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theatrical release poster
Directed by Joshua Logan
Produced by William Goetz
Written by James Michener (novel)
Paul Osborn
Starring Marlon Brando
Patricia Owens
James Garner
Martha Scott
Miiko Taka
Miyoshi Umeki
Red Buttons
Ricardo Montalban
Music by Franz Waxman
Edited by Arthur P. Schmidt
Philip W. Anderson
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • December 5, 1957 (1957-12-05)
Running time
147 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $22,000,115 (in U.S.)

Sayonara is a 1957 color (Technicolor) American film starring Marlon Brando. The picture tells the story of an American Air Force flier who was an ace fighter pilot during the Korean War.

Sayonara won four Academy Awards, including acting honors for co-stars Red Buttons and Miyoshi Umeki.

The film's screenplay was adapted by Paul Osborn from the novel by James Michener, and was produced by William Goetz and directed by Joshua Logan. Unlike most 1950s romantic dramas, Sayonara deals squarely with racism and prejudice.[1] The supporting cast also features Patricia Owens, James Garner, Martha Scott, Ricardo Montalban, and Miiko Taka.


Major Lloyd "Ace" Gruver (Marlon Brando), the son of a U.S. Army general, is stationed at Itami Air Force Base near Kobe, Japan. He falls in love with a Japanese entertainer, Hana-ogi (Miiko Taka), who is a performer for a Takarazuka-like theater company, whom he meets through his enlisted crew chief, Airman Joe Kelly (Red Buttons).

Joe is about to wed a Japanese woman, Katsumi (Miyoshi Umeki), in spite of the disapproval of the United States military, which will not recognize the marriage. 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.

Joe suffers further prejudice at the hands of a particularly nasty colonel, pulling extra duty and all the less attractive assignments. When he and many others who are married to Japanese are ordered back to the States, Joe realizes that he will not be able to take Katsumi, who is now pregnant.

Finding no other way to be together, Joe and Katsumi commit double suicide. This strengthens Ace's resolve to marry Hana-ogi. When a Stars and Stripes reporter asks him what will he say 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 adopted 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.

Critical reception

Sayonara has 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 100% critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 7.2/10.

The film earned $10.5 million in rentals in North America.[3]


Alongside the less successful Japanese War Bride and The Teahouse of the August Moon, Sayonara was argued by some scholars to have increased racial tolerance in the United States by openly discussing interracial marriages.[4] Other scholars have argued that the movie is one in a long list stereotyping Asian American women as "lotus blossom, geisha girl, china doll, or Suzie Wong" by presenting Asian women as "passive, sexually compliant and easy to seduce" or as downright prostitutes.[5]


Sayonara won multiple Academy Awards for[6][7]

It was also nominated for

See also


  1. Shales, Tom (July 14, 2006). "The Bright Appeal of Red Buttons". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 23, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Capote, Truman (2008), Portraits and Observations, New York: Modern Library, p. 191<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "All Time Domestic Champs", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
  4. Sarah Kovner (2012). Occupying Power: Sex Workers and Servicemen in Postwar Japan. Stanford University Press. pp. 65–66. ISBN 978-0-8047-8346-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Edith Wen-Chu Chen (2010). Encyclopedia of Asian American Issues Today. ABC-CLIO. pp. 644–645. ISBN 978-0-313-34751-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "The 30th Academy Awards (1958) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-08-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "NY Times: Sayonara". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


External links

Preceded by
From Here to Eternity
Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress Succeeded by
West Side Story