Chinese stowaway Mei Li (Miyoshi Umeki) arrives in San Francisco with her father to meet her fiancé, wealthy nightclub owner Sammy Fong (Jack Soo), in an arranged marriage, but the groom ...
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Chinese stowaway Mei Li (Miyoshi Umeki) arrives in San Francisco with her father to meet her fiancé, wealthy nightclub owner Sammy Fong (Jack Soo), in an arranged marriage, but the groom has his eye on his star singer Linda Low (Nancy Kwan). This film version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical is filled with memorable song-and-dance numbers showcasing the contrast between Mei Li's traditional family and her growing fascination with American culture. Written by
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Speaking for myself, I have been a huge fan of FDS since the '70s when I bought the soundtrack album (on Decca) at a used record store for $7. I saw it on TV one new years day i think 1980 and it's been one of my favorites ever since. Not only is it one of R and H's best scores, Alfred Newman's arrangements are simply lush and beautiful. The cast and the director are all top notch. The screen play is delightful, perhaps a bit long, but rather too long than eliminate one of the great songs, some of which were already edited down from the original Broadway version which was directed by the great Gene Kelly. I have often wondered what would have happened if he had directed the movie. On stage, I do like the full two versions of The Other Generation, for example.
My wife is from the Peoples Rep. of China. Shes 28 and has been in the USA for 15 months as of this writing. I was going through my stuff recently in storage and came across of my heavily yellowed copy of CY Lee's novel FDS and thought my wife would enjoy it. She did. So i thought well now it's time to break out my old VHS copy which i hadn't seen since 1990. it was playable but storage hasn't been very kind to it. C'Mon DVD!!!
Her final comment was "cute". Benson Fong's Mr. Wang reminded her of her own father. Even though my wonderful father in law is a hard line communist, I see the obvious paternal, controlling similarities between them. He made her very nostalgic for her home land and her family. If we ever have any sons, he will probably be like Wang San in many ways and she could see the old man's reaction to his youngest son's could be very similar between her father and our son yet to be conceived.
What she thought was laughably bad was "A Hundred Million Miracles" trying to be passed off as a real flower drum song. She said, "if they sung that in China as a flower drum song they would have been stoned to death." She almost lost interest in the movie at that point especially since the movie and original play deviate from the novel at that point. So she didn't buy that at all. Sammy Fong's lecherous behavior was also realistic for a Chinese businessman. My wife related to that too.
She didn't buy some of the costuming especially young women wearing hats. Married women wore hats in the '50s but Mei Li apparently wouldn't.
Speaking of Mei Li, she totally bought her character both in the book and the movie. Very realistic portrayal and Miyoshi looked like a typical peasant girl albeit Miyoshi is Japanese not Chinese and that was evident immediately.
Linda Low, though not a big part of the novel, if at all, (I have forgotten if that character appears in it), was another realistic character, even today in 2006!! She reminded both us of, well... shall we say... materialistic girls you could meet everyday in Shanghai, the ones that unsuspecting foreigners need to be careful of. In any event, Nancy Kwan has another fan in my wife. We have a copy of Suzie Wong - book and movie - in China.
For myself, it was interesting seeing the movie after having lived three years in the PRC and what an admirable job the creators of the movie did in keeping with the culture. They missed a few things obviously, but for two Jewish boys from NYC, R and H as well as Joseph Fields libretto did an awesome job of keeping it real, much more so here than with the King and I which both play and movie are banned forever in Thailand because the Thai people find it so offensive.
As far as David Hwang's remake of FDS goes, I really can't comment on it because I haven't read it or seen it. I don't know if I really want to although I am curious just because I have been a supporter of FDS for so many years. If the idea for the remake is to resemble the novel more, than I am all for it. I love the novel and I think the original play and movie missed opportunities for beefing up the Helen Chao character better. She just kinds of disappears with no mention of her suicide after the hauntingly beautiful "Love Look Away" a show stopper if there ever was one. That is a flaw.
I just love Sammy Fong. How can you have FDS without Sammy Fong? He is just so sleazy and brilliant and wonderful invention by the creative team. How can you do FDS without 'the other generation" in any version. That's the whole point of the both the novel and the original play as well as the movie - the generation gap and the cultural gap. In portraying that, FDS, the original play and movie, succeed on pretty much every level If the idea to create a new version of FDS was because the movie and play portrayed negative stereotypes, my wife who is Chinese has to disagree. She loves the characters in this movie; in many ways, they brought China to life for her and what it is like living in a totally new culture, not understanding anything at all, or in her case thinking you know a foreign culture because you have worked with foreigners and finding it's completely different over here.
Kudos and thank you to RandH, Ross Hunter and his team in creating a movie that has aged so gracefully, (as has Ms. Kwan) for the most part, and making serious cultural and generational issues that will probably never go away fun. This movie will be current in 100 years.
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