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Original movie poster for the film Sayonara.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJoshua Logan
Produced byWilliam Goetz
Screenplay byPaul Osborn
Based onSayonara
1954 novel
by James Michener
Music byFranz Waxman
CinematographyEllsworth Fredericks
Edited by
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • December 5, 1957 (1957-12-05)
Running time
147 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$22,000,115 (in U.S.)

Sayonara is a 1957 Technicolor American film starring Marlon Brando in Technirama. The picture tells the story of an American Air Force flier who was an ace fighter pilot during the Korean War (1950–1953) who falls in love with a famous Japanese dancer.

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 1954 novel of the same name 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 Montalbán, and Miiko Taka.


Fighter ace Major Lloyd "Ace" Gruver (Marlon Brando), 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.

Airman Joe Kelly (Red Buttons), who is Ace's enlisted crew chief, is about to wed a Japanese woman, Katsumi (Miyoshi Umeki), in spite of the disapproval of the United States military establishment, which will not recognize the inter-racial 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.

Ace 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 Katsumi. Eileen realizes that Ace's attentions are no longer focused on her and begins a friendship with a famous Kabuki performer, Nakamura (Ricardo Montalbán); 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, where she realizes he is seeing a local woman.

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 targeted for transfer back to the 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 when Ace apologizes for hurting her, she 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 is being sent to Tokyo. When Joe goes AWOL, the MPs 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 finds Joe and Katsumi sneaked back into their home and committed double suicide rather than be parted; this strengthens Ace's resolve to marry Hana-ogi, and he goes to the dance academy to find her, where he is told she has already left for Tokyo. Once the General believes the crisis with Ace is averted, he apologizes for what happened to Joe and Katsumi and tells Ace that laws are now being passed to allow interracial marriages in the United States. Ace leaves Kobe to head to Tokyo where he tracks down Hana-Ogi and pleads with her to become his wife, they leave the theater and announce to waiting Japanese and American reporters that they intend to wed. When a Stars and Stripes military newspaper reporter asks him 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.

Critical reception[edit]

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% of 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] and $5 million overseas.[4]


Alongside the less successful Japanese War Bride and The Teahouse of the August Moon, Sayonara is considered by some scholars to have increased racial tolerance in the United States by openly discussing interracial marriage.[5] 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".[6]

Awards and honors[edit]

Sayonara won multiple Academy Awards for[7][8]

It was also nominated for

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. ^ "All Time Domestic Champs", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
  4. ^ "Antidote for pessimists". Variety. October 15, 1958. p. 3. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  5. ^ Sarah Kovner (2012). Occupying Power: Sex Workers and Servicemen in Postwar Japan. Stanford University Press. pp. 65–66. ISBN 978-0-8047-8346-0.
  6. ^ Edith Wen-Chu Chen (2010). Encyclopedia of Asian American Issues Today. ABC-CLIO. pp. 644–645. ISBN 978-0-313-34751-1.
  7. ^ "The 30th Academy Awards (1958) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-08-21.
  8. ^ "NY Times: Sayonara". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-22.
  9. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-19.
  10. ^ "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-19.


External links[edit]