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Customer Review

60 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Total Enchantment (Roadshow Version), March 18, 2007
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This review is from: South Pacific (Collector's Edition) (DVD)
Over the decades, I've seen this film many, many times -- on TV, on VHS, on laserdisc. Each time I saw it, I wanted it to be a bit more than it was:

-- I've always wished I could appreciate the performance of Ray Walston as Luther Billis, because all of his scenes were pure ham, and he seemed to ruin all the scenes he was in.

-- I have always wished "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair" was as complete in the film as it is on the RCA soundtrack recording (I'll tackle this now -- experts at the studio maintain that the complete version never made any final cut of the film).

-- I've always wished I could see the film as originally assembled and premiered.

-- I have always wished Alfred Newman's scoring -- brilliant though it is in all the cuts I'd seen of the film -- offered a bit more Newman flair.

And now, I'm extremely gratified to say, my wishes have nearly all come true.

This restoration print is phenomenal. Yes there are some washed-out scenes, but I don't care. They are finally back where they belong. This roadshow restoration was printed from a Todd-AO master negative and is a considerably DIFFERENT film from the one most of us have been exposed to the past 49 years.

The print is magnificent, clear and in many ways looks better than most new films look today.

This roadshow version resonates for me in ways that the theatrical cut never did. Time and again, the music set my heart racing, my pulse throbbing, and my senses went into overload.

This film is a visual and aural feast. It's also now my favorite film musical EVER!

Color filters? Bah! Get over 'em! I read somewhere that cinematographer Leon Shamroy wanted them for the purpose of achieving/enhancing emotional responses to scenes. Other sources say it was director Joshua Logan who insisted on using them, primarily because he had experimented with such things in the Broadway production. I know many responses have been sheer hatred/disdain for all the filters, but I love many of them. Those I don't I ignore.

I've read/heard a lot of hoo-haw about the casting of Nellie Forbush (including the highly negative and wishy-washy commentary by Richard Barrios, a film historian whose commentary is replete with "people" have said -- "many people", "some people", "people", "a friend", "someone"...all in the negative...and always attributing his negativity to unnamed others. He seemingly owns nothing he says, but doesn't mind repeating what he has heard. This depletes him of any sort of authority on the subject. It's unfathomable to me that a studio would afflict a restoration of one of its most profitable movies with such absurd negativity...especially given the film's many admirers).

Much has been discussed about why Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza did not recreate their roles. One of the features on the second disc will show you why -- check out the numbers performed in that 1954 Rodgers and Hammerstein TV tribute (three years before filming began on the movie version). Martin looks to be somewhere in her 40s (she was 51)...and matronly plump -- and Pinza (who was 62) looks terrible (and totally unromantic-leadish). You can get away with a lot on stage, but you cannot hide such things on camera. I doubt that Martin was EVER considered for the role. And Pinza died in 1957.

Mary Martin was a great, shining star of the Broadway musical theater. She had a lightly raspy singing voice that she invested with great emotional nuance and feeling. I am a huge fan of Martin's and mean her no disrespect in my observations above.

Barrios maintains that Mitzi Gaynor's voice was not in Martin's league. I'm not sure what he means by that because to my ears, Gaynor's voice is leagues better than Martin's in quality and range. He may be saying he felt Martin's intepretation of the songs was better (and he comes off as one of those somewhat snooty theatrical drama mavens for whom nothing translated to the screen from the theater will ever be good enough, but I disagree with virtually everything that comes out of his mouth on the commentary so I won't mention him again).

There is talk that Elizabeth Taylor was a candidate. What a blessing THAT never happened.

The other great "sigh-in-the-sky" complaint is that Doris Day would have been perfect as Nellie but that she turned off Joshua Logan at a party one night when she refused to get up and sing for guests. I'd always heard she refused to audition for Richard Rodgers.

At any rate...I certainly cannot imagine Doris Day, with her all-too-familiar mannerisms, as Nellie Forbush in "South Pacific." I know she had the look, but I think Gaynor was by far the best choice of those considered for the role.

Many will strongly disagree. And many of those will be the same folks who still bemoan the loss of Frank Sinatra as Billy Bigelow in "Carousel." The visual imagery of that casting still induces giggles. That slight, skinny man wearing a barker's cap and being a rugged barker on a carousel? I think Hollywood dodged a HUGE misfire when he walked out on that film.

