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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
This one takes me right back to the sixties when we were young and full of hope for the future. We saw it as a first run movie at Graumann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood and loved it. Even today, on the television set, it holds up well and the overture just jumps out at you. Soon, you hear "A Hundred Million Miracles, with doll-like Miyoshi Umeki, and other great songs like "Love Look Away," and "Sunday." The choreography is as impressive as the music, in particular the erotic dance sequence for "Love Look Away," with beautiful Reiko Sato as Helen. Her unrequited love for Ta (James Shigeta) is never neatly resolved, unlike the film's other romantic relationships, and unfortunately, she died in real life only twenty years later. Nancy Kwan as Linda Low, of course, looks great, sings well, and slinks around very nicely, as do the many other lovely Asian dancers who grace this testament to Chinese American culture and oriental beauty. The funniest and best acting came from old man Wang, played by Benson Fong. He complained to his wife's sister (Juanita Hall) that after five long years of citizenship school, the only thing she could say about America was, "This isn't China!" And when asked to describe the mugger who had robbed him on his doorstep, he replied simply, "How should I know. All white men look alike." James Shigeta and Jack Soo handed in memorable performances, as well. The former became one of the most successful and consistently employed oriental actors in American film and television, while the latter went on to play Nick Yemana on "Barney Miller." Although there are some corny aspects to "Flower Drum Song," these are more than counterbalanced by the many interesting elements that occur throughout the movie. In short, it's a sort of "Joy Luck Club" of the early sixties, on a similar level and released about the same time as "South Pacific" and "West Side Story." A couple of years later, America was again impacted by the Orient. The beautiful song "Sukiyaki," an imported hit from Japan, went to number one on the American pop charts. We had our problems in those days, but culturally speaking, it was a great time to be alive.
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