lead role. In the article, Goetz reported that they had difficulty finding a Japanese actress who could master the English language in time for the production and that they were “seriously thinking of [casting] Audrey Hepburn or Jennifer Jones.” In a Mar 1957 Var article Logan said that Hepburn read the script several times, but refused the role because she was “terrified of…acting and thinking like an Oriental.” Miiko Taka, who was cast, was a Los Angeles-born Nisei and, at that time a non-professional and, according to Logan, “the biggest chance we took.”
       According to the Mar 1957 Var article, the Air Force objected to "two inaccuracies in [the] script,” that the character “Joe Kelly” called Gruver by the nickname “Ace” early in the film, which would not have been correct protocol, and that there was never, as written in Michener’s book, “a definite order shipping men who had married Japanese girls back to the States.” The article also quoted Logan as stating that real Japanese women employed in a “Girls’ Opera,” as was Hana-Ogi, objected to Michener’s portrayal of them, when the novel was first translated into Japanese, as they felt “blackened” by the “story of one of their members living out of wedlock with a U.S. military officer. Their slogan [was] purity, beauty and art.”
       According to studio production notes, the puppet drama in the film, called “Shinju Ten-no Amijima” or “The Love Suicides at Amijima,” was performed by the Bunraku Mitsuwa Troupe. Although their appearance in the film has not been confirmed, contemporary HR news items add the following actors to the cast: Warren Robertson, Steve McGrover, Mrs. Shiguki Nitta and Peggie and Laddie Reday. Sayonara marked the film debut of William Wellman, Jr., the son of the famed director who played a Stars and Stripes reporter. Although another film in which he appeared, Lafayette Escadrille (see above) was produced earlier, Sayonara was released first. Studio production notes and a 14 Mar 1957 HR news item reported that actress Patricia Owens, who portrayed “Eileen,” had an appendectomy during filming.
       A studio cast list found in the production file for the film at the AMPAS Library indicates that several of the cameramen were borrowed from RKO. According to studio production notes, portions of the film were shot in Tokyo, Isaka, Hami Airbase, Takamatsu Island and Kyoto in Japan. A Mar 1957 HR reported that the jet plane sequences were shot at Lockheed Airport in Burbank, CA.
       According to Nov and Dec 1957 HR news items, Sayonara ’s Los Angeles preview was held at the Warner Bros. Burbank studio, making it the first time the studio previewed a film on their lot. Portions of the event were broadcast on Art Linkletter’s House Party , Truth or Consequences and It Could Be You television shows.
       Sayonara won Academy Awards for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration and Best Sound Recording. Red Buttons, performing in his first dramatic role, and Miyoshi Umeki, a Japanese nightclub singer who marked her American film debut, won Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor and Actress, respectively, for their portrayals of “Joe Kelly” and “Katsumi.” The film was also nominated for Best Picture (losing to The Bridge on the River Kwai ), Best Film Editing and Best Cinematography. Brando was nominated for Best Actor and Logan for Best Director, but they lost to Alec Guinness and David Lean, respectively, both of whom were in The Bridge on the River Kwai . More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Sep 1957
p. 580.
American Cinematographer
Nov 57
pp. 722-23, 742-44.
American Cinematographer
Mar 58
p. 166.
Box Office
16 Nov 1957.
---
Box Office
23 Nov 1957.
---
Daily Variety
26 Aug 1953.
---
Daily Variety
8 Sep 1953.
---
Daily Variety
30 Sep 1953.
---
Daily Variety
3 Dec 1953.
---
Daily Variety
14 Dec 1955.
---
Film Daily
13 Nov 1957
p. 3, 9.
Hollywood Citizen-News
5 Mar 1958.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Sep 1953.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Sep 1953.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Nov 1953.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Dec 1953.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Dec 1955.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Dec 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Jan 1957
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jan 1957
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Feb 1957
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Feb 1957
p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Feb 1957
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Feb 1957
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Feb 1957
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Mar 1957
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Mar 1957
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Mar 1957
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Apr 1957
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
17 May 1957
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Oct 1957
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Nov 57
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Nov 1957
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Nov 1957
p. 1.
