Flower Drum Song

January 15th, 2003  |  Published in Uncategorized

Good lord.

Flower Drum Song the novel is a well-respected book about Chinese-Americans living in San Francisco. Flower Drum Song the movie is the musical that nearly cost the book upon which it is based its place in the Asian-American literary canon, or so says the preface to the Penguin edition of the novel, anyhow.

The movie’s plot is driven by a young man’s romantic choices. His traditional, unassimilated father (emasculated in the movie, turned into a wheezing old whiner) wants him to marry a picture bride, newly smuggled in from China. Well, she’s smuggled in from China, but she’s played by Japanese actress Miyoshi Umeki, who, to save you following the link for the moment, also played “Mrs. Livingston” in The Courtship of Eddie’s Father. His other choice is the thoroughly Americanized gold-digger Linda Low, who sings “I Enjoy Being a Girl.”

The high/low of the movie has to be the song “Chop Suey,” which anticipates Billy Joel and REM’s 1986 efforts with this opening verse:

Chop Suey, Chop Suey,
Living here is very much like Chop Suey
Hula hoops and nuclear war,
Dr. Salk and Zsa Zsa Gabor
Harry Truman, Truman Capote and Dewey
Chop Suey! Chop Suey!

If you’re a big fan of musicals (and I am not… though some day I’ll get around to reading enough about them to affect scholarly appreciation, so I can come off as more human when confronted by them), maybe you’ll see past the sheer idiocy and stupefication this thing will visit on your head and find yourself humming and tapping. Or maybe you’ll turn it off and go walk around in the cold drizzle without a hat on.

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