Concerned that the film's lush tropical settings would appear unnatural in Technicolor, and partially to cover up the fluctuations in weather during the shoot, director Joshua Logan hoped to soften the effect by filming several scenes through the newly available colored filters. He later indicated he considered this to be the biggest mistake he had made in his filming career. He wanted the filters to be subtler, but he says that the film processing lab had made them more extreme than he liked. There was no time to re-shoot without them or replace them because the film was a roadshow and tickets had been booked months in advance. However, according to his son Tom, when the film first became available on VHS and Mr. Logan watched it, he liked the filtered scenes.
The film, "South Pacific," ran for just under 4 years and 6 months at the Dominion Theatre in London. It opened on April 21st, 1958 and closed on September 30th, 1962, for an unbroken, record run that will probably never be equaled.
This is the only theatrical film adaptation of a Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II stage show to have all the songs intact, with the addition of the song "My Girl Back Home," which was cut from the play before it opened.
Juanita Hall, who had played Bloody Mary in the original Broadway production, obviously sang her own songs onstage, but was dubbed in the film version at the request of composer Richard Rodgers. Rodgers and musical director Alfred Newman brought in Muriel Smith (who had played Bloody Mary in London).
France Nuyen had not yet learned English when playing the role of "Liat". Fortunately, she was able to converse in her native language (French) with co-star Rossano Brazzi, who spoke French as well as his native Italian.
Dating back to the development of the stage musical, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were pressured to eliminate the song "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught", but they resisted. The movie was greeted with objections and even boycotts in certain parts of the country specifically because of the song.
According to some sources, Mary Martin did not play Nellie Forbush in the movie because Ezio Pinza, who had portrayed Emile de Becque on the stage, had already died and the producers considered it to be a hopeless task to find anybody who could match her in the movie. Other sources say that, at 45 years of age, Martin was too old for the role by the time the film was made. Mitzi Gaynor was eventually cast in the role.
Patti Page related in a book that she was among those who tested for the role of Nellie Forbush before Mitzi Gaynor was cast. According to "Hollywood's First Choices," director Joshua Logan's first choice for the role was Elizabeth Taylor, who was a 'hot commodity' in the late 1950s. Taylor wasn't particularly interested in the part, and her lack of singing ability quickly had the producers looking elsewhere.
Capt. Brackett takes great umbrage over an implied slight from Lt. Cable over the virility of older men, claim that "I, in fact, am over 50". Russ Brown, the actor playing Capt. Brackett was, in fact, 66 at the time.
The soundtrack album for the film was the first Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II film soundtrack to be issued in stereo, the same year that the mono version was issued. (Because stereo LP's were not possible until 1958, the movie soundtrack albums of Oklahoma! (1955), Carousel (1956) and The King and I (1956) were issued in mono between 1955 and 1956, the stereo versions in 1958.)
The original Broadway production of "South Pacific" opened at the Majestic Theater on April 7, 1949, ran for 1925 performances starring Mary Martin as Nellie Forbush and Ezio Pinza as Emile de Becque, and won the 1950 Tony Award for the Best Musical, Libretto and Score. Both stars won the Tony Award for Best Actor and Best Actress in a Musical. Juanita Hall reprises her role as Bloody Mary in the movie.
Two numbers are strung together at the end of the soundtrack album. The Act I Finale is spliced onto the final reprise of "Dites Moi", so that this final track would be longer and the album would end triumphantly with Emile and Nellie reprising "Some Enchanted Evening". This was also done on the 1949 original Broadway cast album. Both the show and the film end with the reprise of "Dites Moi", but no singing afterwards, just the orchestral playing.
South Pacific won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1950 - it premiered on Broadway in April of 1949. Only nine musicals have won the Pulitzer Prize in drama - one per decade from the 1930s to the 1990s. They are as follows: "Of Thee I Sing" (1931), "South Pacific" (1949), "Fiorello" (1959), "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" (1961), "A Chorus Line" (1975), "Sunday in the Park with George" (1984), "Rent" (1996), "Next to Normal" (2009) and "Hamilton" (2016) .
Because Giorgio Tozzi is credited as a cast member in the opening credits, but NOT in the end credits, the ordered opening credits are listed first, followed by all the ordered end credits not listed in the opening credits.
The original cut of the film reputedly ran 181 minutes, and contained longer versions of the songs "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair" and "This Nearly Was Mine." This version was never shown publicly.
Partially restores the song "Loneliness of Evening", which had been deleted from the stage version before opening in New York. The lyrics turn up in the form of a poem sent by Emile de Becque to Nellie Forbush (the full song was used in the 2001 television version of South Pacific (2001), produced by ABC). The song was also used in the second TV production of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II's Cinderella (1965), sung by Stuart Damon as the Prince.
For many years, Rossano Brazzi maintained that he himself had performed his vocals in South Pacific (1958), despite the fact that prominent baritone Giorgio Tozzi received on-screen credit as "the singing voice of Emile de Becque." Brazzi later sang for himself in The Christmas That Almost Wasn't (1966), and his vocals in that film forever laid to rest any doubts as to his classical singing ability.
The only member of the original Broadway production to repeat their performance onscreen, other than Juanita Hall, is Ray Walston as Luther Billis. However, Mr. Walston did not originate the role on Broadway.
Despite Juanita Hall playing the part of Bloody Mary in the Broadway production of South Pacific when it came to the film she was dubbed by the Muriel Smith who played the part in the London production.