44 user 19 critic

Sayonara (1957)

Not Rated | | Drama, Romance | 20 December 1957 (Japan)
A US Air Force major in Kobe confronts his own opposition to marriages between American servicemen and Japanese women when he falls for a beautiful performer.


Joshua Logan


Paul Osborn (screen play), James A. Michener (based on the novel by)
Won 4 Oscars. Another 4 wins & 18 nominations. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
Marlon Brando ... Major Lloyd Gruver
Patricia Owens ... Eileen Webster
James Garner ... Captain Mike Bailey
Martha Scott ... Mrs. Webster
Miiko Taka ... Hana-Ogi
Miyoshi Umeki ... Katsumi
Red Buttons ... Joe Kelly
Kent Smith ... General Mark Webster
Douglass Watson ... Colonel Crawford (as Douglas Watson)
Reiko Kuba Reiko Kuba ... Fumiko-San
Soo Yong ... Teruko-San
Shochiku Kagekidan Girls Revue Shochiku Kagekidan Girls Revue ... Theatrical Revue
Ricardo Montalban ... Nakamura
Learn more

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Major Lloyd Gruver, a Korean War flying ace reassigned to Japan, staunchly supports the military's opposition to marriages between American troops and Japanese women. But that's before Gruver experiences a love that challenges his own deeply set prejudices... and plunges him into conflict with the U.S. Air Force and Japan's own cultural taboos. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


"I am not allowed to love. But I will love you if that is your desire..." Marlon Brando and an exquisite new Japanese star. They LIVE James A. Michener's story of defiant desire. It is called "Sayonara" See more »


Drama | Romance


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Red Buttons's Best Supporting Actor Oscar win over Sessue Hayakawa was the only one of eight categories that Best Picture Oscar winner The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) lost at the Academy Awards. See more »


Marlon Brando's character rank is referred to as Major, gold oak leaves, but he is wearing the rank of Lt Colonel, silver oak leaves. See more »


Major Gruver: You know what I saw yesterday? I saw two rocks that just got married.
Captain Bailey: [slightly confused] You what?
Major Gruver: I saw two rocks that got married. And they looked very happy together, too.
Captain Bailey: Oh, I'll bet they did.
See more »


Referenced in It's Garry Shandling's Show.: Force Boxman (1987) See more »


("Goodbye") (1957)
Words and Music by Irving Berlin
Performed by Miiko Taka (uncredited)
See more »

User Reviews

Flawed, but a step forward
18 March 2019 | by gbill-74877See all my reviews

A big step forward for 1957 in terms of racial tolerance and the acceptance of interracial marriages, but marred by sexism and cultural stereotypes. The 'bad guys' in this film oppose interracial dating, and cruelly force American soldiers who marry Japanese women to leave them by transferring them back home. The 'good guys' fall in love across racial lines and have the courage to stand up for it, but their initial motivations seem to revolve around ogling physical beauty or enjoying how submissive Japanese women are. So while quite progressive for the period, it's tinged with elements that are a little repelling today.

As for the performances, Marlon Brando's is bound to cause a love or hate reaction, as he affects a Southern accent and is practically lethargic in the film's first scenes. He has several moments of brilliance, and he also has moments where he garbles words or misspeaks, so I found his performance to be uneven. As for Red Buttons and Miyoshi Umeki, the Romeo and Juliet couple in the movie, they are earnest enough, but it's a little hard to see what the Academy saw when awarding them both Oscars, Umeki especially. Miiko Tara, on the other hand, is radiant and delivers a fine performance. The movie really picks up when we start learning her backstory; her character has the most depth and she handles it well. Lastly, it's unfortunate that Ricardo Montalban was cast as a Japanese Kabuki performer, but he does a solid job in the role, especially in his brief dance numbers.

That's one thing I could have used a bit more of. In addition to Kabuki and Bunraku, we see a woman's dance troupe performing in beautiful, colorful costumes, and director Joshua Logan cuts these sequences to mere snippets strung together, when I would have liked to see more. Similarly, the film offers a glimpse into Japanese culture and I think its heart was in the right place (and probably was novel for a portion of American audiences in 1957), but it's superficial by today's standards, e.g. learning that one takes shoes off before entering a house, that sake is made from rice, etc. A nice exception was when Tara's character explains why a tea ceremony is so elaborate, saying "The pleasure does not lie in the end itself. It's in the pleasurable steps to that end."

Overall, while I cringed at times, I admired the film for its courage and for its message, which is still relevant. I liked how Brando's character evolved over the movie, and in his defiance of military regulations and cultural norms against miscegenation, I saw the younger generation of the 1950's challenging the older generation, which was so important in the advances over the following decade, and led up to things like the Loving vs. Virginia Supreme Court decision of 1967. The ending is also strong along the two main story arcs, and still delivers an emotional impact.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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English | Japanese

Release Date:

20 December 1957 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

Sayonara See more »

Filming Locations:

Kyoto, Japan See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo (RCA Sound Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

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