South Pacific (1958)

<strong class="MovieTitle">South Pacific</strong> (1958)

(On TV, July 2018) I like musicals a lot and fifties musicals are among the finest every made, but I do have a marked preference for musicals made for the screen rather than adapted from the stage, and I seem to have a specific lack of affinity for anything adapted from Rodgers and Hammerstein stage musicals. South Pacific is a case in point: A big bold musical set on the Pacific front during World War II, it features a young nurse taken with a creepy older Frenchman, with various hijinks from the US soldiers stationed nearby. It’s not that funny, which is a shame considering that the film’s most interesting moments are its funniest ones. Mitzi Gaynor and Rossano Brazzi star, but Ray Walston is a highlight as a hapless soldier, while Juanita Hall is fantastic as a strong-willed islander woman. As is often the case, the film opens strong with good upbeat numbers (“Bloody Mary” and “There’s Nothing Like a Dame”), only to become duller and more romance-focused in its second half, with some comic interludes along the way. The cinematography of the film is a bit too out-there for the material—the use of strong colour filters is particularly annoying in washing out scenes that would have been perfectly good without them. There’s enough here to make South Pacific worth a watch for fans of musicals, but it hasn’t stood the test of time very well—especially considering that it was one of the top-grossing films of 1958.

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