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Flower Drum Song

Catalog No.
80198
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VHS | N/A | Slipcase
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Flower Drum Song (1961)
Additional Information
Broadway's Most Romantic Musical Comedy comes to the Screen!!!

Most joyous hit lights up the screen!


The only Rodgers and Hammerstein cinemadaptation to be produced by Universal Pictures, Flower Drum Song was, alas, also the only Rogers and Hammerstein film to lose money at the box office. It looks far better now than it did back in 1961, if only because of the paucity of musical films in the 1990s. Essentially a comedy about the culture clash between old-world Chinese and assimilated Chinese-Americans, the film begins when Mei Li (Miyoshi Umeki) and her grandfather (Kam Tong) smuggle themselves into San Francisco. It seems that Mei Li has arrived to honor an arranged marriage between herself and Runyonesque nightclub owner Sammy Fong (the incomparable Jack Soo). This might prove delicate, since Sammy is in love with flashy cabaret entertainer Linda Low (Nancy Kwan). Meanwhile, Linda is romancing Wang Ta (James Shigeta), the son of a wealthy Chinatown merchant (Benson Fong). Soon, however, Mei Li and Wang Ta have fallen in love.......It's a complex plot, to be sure, but comedy and music manage to predominate. The songs include "I Enjoy Being a Girl" (a tour de force for the special effects department, and for Nancy Kwan), "A Hundred Million Miracles," "The Other Generation," "Love Look Away," "I Am Going to Like It Here," "Don't Marry Me," "You Are Beautiful," "Grant Avenue" and "Chop Suey." Flower Drum Song is attractively produced and consummately acted; while no classic along the lines of King and I or Sound of Music, it deserves a second look.

The film was unusual (for its time) in featuring nearly all Asian American cast members (one of the few speaking Caucasian parts being that of a mugger), including dancers, though two of the singing voices were not Asian ones. Starring in the movie were Nancy Kwan, James Shigeta, Benson Fong, James Hong, Reiko Sato and the original Broadway cast members Jack Soo, Miyoshi Umeki, and Juanita Hall (an African American actress who previously played the Pacific Islander Bloody Mary in the Broadway and film productions of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific).
Among various changes for the film, the song "Like a God" was changed from a song into a beat poetry presentation. The singing voice of the character "Linda Low" was that of B. J. Baker, a non-Asian studio singer who had worked with Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, the Righteous Brothers, and Sam Cooke. The song "Love, Look Away" was also dubbed in by the American opera singer Marilyn Horne.
Although set in San Francisco, only a few scenes were actually filmed on location, notably a scene with Kwan and Shigeta on Twin Peaks. San Francisco watercolorist Dong Kingman painted the opening title art. Hermes Pan provided the choreography.
In 2008, Flower Drum Song was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
The film was the only Hollywood adaptation of a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical to lose money.[3] Lewis calls it "a bizarre pastiche of limping mediocracy". He comments that since the 1958 version of the musical was only rarely revived for decades after its initial run, the film "would in future years come to stand for the stage musical it so crassly misrepresented"[4] and would serve as the version that academics and latter-day theatre critics would judge when they analyzed the musical.[3] Asians often found the film offensive in later years, but David Henry Hwang, who revised the musical for a 2001 revival, "had a secret soft spot for the movie version. 'It was kind of a guilty pleasure ... and one of the only big Hollywood films where you could see a lot of really good Asian actors onscreen, singing and dancing and cracking jokes.'"[5]
The 1961 soundtrack album from the film was critically praised and features dubbing by the opera singer Marilyn Horne ("Love, Look Away") and B. J. Baker (for Linda Low's songs).


Release Date: November 9, 1961 @ Radio City Music Hall

Distrib: Universal



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