From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sayonara (1957) Film Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJoshua Logan
Screenplay byPaul Osborn
Based onSayonara
by James Michener
Produced byWilliam Goetz
CinematographyEllsworth Fredricks
Edited by
Music byFranz Waxman
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Release date
  • December 5, 1957 (1957-12-05)
Running time
147 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$26.3 million

Sayonara is a 1957 American Technicolor drama film starring Marlon Brando in Technirama. It tells the story of an American Air Force fighter pilot during the Korean War who falls in love with a famous Japanese dancer. The picture won four Academy Awards, including acting honors for co-stars Red Buttons and Miyoshi Umeki. The supporting cast also features Patricia Owens, James Garner, Martha Scott, Ricardo Montalbán, and Miiko Taka.

The screenplay was adapted by Paul Osborn from the 1954 novel of the same name by James Michener, and was directed by Joshua Logan and produced by William Goetz. Unlike most 1950s romantic dramas, it deals squarely with racism and prejudice.[1]


Fighter ace Major Lloyd "Ace" Gruver, of the United States Air Force, the son of a U.S. Army general, is stationed at Itami Air Force Base near Kobe, Japan. He has been reassigned from combat duties in Korea by General Webster, the father of his fiancée, Eileen. While Ace and Eileen have been together for years, their relationship has become strained.

Airman Joe Kelly, who is Ace's enlisted crew chief, is about to wed a Japanese woman, Katsumi, in spite of the disapproval of the United States military establishment, which will not recognize the interracial marriage because it is generally illegal under American law. The Air Force, including Ace, is against the marriage. Ace and Joe have an argument during which Ace uses a racial slur to describe Katsumi. Ace eventually apologizes, then agrees to be Joe's best man at the wedding.

Ace falls in love with a Japanese entertainer, Hana-ogi, who is the lead performer for a Takarazuka-like theater company, whom he meets through Katsumi. Eileen realizes that Ace's attentions are no longer focused on her and begins a friendship with a famous Kabuki performer, Nakamura. When she overhears that Joe's house has been under surveillance by the Army, she believes that Ace is in danger and goes there to warn him.

Joe suffers further prejudice at the hands of openly hostile Colonel Crawford, pulling extra duty and all the less attractive assignments. When Joe and many others who are married to Japanese are targeted for transfer back to the United States, Joe realizes that he will not be able to take Katsumi, who is now pregnant. Ace goes to General Webster and pleads Joe's case, asking that he be allowed to remain in Japan. When the General refuses on the grounds that he cannot allow an exception, Ace tells him that he will be in the same situation, since he intends to marry Hana-ogi. Eileen and her mother are present for the exchange, and Ace apologizes for hurting her. Eileen realizes Ace never loved her the way he loves Hana-ogi and she leaves to see Nakamura.

Joe and Katsumi's home is boarded up by the military police and Ace is taken into custody by General Webster, where he is confined to quarters. He is told that he will most likely be sent back to the United States and Hana-ogi will be sent to Tokyo. Joe goes AWOL, and two Military Police seek Ace's help to find Joe through his local connections so he can be sent back to the U.S. and not be reported missing. Ace, accompanied by Captain Bailey, finds Joe and Katsumi secretly returned to their home and committed double suicide rather than be parted. Shortly thereafter, Hana-ogi arrives unnoticed and alone outside Joe and Katsumi's home. There she opens a rear window and, still unseen, secretly whispers a tearful "sayonara" to Joe, Katsumi, and Ace, although nobody hears or sees her. Hana-ogi then leaves through the rear gate.

Moments after exiting Joe's home Ace and Bailey are attacked by a group of Japanese holding anti-American signs, but sympathetic Japanese neighbors intervene to help the Americans, resulting in widespread fighting in the street. Ace and Bailey escape during the scuffles.

The loss of his friend Joe strengthens Ace's resolve to marry Hana-ogi, and Ace goes to the theater company to find her. There he learns Hana-ogi has already left Kobe for Tokyo a week ahead of schedule. General Webster, believing the crisis with Ace is averted, apologizes for what happened to Joe and Katsumi and tells Ace that laws will soon be passed to allow interracial marriages in the United States.

