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Sayonara is 1957 color (Technicolor) American film starring Marlon Brando. It tells the story of an American Air Force flier who was a fighter "Ace" during the Korean War. The film's screenplay was adapted by Paul Osborn from the novel by James Michener, and the film was produced by William Goetz and directed by Joshua Logan. Unlike most 1950s romantic dramas, Sayonara deals squarely with racism and prejudice.[1]



Lloyd "Ace" Gruver, the son of an Army general, stationed at Itami Air Force Base (now Osaka International Airport) near Kobe, Japan, falls in love with a Japanese entertainer who is a performer for a Takarazuka-like theater company, whom he meets through his enlisted crew chief, Airman Kelly. Kelly has married a Japanese woman, Katsumi, in spite of the disapproval of the United States military, which will not recognize the marriage. The Air Force, including Gruver, is against the marriage. Gruver and Kelly have an argument where Gruver uses a racial slur to describe Kelly's fiancee, but Gruver apologizes then agrees to be Kelly's Best Man at the wedding.

Kelly suffers further prejudice at the hands of a particularly nasty colonel, pulling extra duty and all the less-attractive assignments. When Kelly and many others who are married to Japanese are ordered back to the United States, Kelly realizes he will not be able to take his wife, who is now pregnant. Finding no other way to be together, Kelly and Katsumi commit double suicide, which strengthens Major Gruver's resolve to marry his Japanese lover. When asked by a Stars and Stripes reporter what will he say to both the "big brass" as well as the Japanese, neither of which will be particularly happy, Major Gruver says "Tell 'em we said 'Sayonara.'" This ending differs from that of the book, in which Gruver says "sayonara" to his Japanese girlfriend and returns to the States.

Production issues

Brando adopted a nondescript Southern accent for Gruver, despite the objections of director Logan, who didn't think that a general's son who was West Point-educated would speak that way. Later, Logan 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]


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