As a child, my parents took me to see the new movie hit, South Pacific. My father had returned to us and although a casualty of the War in the Pacific himself, he was in good spirits at that time and wanted to see the film.
Shown on a wide screen in colour with the glorious music of Rogers and Hammerstein, it was inspiring and I fell in love for the first time.
I was too young to really understand the arguments of the day regarding politics, the War itself and the attraction between the grown ups – aka the sailors and the nurses. I was however desolate that the young Joe Cable didn’t get to go back to his girlfriend and it put paid to the rest of the film for me. How could the others be happy?
Living unknowingly in the midst of the perpetuating horror of the Stolen Generations of my time, I was discretely informed while my tears were gently brushed away, that this ‘friendship’ was somehow not allowed and that’s probably why it wasn’t continued with, in the film. It was my introduction to racism and like Joe Cable had so eloquently sung with the help of Bill Lee, ‘You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught.’
I saw the film, now a Classic Movie, again for the first time just last week and have re-run it several times, enchanted with the story by James A Michener, the scenery, the dancing and singing and the acting. It’s ‘fifties’ but I think it has aged well when compared to other musicals of the era which seem stilted and highly vaudevillian, imho.
Many at the time criticized the use of filters which flood the screen with red or deep purple hues when intriguing, mysterious scenes are about to happen. Similarly golden yellow hues overlay the happy moments. I thought in a way it worked well as it gave the theatrical singing scenes, a comfortable place to be until we returned to the main storyline. However the critics’ POV was detrimental to the very popular film and did affect the actors’ futures.
Getting back to the Hero. For me it was and still is, without doubt, Joe Cable played by the actor John Kerr.
I realized this week I have often thought of him, John and ‘Joe,’ over the years and wondered ‘whatever became of…’ as one does. So he, his acting, his character’s role in the story, the screen play and how it was played out on the screen had a huge effect on my childhood view of the world. He seemed such a good young man and I related well to his gentle portrayal of his brave young character at the time.
Having decided to follow up on the ‘whatever…’ and now as a woman of an age who definitely should not be ogling such a gorgeous young man in his prime, I was impressed with the results of my research. And John Kerr, I say with a smile, is older than me in real life so I don’t feel so badly about it, really.
He was a contemporary of James Dean and in fact both were in line for roles in the many films they both made. But he took a different route in his life, relaxed his focus on Hollywood, enrolled in University and became a Lawyer.
He received bonus points from me for remaining a lifelong friend of France Nuyen his ‘girlfriend’ in South Pacific and indeed assisted her in a matter of Law later on in life. She too went back to University and became a successful professional woman. Well done both of you; if I may.
So, a truly happy ending for my first Hero who caught my attention as a child for many reasons and is also seen appraisingly from this stage of my life.
It’s highly likely that he, John or Joe, may resurface as a thoughtful, good looking, romantic Hero in one of my next books.
I hope he doesn’t mind.