Cast & Crew
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."
Shochiku Kagekidan Girls Revue
William Wellman Jr.
Philip W. Anderson
H. F. Koenekamp
M. A. Merrick
Arthur P. Schmidt
Best Art Direction
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best Writing, Screenplay
Brando plays Maj. Lloyd Gruver, a U.S. Army soldier who's stationed in Japan during the Korean War. Gruver is engaged to the daughter (Patricia Owens) of an Army General (Kent Smith). But his best friend, an enlisted man named Joe Kelly (Red Buttons, who won an Oscar® for his role) has created a controversy by falling in love with a beautiful Japanese woman (Miyoshi Umeki). The Army brass frowns upon interracial romances, and they do everything they can to drive a wedge between Kelly and his true love. Gruver is also somewhat prejudiced against the Japanese, but that all changes when he meets and falls hard for a traditional dancer named Hana-ogi (Miiko Taka). This sets off a powder keg of institutionalized racism that leads to both tragedy and romance.
Logan's original intent was to convert James Michener's popular novel, Sayonara, into a Broadway musical. But, when that didn't pan out for legal reasons, he aimed to adapt it into a straight-forward drama. For a while, there was talk of getting Rock Hudson to star, but Logan had wanted to work with Brando for some time, so, against his better judgment, he approached the mercurial actor with the script.
During his first meeting with Brando, Logan got a taste of what he was in for- Brando spent virtually the entire meeting pontificating on Hollywood's often stereotypical portrayal of Asians. He finally told Logan that he would consider the role, then they could meet again at a later date. "He was perfectly right," Logan wrote in his autobiography, Movie Stars, Real People, and Me, "except that I wondered if he would ever listen to anyone else talk but himself." At their next meeting, Brando took special interest in the fact that Logan stopped to pick some dead leaves off of a sickly plant. He then sniffed the air around Logan and asked him if he was wearing "lemon scent." When the surprised Logan explained that, yes, his cologne probably had a lemon base, Brando quickly excused himself and left the meeting!
Brando's willful eccentricities forced Logan to consider casting a "name" female lead as a counter precaution. The only problem was that there weren't any Asian performers who carried that kind of clout, and Logan's only other choice, Audrey Hepburn, politely declined, saying that people would laugh at her trying to inhabit such a character. So, it was back to Brando, who Logan's producing partner, William Goetz, now referred to as "Lemon Scent."
After more dilly-dallying, which led to Logan loudly issuing an ultimatum, Brando accepted the part, saying that he was impressed when Logan took time out of their second meeting to tend to a sick plant...and that he didn't know Logan wore lemon scent. But, aside from a few instances of carefully-applied charm, that was as agreeable as Brando would ever get. He proceeded to argue with his sensitive, pleasantly aromatic director throughout the shoot, most of which took place on location in Japan. Logan felt that Brando often tested him to see if he was really committed to making a good film. But Brando, as was the case with so many of his other pictures, also took special interest in perpetrating practical jokes on anyone who tried to make him act like a mature person, and that included producer Goetz.
Filming was no easy task, since the slightest lapse in etiquette could offend the producers' Japanese hosts (it also didn't help matters that a little troublemaker named Truman Capote was on hand, ready to skewer the entire enterprise for a magazine back in the states). One evening, after Logan and Goetz had held a press conference announcing the movie, Goetz received a phone call from an American reporter who accused him of being drunk before the media. Goetz was mortified by the totally unfounded accusation, knowing that such an event would reflect very badly on the production. After an intense bout of shouting, the reporter revealed himself to be Brando, who was just having a little "fun" with the boss.
But Brando saved the best for last. On one of the final days of filming, he appeared on the set looking deeply depressed - with his right arm in a sling. Brando explained to Logan, who was properly mortified by the sight, that a stand-in was horsing around with him and accidentally dislocated his shoulder.
Everyone, Logan included, was anxious to get home, and Brando was in many of the remaining shots. Most importantly, though, this sort of thing would be extremely time-consuming and expensive, with camera set-ups that would have to be re-blocked to keep Brando from having to use his injured arm, if that were actually possible. In a panic, Logan asked Brando if he could at least move his fingers. Brando weakly replied that he could, then added, "The only thing I can't do is this," at which point he raised his perfectly healthy arm high above his head and slapped his bicep.