Life
2 Dec 1957.
---
Look
29 Oct 1957.
---
Look
24 Dec 1957.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
22 Dec 1957.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
26 Dec 1957.
---
Los Angeles Times
17 Nov 1957
p. 1, 3.
Los Angeles Times
26 Dec 1957.
---
Los Angeles Times
19 Jan 1958
Part V, p. 2, 4.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
16 Nov 57
p. 601.
New York Times
24 Feb 1957.
---
New York Times
22 Sep 1957.
---
New York Times
6 Dec 57
p. 39.
New Yorker
14 Dec 1957.
---
Newsweek
8 Dec 1957.
---
Redbook
Nov 1957.
---
Saturday Review
28 Dec 1957.
---
Time
16 Dec 1957.
---
Variety
9 Sep 1953.
---
Variety
16 Sep 1953.
---
Variety
2 Dec 1953.
---
Variety
9 Dec 1953.
---
Variety
27 Mar 1957.
---
Variety
13 Nov 57
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit photog
Asst cam
Cam tech
Cam mechanic
Stills
Gaffer
Best boy
Generator man
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
SET DECORATORS
Props
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward man
Ward woman
MUSIC
DANCE
Matsubayashi Girls Revue numbers supv
Choreographer
Choreographer asst
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Asian makeup
Makeup
Makeup
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod assoc
Dial coach
Dial coach for Marlon Brando
Tech adv Japanese Theatre Scenes
Tech adv
Prod mgr
Scr supv
Casting dir
Auditor
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Sayonara by James Michener (New York, 1954).
SONGS
"Sayonara Goodbye," words and music by Irving Berlin
“Sakura Sakura,” words and music by Suifu Kishimoto and Shiro Matsumoto
“Hanayome Ningyo,” words and music by Haseo Sugiyama and Koji Fukiya
+
SONGS
"Sayonara Goodbye," words and music by Irving Berlin
“Sakura Sakura,” words and music by Suifu Kishimoto and Shiro Matsumoto
“Hanayome Ningyo,” words and music by Haseo Sugiyama and Koji Fukiya
“Narukami,” words and music by S. Oka
“Shinju Tenno Amijima Hashi Zukushi” and “Daichoji Zutsumi,” words and music by Bunraku Mitsuwa Kai, Monzaemon Chikamatsu and Enjiro Toyosawa
“Mountains Beyond the Moon,” words by Carl Sigman, lyrics by Franz Waxman.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
28 December 1957
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 5 December 1957
Los Angeles opening: 25 December 1957
Production Date:
7 January--mid April 1957
Copyright Claimant:
Goetz Pictures, Inc. & Pennybaker, Inc.
Copyright Date:
28 December 1957
Copyright Number:
LP12978
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Technirama
Duration(in mins):
146-147
Countries:
Japan, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18392
SYNOPSIS

During the Korean War, ace air force pilot Major Lloyd Gruver is flown to Kobe, Japan. Gruver's leave and his reassignment to an office job has been arranged by his fiancée Eileen’s father, General Webster. On the flight, Gruver tries to convince his subordinate, Airman Joe Kelly, not to marry his Japanese girl friend, Katsumi. A Southerner descended from a line of West Point graduates, Gruver believes in marrying a person of similar background. The homeless Kelly, who grew up in a rough city neighborhood, has experienced happiness for the first time with Katsumi and has obtained special permission from his congressman to marry. Despite a new regulation prohibiting servicemen from taking foreign-born wives to the United States, Kelly is determined to marry Katsumi and shocks Gruver by saying he would denounce his citizenship to remain with her. Unable to dissuade Kelly, Gruver reluctantly agrees to serve as his best man. Upon landing, Gruver is met by Eileen and her parents. They proceed to the officers' club, where marine captain Bailey is denied service because he has brought a Japanese woman, dancer Fumiko-San. Mrs. Webster is offended by an American military officer dating a Japanese woman, and although General Webster and Gruver also express disapproval, Eileen is more open-minded about other cultures. That night Eileen takes Gruver to see kabuki theater, which features Nakamura, a famous Japanese actor she recently met. When they visit Nakamura after the show, Gruver is polite, but obviously uncomfortable with cultural ... +


