Movie Details
Recommendation

Flower Drum Song (1961)

 
 
 

Musical Mei Li

I'm a dead duck, Peking style - Sammy

Jack Soo and Nancy Kwan in Flower Drum Song (1961)

I am pretty sure that if anyone decided to remake 1961 musical "Flower Drum Song" the story would be completely rewritten because by today's political correct standards this is a movie full of offensive stereotypes. It's meant to be about the coming together of tradition with the modern as we have a story about a traditional father and daughter arriving in San Francisco into a very swinging new world but it ends up about the humour of the stereotypes and of course the music and dancing which is entertaining. The thing is I'm not complaining about the stereotyping, you can't change the past and if you are offended by it then try and get past it because the song and dance on show in "Flower Drum Song" is what should entertain.

Mei Li (Miyoshi Umeki) and her father have arrived in San Francisco having stowed away on a slow boat from China and now they are looking for Sammy Fong (Jack Soo) who Mei is due to marry thanks to her and Sammy's parents arranging it the traditional way. The trouble is that not only is Mei very traditional and Sammy modern but Sammy has had a long time thing with dancer Linda Low (Nancy Kwan - Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story). When Sammy tries to palm Mei off by suggesting to the honourable Wang Chi-Yang (Benson Fong) that Mei would make a perfect traditional bride for his song Wang Ta (James Shigeta - Die Hard) he thinks he has succeeded in getting rid of her except Wang Ta also likes modern ways and has a thing for Linda Low as well.

James Shigeta as Wang Ta in Flower Drum Song (1961)

Now "Flower Drum Song" is entertaining but if I was being totally honest I would have to say it's not so much down to the storyline. It is a simple romantic confusion as we have two men two women and trouble brought on by the men preferring modern to traditional. And that is what "Flower Drum Song" is supposed to be about, the clash of old with new but it isn't that strong, just enough for some comedy, some singing and some dancing.

The trouble is that "Flower Drum Song" seems to be a musical all about the humour of stereotypes from Sammy being a jive talking Frank Sinatra style character to master Wang Chi-Yang being a typically old fashioned china man who doesn't like the modern American way. There is no denying that by today's politically correct standards that this would be seen as offensive but even so in-between various things which may seem a bit uncomfortable now there are some nice moments of humour. Watching Wang Ta's younger brother Wang San mock him for when he is in trouble is simple but still enough to make you smile.

But whilst the stereotyping may now feel wrong the actual musical side certainly doesn't, which to be honest as a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical you expect nothing less. The thing is that whilst all the musical numbers work with a nice mix of singing with 60s dancing there isn't anything really stand out about, no song you remember long after. In fact what I remember more than anything is the annoying, seemingly obligatory dream dance sequence which goes on for far too long.

And to be honest that is it, the cast which includes Jack Soo, Juanita Hall, Nancy Kwan and James Shigeta all do a decent job but again there is no performance which really stands out.

What this all boils down to is that "Flower Drum Song" is an entertaining 1960s musical but one which whilst fun to watch isn't overly memorable. And sadly in today's politically correct world the humour of stereotyping will be uncomfortable for some.

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