Director: Joshua Logan
Producer: William Goetz
Screenplay: Paul Osborn (based on James Michener's novel) Cinematography: Ellsworth Fredericks
Editing: Philip W. Anderson, Arthur P. Schmidt
Music: Franz Waxman
Songwriter: Irving Berlin
Production Design: Edward S. Haworth
Set Design: Robert Priestley
Costume Design: Norma Koch
Choreography: LeRoy J. Prinz
Principal Cast: Marlon Brando (Maj. Lloyd Gruver), Red Buttons (Joe Kelly), Miyoshi Umeki (Katsumi), Ricardo Montalban (Nakamura), Patricia Owens (Eileen Webster), Miiko Taka (Hana-ogi), Martha Scott (Mrs. Webster), James Garner (Capt. Mike Bailey)
by Paul Tatara
Martha Scott, 1914-2003
Martha Ellen Scott was born in Jamesport, Missouri on September 24, 1914, and raised in Kansas City, where a high school teacher encouraged her interest in acting. She majored in drama at the University of Michigan and after graduation, she joined The Globe Theatre Troupe, a stock company that performed truncated Shakespeare at the Chicago World's Fair in between 1933-34. She went to New York soon after and found work in radio and stock before playing making her breakthrough as Emily Webb in Our Town. When the play opened on Broadway in February 1938, Scott received glowing reviews in the pivotal role of Emily, the wistful girl-next-door in Grovers Corners, New Hampshire, who marries her high school sweetheart, dies in pregnancy and gets to relive a single day back on Earth. Her stage success brought her to Hollywood, where she continued her role in Sam Wood's film adaptation of Out Town (1940). Scott received an Academy Award nomination for best actress and was immediately hailed as the year's new female discovery.
She gave nicely understated performances in her next few films: as Jane Peyton Howard in Frank Lloyd's historical The Howards of Virginia (1940), opposite Cary Grant; the dedicated school teacher in Tay Garnett's Cheers for Miss Bishop (1941) in which she aged convincingly from 17 to 85; and as a devoted wife to preacher Frederic March in Irving Rapper's warm family drama One Foot in Heaven (1941). Sadly, Scott's maturity and sensitivity ran against the glamour-girl persona that was popular in the '40s (best embodied by stars like Lana Turner and Veronica Lake) and her film appearances were few and far between for the remainder of the decade.
Her fortunes brightened in the '50s, when she found roles in major productions, such as a suburban wife trapped in her home by fugitives, led by Humphrey Bogart, in William Wyler's taut The Desperate Hours (1955) and played Charlton Heston's mother in the Cecil B. Demille's The Ten Commandments (1956) and again for William Wyler in Ben-Hur (1959). Scott found steady work for the next 30 years in matronly roles, most notably on television, where she played Bob Newhart's mother on The Bob Newhart Show (1972-1978) and the mother of Sue Ellen Ewing on Dallas (1978-1991). Her second husband, pianist and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Mel Powell, died in 1998. Survivors include a son and two daughters.
by Michael T. Toole
Martha Scott, 1914-2003
The pleasure does not lie in the end itself. It's in the pleasurable steps to that end.- Hana-ogi
Film debuts of Miiko Taka and Miyoshi Umeki. Umeki, for this debut performance, won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award.
Apparently Marlon Brando was not the first choice for this lead. It was offered to Rock Hudson.
The "Matsubayashi Girls Revue" stage shows in the film were performed by the Shochiku Kagekidan Girls Revue.
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 Variety and New York Times 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-December 1953) magazine was released, Paramount, M-G-M and Twentieth Century-Fox were bidding for the rights to make the film, according to August and September 1953 Daily Variety news items. The September 1953 Daily Variety item reported that Michener insisted on a seven-year lease and no sequel rights.
Then, according to a 9 September 1953Hollywood Reporter 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 September 14, 1953 Hollywood Reporter 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 September 16, 1953 Variety article also stated that Michener was considering co-writing the musical's book.
According to the September 1953 Variety 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 September 30, 1957 Daily Variety 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 November 1953 Hollywood Reporter 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 December 1953 Daily Variety, Hollywood Reporter and Variety 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 December 14, 1955 Daily Variety 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 December 19, 1955 Hollywood Reporter 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 September 1957 New York Times and March 1958 Hollywood Citizen-News 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 October 1957 Hollywood Reporter 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 March 1958 Hollywood Citizen-News 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 March 1957 Variety article, Logan mentioned that Truman Capote read the script and "made a few suggestions," although his input was minimal. According to the March 1958 Hollywood Citizen-News 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 Hollywood Citizen-News 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 March 1957 Variety 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 March 1957 Variety 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 Hollywood Reporter 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 was produced earlier, Sayonara was released first. Studio production notes and a March 14, 1957 Hollywood Reporter 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 March 1957 Hollywood Reporter reported that the jet plane sequences were shot at Lockheed Airport in Burbank, CA.
According to November and December 1957 Hollywood Reporter 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.
Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1957 New York Times Film Critics.
Released in United States 1996
Released in United States Winter December 1957
Released in United States 1996 (Shown in New York City (American Museum of the Moving Image) as part of program "The Essential Brando" March 16 - April 7, 1996.)
Released in United States Winter December 1957