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Sayonara to Marlon

By Murray Bourne, 29 Mar 2005

'Sayonara', starring Marlon Brando, was set in post-war Japan. Brando plays a Korean war flying ace who is stationed in Kobe in 1951. This is meant to encourage him to marry the general's daughter, but somehow he gets distracted by a female Japanese performer. This is a no-no in post-war Japan, with 'strict' regulations against 'fraternising with the indigenous women.'

Of course, against everyone's advice, he goes ahead and falls for Miko. At the time, it was not possible to take your Japanese wife back to the States and they would not have been able to stay in Japan very easily, either.

For me, the institutionalised bigotry and the more enlightened view of the lead character was interesting, especially since there were still strong negative feelings against the Japanese at the time. The movie would not have gone down well with many in the late 50s US audience. Also, I enjoyed the glimpses of Japan in 1957 (when the movie was shot), since the air was clean, the place had been cleaned up after the ravages of war and some sort of normalcy had returned. At the time, Japan had only been given back some sort of control after the 10-year US occupation.

And what did they see in Brando at the time? He mumbled every line and sounded drunk for most of the movie...

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