During the Korean War, ace air force pilot Major Lloyd Gruver is flown to Kobe, Japan. Gruver's leave and his reassignment to an office job has been arranged by his fiancée Eileen’s father, General Webster. On the flight, Gruver tries to convince his subordinate, Airman Joe Kelly, not to marry his Japanese girl friend, Katsumi. A Southerner descended from a line of West Point graduates, Gruver believes in marrying a person of similar background. The homeless Kelly, who grew up in a rough city neighborhood, has experienced happiness for the first time with Katsumi and has obtained special permission from his congressman to marry. Despite a new regulation prohibiting servicemen from taking foreign-born wives to the United States, Kelly is determined to marry Katsumi and shocks Gruver by saying he would denounce his citizenship to remain with her. Unable to dissuade Kelly, Gruver reluctantly agrees to serve as his best man. Upon landing, Gruver is met by Eileen and her parents. They proceed to the officers' club, where marine captain Bailey is denied service because he has brought a Japanese woman, dancer Fumiko-San. Mrs. Webster is offended by an American military officer dating a Japanese woman, and although General Webster and Gruver also express disapproval, Eileen is more open-minded about other cultures. That night Eileen takes Gruver to see kabuki theater, which features Nakamura, a famous Japanese actor she recently met. When they visit Nakamura after the show, Gruver is polite, but obviously uncomfortable with cultural differences. At dinner later, Eileen tells Gruver that she is afraid he will become like his father, a four-star general neglectful of his wife. When Gruver tells Eileen that he has always wanted to marry a girl “like” her, she fears that their relationship is based on social status and not passion. At Kelly and Katsumi's wedding, Gruver is the only witness, and although the obvious disapproval of the chaplain mars the ceremony, Kelly is irrepressibly happy. Later, Gruver is reprimanded by General and Mrs. Webster for attending the ceremony. As Eileen has been avoiding him, Gruver goes alone to the officers' club and encounters Bailey. Gruver confides to Bailey how, before going to West Point, he briefly considered a life outside the military when a teacher cast him in a school play. His parents seemed to understand, but their tacit approval inexplicably caused him to continue as planned. However, now, he admits, the “old feeling” has returned. Bailey shows Gruver a bridge that links an all-women theater company, the Matsubayashi Girls Revue, to the dormitory village where the performers live. The men watch, along with the troupe’s many fans, as performers parade from the village to the theater before the show. When Fumiko-San crosses, Bailey explains to Gruver that the performers are forbidden to have romantic relationships. At the sight of the lead dancer, Hana-Ogi, Gruver becomes entranced. After the show, as the performers cross back over the bridge, Gruver is greeted by Kelly and Katsumi, who also attended. Gruver tries to meet Hana-Ogi, with Katsumi’s help, but the actress refuses to speak to him, saying she blames Americans for the deaths of her brother and father. When Fumiko-San passes over the bridge, Bailey discreetly signals her where to meet him later. Although she is breaking company rules, Fumiko-San joins Bailey and Gruver at a restaurant and, when asked about Hana-Ogi, explains that the head dancer is especially careful to avoid signs of impropriety and will never meet with Gruver. Over the following days, Gruver waits at the bridge when the performers cross and, although never approaching her, stands where Hana-Ogi can see him. Then one day he hides and watches as Hana-Ogi furtively searches for him. Soon after, Gruver is invited to Kelly and Katsumi’s house, where Hana-Ogi has agreed to meet him. Inside, he finds Kelly easily acclimating to his wife’s lifestyle, his happiness marred only by his commanding officer, Colonel Craford, a bigoted Southerner who is prejudiced against men who marry Japanese women. When Hana-Ogi arrives, Gruver chatters nervously until he confesses that he does not know what to say. Thoughtfully, Hana-Ogi explains that she has felt hatred toward Americans, for which she asks him to forgive her. Her confession causes him to recognize his own prejudice and he, too, asks for forgiveness. She then explains that she was one of a poor farmer’s nine children and is now head dancer, and that her life is planned and dedicated to the company, as his is to the military. She expects that