Ace leaves Kobe and flies to Tokyo. He tracks down Hana-ogi at her new venue in a Tokyo theater, where he pleads with her one last time to become his wife. They leave the theater and Hana-ogi announces to the waiting Japanese and American reporters that they intend to wed. When a Stars and Stripes military newspaper reporter asks Ace how he will explain his marriage to the "big brass" as well as to the Japanese, neither of which will be particularly happy, Ace says, "Tell 'em we said, 'Sayonara.'"



Brando affected a nondescript Southern accent for Gruver, despite the objections of director Logan, who did not think a Southern accent was appropriate for a general's son who was educated at West Point. Logan later admitted to the author and journalist Truman Capote about Brando, "I've never worked with such an exciting, inventive actor. So pliable. He takes direction beautifully, and yet he always has something to add. He's made up this Southern accent for the part; I never would have thought of it myself, but, well, it's exactly right – it's perfection."[2] Ricardo Montalbán, born in Mexico to Spanish immigrants, plays a Japanese character.

Garner wrote in his memoirs that he actively lobbied to play his role, one of the few times in his career he did this. It had originally been cast with John Smith, but Garner succeeded in getting the part.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

Sayonara received widespread critical acclaim, particularly for its writing and cinematography, in addition to the acting ability of its cast. It won four Academy Awards, including acting honors for co-stars Red Buttons and Miyoshi Umeki. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 93% of critics out of 14 have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 7.1/10.[4]

It was number one at the US box office for five consecutive weeks in 1958.[5] It earned $10.5 million in theatrical rentals in the United States and Canada[6] and $5 million overseas.[7]


Alongside the less successful Japanese War Bride (1952) and The Teahouse of the August Moon (1956), Sayonara is considered by some scholars to have increased racial tolerance in the United States by openly discussing interracial marriage.[8] Other scholars have argued that it is one in a long list of films stereotyping Asian American women as "lotus blossom, geisha girl, china doll, or Suzie Wong".[9]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[10][11] Best Motion Picture William Goetz Nominated
Best Director Joshua Logan Nominated
Best Actor Marlon Brando Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Red Buttons Won
Best Supporting Actress Miyoshi Umeki Won
Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium Paul Osborn Nominated
Best Art Direction Art Direction: Ted Haworth;
Set Decoration: Robert Priestley
Best Cinematography Ellsworth Fredricks Nominated
Best Film Editing Arthur P. Schmidt and Philip W. Anderson Nominated
Best Sound Recording George Groves Won
British Academy Film Awards Most Promising Newcomer to Film Red Buttons Nominated
David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Actor Marlon Brando Won[a]
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Joshua Logan Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Marlon Brando Nominated
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Red Buttons Won
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Miyoshi Umeki Nominated
Best Director – Motion Picture Joshua Logan Nominated
Most Promising Newcomer – Male James Garner Won
Laurel Awards Top Drama Nominated
Top Male Supporting Performance Red Buttons Won
Ricardo Montalbán Nominated
Top Music Composer Franz Waxman Nominated
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Film Nominated
Best Actor Marlon Brando Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Written American Drama Paul Osborn Nominated

The film is also recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Shales, Tom (July 14, 2006). "The Bright Appeal of Red Buttons". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
  2. ^ Capote, Truman (2008), Portraits and Observations, New York: Modern Library, p. 191
  3. ^ Garner, James; Winokur, Jon (2011). The Garner Files: A Memoir. Simon & Schuster. p. 251.
  4. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ "National Boxoffice Survey". Variety. January 29, 1958. p. 3. Retrieved October 21, 2021 – via
  6. ^ "All Time Domestic Champs", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
  7. ^ "Antidote for pessimists". Variety. October 15, 1958. p. 3. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  8. ^ Sarah Kovner (2012). Occupying Power: Sex Workers and Servicemen in Postwar Japan. Stanford University Press. pp. 65–66. ISBN 978-0-8047-8346-0.
  9. ^ Edith Wen-Chu Chen (2010). Encyclopedia of Asian American Issues Today. ABC-CLIO. pp. 644–645. ISBN 978-0-313-34751-1.
  10. ^ "The 30th Academy Awards (1958) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-08-21.
  11. ^ "NY Times: Sayonara". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2010. Archived from the original on 2010-09-06. Retrieved 2008-12-22.
  12. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2011-03-13. Retrieved 2016-08-19.
  13. ^ "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores" (PDF). American Film Institute. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2011-03-13. Retrieved 2016-08-19.


External links[edit]