Sayonara

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Sayonara (words and music: Irving Berlin)

The Irving Berlin song “Sayonara” was introduced in the 1957 feature film, Sayonara. According a biography in AMG’s All Movie Guide, this song was Berlin’s “last film work.”

The song was originally intended for a Broadway musical based upon James A. Michener’s best-selling 1953 novel Sayonara. Director of the film Joshua Logan had approached Irving Berlin in 1953 to write the score for the musical stage adaptation. Berlin wrote “Sayonara” and, according to The Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin, edited by Robert Kimball and Linda Emmet (2001), p. 460, probably four other songs intended for the stage version of Sayonara before losing interest as the project stalled and then failed to materialize due to legal issues.

“Sayonara” was registered for copyright as an unpublished song on 7 October 1953.

From Wikipedia:

Sayonara is a 1957 color (Technicolor) American film starring Marlon Brando. It tells the story of an American Air Force flier who was an “ace” fighter pilot during the Korean War. Sayonara won four Academy Awards, including acting honors for co-stars Red Buttons and Miyoshi Umeki.

The film’s screenplay was adapted by Paul Osborn from the novel by James Michener, and it was produced by William Goetz and directed by Joshua Logan. Unlike most 1950s romantic dramas, Sayonara deals squarely with racism and prejudice.[1]

Storyline:

Lloyd “Ace” Gruver, a major and the son of a U.S. Army general, is stationed at Itami Air Force Base (now Osaka International Airport) near Kobe, Japan. He 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 is about to wed 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 during which Gruver uses a racial slur to describe Kelly’s fiancee. Gruver eventually 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 he and many others who are married to Japanese are ordered back to the 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. This strengthens Major Gruver’s resolve to marry his own Japanese lover. When asked by a Stars and Stripes reporter what will he say to both the “big brass” as well as to the Japanese, neither of which will be particularly happy, Major Gruver says, “Tell ’em we said ‘Sayonara.'”

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The music of the title sequence, in the score by Franz Waxman, incorporates the melody of the Irving Berlin song “Sayonara,” with wordless vocals by a chorus. The words “Sayonara” and “Sayonara, Japanese goodbye” are sung by an unidentified vocalist, but not over the melody.

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“Sayonara” introduced by Miiko Taka in the film

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selected recordings

1957 Sayonara-Gordon MacRae-Capitol F3816-d35-hx15

Gordon MacRae — issued in September 1957 on Capitol F3816, b/w “Never Till Now”

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Teddy Wilson with Joe Lippman’s Orchestra — recorded on 7 October 1957; issued on Verve Records V-10110×45 (V 10110), c/w “Sands of Time”

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Pat Kirby — issued in October 1957 on Decca 9-30464, b/w “Would I Were” (or “Where Were You“)– The Pat Kirby recording of “Sayonara” (matrix 45-103278) was released on other labels in various countries in 1958: UK (Brunswick), Australia and New Zealand (Festival FK-3005). It was also released in Italy (date unknown) on the Fonit label, and, as the second video below indicates, on the Echo label in Hong Kong.

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(Hong Kong) Echo E 41 X 45

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Nat King Cole — from next to last episode (#56) of his TV show, originally broadcast on 10 December 1957

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Carlos Galhardo — with Spanish lyric by Haroldo Barbosa — recorded on 31 January 1958; issued on RCA Victor 80-1955A (matrix 13J2PB0353)

video presently unavailable

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Natalino Otto con Franco Mojoli e il suo complesso — 1958, with Italian lyric

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Helmut Zacharias and his Orchestra – from the 1964 album Tokyo Melody (aka Teatime in Tokyo)

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Mao Sareth — with Cambodian and English lyrics; issued as the B-side of (Australia) Independance H-2706 — date unknown

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Ruangthorng Thornglanthom (รวงทอง ทองลั่นทม) — Thai-language version, date unknown — If I understand the translation of her Wikipedia page correctly, then she was primarily active as an independent solo singer during the years 1957-1963. So this recording is probably from that period.

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Yvette Giraud — date unknown

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Tracy Huang — date unknown

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Lyric:

Sayonara — Irving Berlin

Sayonara,
Japanese goodbye —
Whisper sayonara,
But you mustn’t cry
No more we stop to see
Pretty cherry blossoms
No more we ‘neath the tree
Looking at the sky
Sayonara, sayonara,
Goodbye

Sayonara,
If it must be so
Whisper sayonara,
Smiling as we go
No more we stop to see
Pretty cherry blossoms
No more we ‘neath the tree
Looking at the sky
Sayonara, sayonara,
Goodbye

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Three different “Sayonara” songs recorded by Miyoshi Umeki:

Sayonara (Let’s Say Goodbye) — recorded in 1953; also peformed by Umeki that year in her debut feature film Seishun jazu musume

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Sayonara (Irving Berlin) — issued on 4 December 1957 on the single (US) Mercury 71243X45, b/w “On And On”

This recording was issued in various countries on the Mercury label, b/w “On And On” in each case. See, for example:

In 1958, it was released in Hong Kong on the single Mercury H.K.243X45, as the B-side of “China Night (Shina No Yoru)”

recording not yet found

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Sayonara (The Japanese Farewell Song) (Yoshida, Morgan)

Miyoshi Umeki with the Hugo Peretti Orchestra — released on the 1959 album Miyoshi Sings For Arthur Godfrey, Mercury MG 20165

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(below) Miyoshi Umeki tribute

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Arlene
    Nov 06, 2015 @ 12:19:18

    takes me back to my teen age years

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  2. Anonymous
    Aug 17, 2017 @ 17:52:13

    This movie was so beautifully done and the vocalist singing the title song had a haunting, lilting, beautiful voice!!! It’s too bad she’s only known as an unknown singer!! How does that happen? One would think the director, producer and musical director would know her name!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • doc
      Aug 18, 2017 @ 14:54:11

      Hi Anonymous,

      Her name is unknown to me. I’ve yet to identify the name of the vocalist who sings “Sayonara” and “Sayonara, Japanese goodbye” during the title sequence. I didn’t mean to suggest that the film’s director, producer, and musical director hadn’t known her name. I’ll change the word “unknown” to “unidentified.”

      Regards,
      doc

      Like

      Reply

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