this will be the only time she will be in love, and if they proceed, they face dangers if they are discovered and from the sorrow that will come when their relationship is over. Meanwhile, Eileen invites Nakamura to a party, which makes her mother uneasy. By assigning men to stake out Kelly’s house, Craford discovers Gruver’s interest in Hana-Ogi and gets permission from Webster to institute a new regulation forbidding servicemen to socialize with local women. Despite the orders, Gruver meets secretly with Hana-Ogi, who teaches him about her culture. Often they rendezvous at Kelly’s house, where the neighbors have become friendly with Gruver. He now questions “the giving and taking of orders” that has been his life. Eileen warns Gruver that Craford is trying to catch him breaking rules and Bailey also worries about him, but Gruver is confident that he and Hana-Ogi have kept their secret. Eileen attends a performance of kabuki alone, after which Nakamura invites her to dinner. Guessing her concern about Gruver's feelings for Hana-Ogi, Nakamura tells her that they are unlikely to marry, as both would be censured by their respective communities. Careful not to declare interest in her, Nakamura offers to acquaint her further with Japanese ways and Eileen accepts. When Kelly learns that the spiteful Craford has reassigned all men who are married to Japanese women, Gruver asks the colonel to exempt Kelly from being shipped out, as Katsumi is pregnant, and when he refuses, Gruver asks Webster for help. Although Eileen tells her father that it is wrong to let men marry and then force them to abandon their women, the general is unwilling to interfere. Angry, Gruver announces to the Websters that he plans to marry a Japanese woman. Afterward, Eileen, who still loves Gruver, acknowledges that he has finally discovered passion. Eileen then goes to see Nakamura, the only person who will understand her feelings. Gruver tells Kelly that, although he has been unable to help him, “they will find a way” and one day the law will change. When Gruver surprises Hana-Ogi by proposing to her, she refuses, because she does not want to bring shame on Matsubayashi. She explains that their relationship has been discovered by the company and she is being sent to perform in Tokyo, instead of the usual punishment of dismissal. When Gruver accuses her of not loving him enough, she says that she does not deserve love and explains that she was sold into prostitution by her destitute father before she joined Matsubayashi. That evening Gruver, Hana-Ogi, Kelly and Katsumi attend a puppet show. The women explain the plot, in which lovers die together in a ritualized suicide. Hana-Ogi elucidates that it is their custom for lovers to die together when they cannot face life. Upon returning home, the neighbors' children warn them that soldiers have taken over and boarded up Kelly’s house. Gruver is taken to the base and Kelly is told that he will be shipped to the United States in two days. When Kelly fails to appear for his flight to the U.S., military police, trying to protect him from desertion charges, ask for Gruver’s help in finding him. Bailey and Gruver drive to Kelly’s house, break in and discover that Kelly and Katsumi have committed a double suicide. Gruver then goes to the Matsubayashi village to look for Hana-Ogi, but she has already left for Tokyo. Back at the base, Webster tells Gruver that a law is being passed that will allow servicemen to take their wives to the United States. Feeling that Gruver needs to return to his “roots,” Webster reassigns him to the States. Before leaving, Gruver flies to Tokyo to find Hana-Ogi. After a performance, he asks her to answer honestly whether she loves him or not, and asks him to go to America with him. Although she affirms that she loves him, she contends that she must do what is expected of her. Gruver, however, is tired of living according to other people’s whims and says he will wait outside for her answer. When Hana-Ogi later exits the stage door, reporters are waiting. She tells them that she and Gruver will be married, and hopes that someday people will understand and approve. American reporters, who have followed Gruver from the airport hoping for a story, ask Gruver if he has anything to say to military officials. After thinking a moment, Gruver says, “sayonara.” +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.