Watch Gaynor's performance closely in this roadshow version -- she is luminous, she is restrained, she is exuberant. She is up to the task in every scene and pulls off some incredibly difficult scenes with great dramatic effect. Her vocals are magnificent.

And the huge surprise for me: Ray Walston is wonderful as Luther Billis. They restored much footage of him ...much of what was missing was character development and nuances. In the cut version we saw only the more hyper/extreme elements of his performance. This restored Luther Billis is terrific, and Walston owns the role!

Being a film music fan of many, many decades (!), I have to say that it's always the music that counts most for me in any musical (not to mention any other kind of film), but "South Pacific" is Alfred Newman's masterpiece. He took a classic Broadway score and made it shine more gloriously than it had ever shone before. It's thrilling beyond words to have Newman's original scoring returned to the film...many glorious flourishes pop up frequently to great effect...the entire segments like Cable's walk through the jungle of Bali Ha'i with Bloody Mary -- an entire chunk of film with an entire chunk of original music restored (the Newman scoring of this chunk brings to mind the opening music in the vision sequence in "The Song of Bernadette", but with exotic colorings employed rather than religious ones). Newman's work set a standard that has never been remotely approached by anyone but Newman himself (in "Camelot"). The choral direction of Ken Darby, Newman's right hand man, is inspired. "Bali Hai'" never had a presentation on Broadway like the one in the film. On stage, it's anothe great song, but on film it becomes magic.

I cannot recommend the restored roadshow version of "South Pacific" more highly. See it (and IGNORE ENTIRELY the accompanying commentary).
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 23, 2010 4:23:05 PM PST
no name says:
I am 52 and remember the first time I saw this movie as a young girl. My parents did not often have money for us to go to the movies, but the Roseway by our home in Portland Oregon was playing it and so my parents let me go. The song "I'm gona wash that man right out of my hair", DID make the cut on that particular viewing. I owned the soundtrack and the second verse was in the movie. I remember it clearly. When the VHS version came out and I purchased it (later on), I checked out why that part of the movie had been cut. The owner of the Rosway at the time checked it out and told me that according to records, there had been a fire in the vault where the original print was stored and that part of the film had suffered damage. So they cut that part out for re-release. He was told that it was doubtful they would ever be able to restore that section. Just to clear things up for all of the other fans out there.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2010 8:47:20 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 23, 2012 3:43:16 PM PST
The studio position on this is that the song in the "roadshow" version appears exactly as it was edited for the film's initial roadshow release. Spin? : )

Posted on Jun 7, 2010 6:11:14 PM PDT
Georgia Guy says:
I agree totally. Gaynor is perfect. MArtin would ahve been dismal. Greatest musical ever and one of the top five movies of all time. A masterpiece.

Posted on Aug 1, 2011 4:24:42 PM PDT
Not only do I wish to thank you for the extra details you have added to your review, which are fabulous for fully appreciating how the film was eventually produced, but I most of all wish to thank you for such an informative, insightful, cheerfully, well-written review. It was such a pleasure to read. I've never bought a copy of South Pacific, due to the distraction of those annoying filters and the antics of Luther Billis (didn't care much for Ray Walston), but your review added new perspective for me.
I always loved Mitzi Gaynor as Nellie (and was happy with her selection vs Martin).
The only point in your review that I can't agree with, is I will never be able to accept those filters! But, thanks, now you have me interested in obtaining a copy to enjoy it all over again - and again! Thanks for the wonderful review!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 22, 2011 3:40:24 PM PDT
You're welcome. And thank YOU!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 11, 2011 12:47:21 PM PST
Fiona says:
Very good.looking for s.p. video for long time.Family members served in The Pacific Fleet
during Desert Stormetc. I saw The Movie. My family members are traveling around the world. New South Pacific remastered DVD perfect for them to use.

Family members served in The Pacific Fleet. Sending it as gift. It's a great remastered
DVD of Soth Pacific. Saw original movie.

G

Good info. I purchased new DVD of South Pacific

Fiona

ood in fo.Saw original movie. Family members in South Pacific Fleet. Great remastered
edition.
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