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American soldiers in post-war Japan defy convention when they fall in love with local women.
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."
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||New York opening: 5 Dec 1957; Los Angeles opening: 25 Dec 1957|
|Release Date:||1957||Production Date:||
EB*; AFI [I think it's missing]
|Color/B&W:||Color (Technicolor)||Distributions Co:||Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.|
|Sound:||Mono (RCA Sound System)||Production Co:||Goetz Pictures, Inc., Pennybaker, Inc.|
|Duration(mins):||146-147||Country:||Japan and United States|
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Sayonara on Criterion Collection DVD
Jeffrey Kenison 2017-06-24
I would like this romance drama classic on Criterion Collection DVD. I like Marlon Brando, Red Buttons and James Garner. It also won four Oscars, including...
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