Sunday, 21 August 2011


I first saw South Pacific when I was around thirteen at the Odeon Cinema, Dundee. The enveloping sound overpowered my senses and the intricacies of the story line drifted over my head, but my abiding memory is of Juanita Hall singing 'Bali Hai'.

Last week I discovered Juanita Hall's vocals were dubbed, at the insistence of Richard Rodgers, who was determined to use the mezzo-soprano Muriel Smith.

Due to the wonders of technology last night I listened to both versions and eventually decided I preferred Juanita's voice.  It's gritty and more dramatic, but that doesn't negate Muriel Smith's velvety performance. The diction of both singers is admirable but diction was regarded as important in those days.  Maybe I'm just getting old, but I find when listening to much of today's popular music, I can't understand a word.

Note:  The YouTube poster had to flip parts of the above video in order to upload it.


WitteringsfromWitney said...

Lovely film SR, saw that with my first girlfriend........ Happy memories.

Joe Public said...

"............I find when listening to much of today's popular music, I can't understand a word."

Perhaps Rosie, you should try this site:-

Hamish said...

My memory may be letting me down, but I think I attended the first live stage run of South Pacific in London. And was completely bowled over by it.
It was a school trip in the early fifties. It included visits to the Houses of Parliament and other important establishments. But those didn't make the same impact on me as Lyons Corner Houses, the first time I encountered a buffet, where you could see in advance what you were getting and judge if you could afford it. I remember my glee on the last day when I had enough pocket money left for a Knickerbocker Glory: two and sixpence.
I rather think a kindly former pupil donated the evening at the theatre. And I rather think Muriel Smith was singing in person that night.
What I do know is that I was captivated by the whole performance. Not just the music and singing, but the whole impact of the performance. Live on stage in front of my eyes.
After the days of Gilbert and Sullivan, nobody does musicals better than the Yanks. The first musical that made an impact on me was Oklahama, then South Pacific, then Guys and Dolls, and Call me Madam. Later West Side Story.
The tunes are superb. But so are the words.
Worth listening to, and good performers deliver them well.

Anon said...

I watched South Pacific, when it first came out, at a cinema in Dundee.

- Aangirfan

Brian said...

Definitely Juanita Hall.

But Bill Lee was definitely preferable to Christopher Plummer singing Edelweiss.

subrosa said...

Happy memories indeed WfW. I can't remember who was with me, but I do remember I was in 2nd year at secondary school. It was possibly my best pal Sheila.

subrosa said...

Joe, what can I say. I'm speechless.

subrosa said...

Hamish, what a wonderful recollection and memory. I have experienced any days out bar the visit to Glamis Castle because that the the 'house' which was part of which was my schools competition.

I experienced London in 1955 with my father because my brother lived and worked there at the time. We never made it to a musical but he did take me to Madam Tussauds and the then astrology event next door.

Madam Tussauds, with the figure of Christie left me frightened enough never to revisit.

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