Filmsite Movie Review
Sayonara (1957)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

Airman Kelly's Marriage to Katsumi - Major Gruver Served as Best Man and as a Witness

Major Gruver made a 360 degree reversal on his prejudicial attitudes about fraternizing with Japanese females when he risked his social status and entire Air Force career by serving as 'Best Man' and a witness for his friend Kelly's and Katsumi's marriage. He participated in the ring ceremony, and gently kissed Katsumi on the lips, with Kelly's permission. Kelly knew he would be waiving all his legal rights after the marriage. The disapproving Consul (Harlan Warde) admitted that there were deliberately many 'paperwork' hurdles for mixed couple marriages: "We do our best to prevent as many as possible. We make the paperwork so difficult, a good many of them lose steam." However, he divulged that 10,000 such marriages had already taken place.

Shortly later, Major Gruver was reprimanded by General Webster (and informally by his wife) for participating in and implictly 'sanctioning' a forbidden marital ceremony (by attending as a witness), but he defended his actions, and stressed that he had acted 'on his own':

General Webster: You realize, of course, there's an Army policy to discourage all such marriages.
Major Gruver: Well, I think they couldn't have been discouraged. They're very much in love...I didn`t sanction it. And as a matter of fact, I tried to talk him out of it before.
Mrs. Webster: But, Lloyd, darling, you did act as his witness.
Major Gruver: Well, uh, you know, as long as it's gonna be inevitable, I thought I might as well try to make it as pleasant as possible.

The pushy Mrs. Webster then brought up the uncomfortable fact that Lloyd hadn't seen Eileen for several days after their strained 'break-up,' and pressured Lloyd to make some kind of commitment to her daughter: "What's wrong between you and Eileen?...Do you plan to get married or not?" She suggested that Lloyd phone Eileen and ask her out to dinner. Unexpectedly, Eileen walked in and Gruver was forced to attempt to comply with Mrs. Webster's request. He invited Eileen out for a date, but she declined with excuses about unavoidable commitments for the coming week. After Lloyd left, Eileen told her meddling mother: "I hope you don't lose my man for me."

Major Gruver's Growing Obsessive Interest in Hana-ogi:

Realizing that Eileen was avoiding him, Lloyd retreated to the Officer's Club bar to speak to Captain Bailey, who had already demonstrated his love interest for a Japanese female. In a lengthy conversation in an outdoor garden setting, Major Gruver confided in the Captain about how as a young man, he had considered a non-military career as an actor ("a whole different way of life"), although his parents had always expected him to attend West Point. When they backed down on forcing him, he changed his mind and decided to resume his family's military heritage, although lately, he had begun to wonder:

I never once had any regrets about goin' to the Point. Except, just lately, I've had some old feeling come back on me. I don't know if I want to go on in the Air Force and buck for a star, and get married into the Webster family and get swallowed up by all that.

In the garden, Bailey led Gruver over to a nearby bridge (known colloquially as "Bitchi-Bashi") that linked the celebrated, all-female theater company, the Matsubayashi Girls Revue ("The Matsubayashi girls are the most famous girls in Japan. You know, they sing, they dance, they act all the parts, no men"), to the dormitory village where the female performers lived. Captain Bailey mentioned how the "goods" and "stuff" were "on display" crossing the bridge, but they "can't touch it." Many of the troupe’s fans joined them as they watched the dancers parade from the village to the theater before and after each show. Captain Bailey commented about how the dancers were strictly forbidden to have romantic relationships, or they would be immediately dismissed.

Soon after, Major Gruver and Bailey obtained front-row seats to watch an afternoon performance of the beautiful Japanese Matsubayashi Revue dancers and their star performer Hana-ogi (Miiko Taka in her debut film), the "number one girl." After the show, the persistent Gruver attempted to speak to Hana-ogi as she crossed back over the bridge after her performance. Even though he was friends with Kelly and Katsumi, who knew Hana-ogi and had also attended the same show (and asked for an introduction), the Major had no luck in speaking to her. She gave her reasoning to Katsumi for proudly refusing to speak to the Major, translated as: "Hana-ogi will not speak to an American...We shot her brother and killed her father with our bombs."

