Sayonara: In an insightful, tragic romantic drama, prejudice takes its toll on American servicemen and their Japanese lovers, but can’t stop true love. During the Korean War, Marlon Brando is given a plum assignment to Japan, against his wishes, courtesy of his future father-in-law. There he experiences the base rules against fraternization and meets Red Buttons, who has fallen in love with a Japanese woman and intends to marry her.
Brando earns the wrath of his fiancee (Patricia Owens) and her family when he stands up with his friend at his wedding, and then becomes entranced himself with a member of a famous Japanese dance troupe. The two become lovers despite the objections of both the Americans and the Japanese. When the base commander orders servicemen with Japanese wives home without their spouses, Buttons and Brando are arrested, and Buttons’s relationship comes to a tragic end. Brando and director Joshua Logan clashed offscreen but each produced some of his best work for the screen.
During production of Sayonara, writer Truman Capote had an evening of conservation with actor Marlon Brando, which he later infamously parlayed into the controversial piece “The Duke in His Domain,” published in the New Yorker.
Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor: Red Buttons. Academy Award Nominations: 10, including Best Picture; Best Director; Best Actor: Marlon Brando; Best (Adapted) Screenplay.
Marlon Brando as Major Lloyd Gruver
Patricia Owens as Eileen Webster
James Garner as Capt. Mike Bailey
Martha Scott as Mrs. Webster
Miiko Taka as Hana-ogi
Miyoshi Umeki as Katsumi
Red Buttons as Joe Kelly
Kent Smith as Gen. Webster
Douglass Watson as Col. Craford
Reiko Kuba as Fumiko-san
Soo Yong as Terukosan
Writing Paul Osborn
Sound Franz Waxman
Editing Arthur P. Schmidt
Art Robert Priestley
Editing Philip W. Anderson
Art Ted Haworth
Camera Ellsworth Fredericks
Directing Joshua Logan
Production William Goetz
Writing James Michener
Costume & Make-Up Norma Koch
United States of America / Pennebaker Productions / 147 minutes / Released 1957-12-25