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My review of Flower Drum Song

June 3, 2014

Last night I watched Flower Drum Song. It is a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about Chinese-Americans in San Francisco’s Chinatown. It was released in 1961 and has an all-Asian cast (not all Chinese though). James Shigeta, possibly best known for Die Hard, and Jack Soo, best known for Barney Miller, co-star as two men who are in love with the same woman, but who are also both promised to another woman (due to Chinese custom). James Shigeta plays a college student who is torn by his father’s old Chinese ways and the American lifestyle to which he has grown more accustomed. Jack Soo plays a totally Americanized nightclub owner who, years before, had been promised to the sweet and adorable Mei Li, played by Oscar winner Miyoshi Umeki. He is not open to the idea, and tries to pawn her off on another family, whose patriarch becomes interested in Mei Li for his oldest son, James Shigeta. However, as I said, both men are, unbeknownst to each other, in love with the same woman, played by the beautiful and sexy Nancy Kwan. In addition to the multi-sided romance, the movie deals with clashing cultures and generation gaps. It is fun, colorful, funny and a little sad in a couple of spots, but mainly it is a musical romantic comedy. The four leads all shine. Jack Soo stands out as being very funny in the part of Sammy Fong. Almost all of his lines are delivered with humor and made me laugh out loud. An additional familiar face that popped up as the lead waiter was that of James Hong who is possibly best-known for the Chinese restaurant episode of Seinfeld, but who has been in so many movies and TV shows over the years that he was hard to miss. Flower Drum Song is a fun addition to the Rodgers and Hammerstein canon and holds it place well alongside the duo’s other great musicals: State Fair, Oklahoma!, Carousel, The King and I, South Pacific, and The Sound of Music.

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