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Flower Drum Song

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1961

Flower Drum Song is a 1961 musical film directed by Henry Koster and based on the Broadway musical of the same name written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. The film stars Nancy Kwan, James Shigeta, and Benson Fong in the lead roles.

The story follows Mei Li (Nancy Kwan), a young Chinese woman who arrives in San Francisco as a mail-order bride for Sammy Fong (James Shigeta), a nightclub owner. Mei Li is initially shy and reserved, but she soon finds her place in the bustling Chinatown community, making friends with other young women and falling in love with Wang Ta (Jack Soo), a law student who is conflicted between his traditional Chinese values and his desire to assimilate into American culture.

As Mei Li and Wang Ta navigate their relationship, Sammy faces his own challenges when his nightclub is threatened by the arrival of a rival club owner, Madame Liang (Juanita Hall). Madame Liang's club is modern and flashy, with performances by glamorous dancers in revealing costumes, while Sammy's club is more traditional, featuring Chinese singers and dancers. The two club owners engage in a heated rivalry, with both trying to outdo each other to attract customers.

Meanwhile, Mei Li's brother, Cheng (Benson Fong), has come to San Francisco to find her and bring her back to China to fulfill a arranged marriage. Cheng is initially reluctant to accept Mei Li's new life in America, but he eventually comes to appreciate the opportunities and freedoms that she has found there. Cheng also develops a romantic interest in Linda Low (Miyoshi Umeki), a performer at Sammy's club who dreams of becoming a movie star.

As the various storylines intersect, the characters must confront their own identities and reconcile the pressures of tradition with the desire for progress and acceptance in a new culture.

Flower Drum Song is a colorful and charming musical, featuring memorable songs and dance numbers, including "I Enjoy Being a Girl," "Love, Look Away," and "Grant Avenue." The film explores themes of cultural identity, family, and love in a changing world, with a light touch that balances drama and comedy. The cast is talented and engaging, with standout performances by Nancy Kwan and James Shigeta, who share a palpable chemistry onscreen.

The film also offers a glimpse into the history of Chinese immigrants in America, particularly in Chinatown, where generations of families built close-knit communities and struggled to overcome discrimination and prejudice. Though the film is largely uplifting and celebratory, it does not shy away from acknowledging the challenges faced by immigrants, particularly in a country that did not always welcome them.

Overall, Flower Drum Song is a delightful musical that celebrates the beauty and resilience of Chinese culture while also exploring universal themes of love, identity, and belonging. With its catchy tunes, vibrant costumes, and endearing characters, it is a joyous and memorable film that continues to charm audiences today.

Flower Drum Song is a Comedy, Music, Romance movie released in 1961. It has a runtime of 131. Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 6.9..

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6.9/10
Director
Henry Koster
Stars
Nancy Kwan, James Shigeta
Also starring Nancy Kwan
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