Flower Drum Song (1961)

Universal-International (Ross Hunter)

The only Rodgers and Hammerstein works to be produced by Universal, Flower Drum Song” was also one fo their few musicals to be a commercial disappointment.

The film deals with culture clash between old-world Chinese and assimilated Chinese-Americans. Mei Li (Miyoshi Umeki) and her grandfather (Kam Tong) arrive in San Francisco, and the former is about to wed (in an arranged marriage) nightclub owner Sammy Fong (Jack Soo).

But Sammy is in love with cabaret entertainer Linda Low (Nancy Kwan), even if the latter is more interested in Wang Ta (James Shigeta), the son of a wealthy merchant (Benson Fong).

The songs include “I Enjoy Being a Girl,” “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 handsomely mounted, but it’s not on the same level as “The King and I,” not to mention “The Sound of Music.”

Oscar Nominations: 5

Cinematography (color): Russell Metty

Scoring of Musical: Alfred Newman and Ken Darby

Art Direction-Set Decoration (color): Alexander Golitzen and Joseph Wright; Howard Bristol

Costume design (color): Irene Sharaff

Sound: Fred Hynes, Waldon O. Watson

Oscar Awards:  None

Oscar Context

“West Side Story” is one of the few winners in the Academy’s history to receive awards in all (ten) but one of its nominations, writing: Ernest Lehman lost to Abby Mann for Stanley Kramer’s courtroom drama, “Judgment at Nuremberg.”

A double honoree, Irene Sharaff was also nominated for (and won) the costumes of “West Side Story.”

 

In 1961, the four other Best Picture nominees were the old-fashioned melodrama “Fanny”; the WWII adventure “The Guns of Navarone”; the poignant feature “The Hustler” starring Paul Newman at his best; and the courtroom drama “Judgment at Nuremberg,” which was the most nominated film of the year.  In the Academy’s annals, “West Side Story” ranks alongside “Ben‑Hur,” “Titantic,” and “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King,” as one of the most Oscar‑honored film.

Credits

Running time: 133 Minutes.

Directed by Henry Koster

Released: January 1, 1961 Wide

DVD: November 7, 2006

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