Later one day while waiting at the bridge, the obsessed Major Gruver walked up to Hana-ogi and successfully asked for her autograph. On another occasion as she was signing autographs for others, he again greeted her: "How do you do, Miss Ogi?" but she turned away. A third time one morning, he tipped his hat to her and spoke formal Japanese to her: "Ohayō gozaimasu," but she continued on her way. A fourth time, he mimicked her quick dismissals by deliberately turning away from her. The next time she passed by as he hid behind a tree, she furtively noticed that he was nowhere to be seen in his familiar spots.

The First Formal Meeting Between Hana-ogi and Major Gruver - Love at First Sight:

Fortuitously, Gruver was invited to meet Hana-ogi at Kelly's house for dinner. He arrived early with a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of whiskey. He was served by Katsumi in traditional Japanese style, beginning with a heated cup of Japanese sake (rice wine). Although Kelly complained about his hostile and bigoted commanding officer Colonel Crawford (Douglas Watson) who was prejudicially giving him extra duties, Kelly also admitted: "l'm the happiest guy in the world."

Then, in a separate room, the Major was ushered in to meet Hana-ogi alone, where he nervously told her: "I was just tickled to death when they told me you were coming over." While again drinking sake with her, he ignorantly stated with a strong-accent: "You know, I'm surprised to find that they make that stuff out of rice. We have rice back home in America. Of course, we just, well, we just make rice puddin' out of it. We don't drink it. This is the first liquid rice I ever ran into." He complimented her beauty as "fine-lookin'", and nervously made small talk, until he ran out of things to say: ("Where do we go from here? Because I don't know what to say. I'm runnin' out of things to say").

Hana-ogi straight-forwardly expressed her anti-American sentiments to him - in perfect English:

My father was killed by American bomb dropped on my country. You have been my enemy. I have hated Americans. I have thought they are savages. There has been nothing but vengeance in my heart.

She confessed that he had been watching her repeatedly, but then went on to admit that she had been watching him, too. She thoughtfully acknowledged that she had wrongful feelings of hate for him and graciously asked for his forgiveness:

I have been watching you, too, and you have not looked like a savage. And when Katsumi-san told me how gently you kissed her the day she became a bride, how tenderly you kissed my sweet little friend, I realized the hate was of my own making. That is why I came to ask you to forgive me for what I have been feeling. Gruver-san, will you forgive me?

Then, in a daring and startling moment, she offered or submitted herself to him - she also acknowledged that they would face dangers in their relationship if discovered, but was ready to fall in love with him - this would possibly be the only time she would fall in love:

My life is planned. I am dedicated to Matsubayashi, as you are dedicated to American military life. I have never been in love. But I have dreamed and thought about it and waited. The danger that lies ahead of us we must face now. The danger of discovery for both of us, danger of weakness when it is over. I will never fall in love again. But I will love you, Ace-san, if that is your desire.

With tears glistening in her eyes, she poured a cup of sake wine for him.

Growing Problems with Japanese-American Relationships: Kelly with Katsumi, Gruver with Hana-ogi, and Eileen with Nakamura

Meanwhile, Eileen initiated her own friendship with the Kabuki actor Mr. Nakamura, much to her mother's dismay and concern. At a gathering at the Officer's Club to "cement Japanese-American relations," Eileen welcomed Nakamura's attendance, while her mother asked: "Has Lloyd come yet?"

A "riled-up" Colonel Crawford arrived to privately speak to General Webster about his fierce campaign to discourage and disrupt romantic relationships and marriages between American military personnel and Japanese females. (Eileen discreetly eavesdropped on their conversation and learned of Gruver's new romantic interest.) Crawford had placed spies around Kelly's house and had inadvertently discovered Major Gruver's romantic interest in Hana-Ogi ("Now, we think he's hooked on to a Japanese dame...He was seen going into that house. Now, my men have been watchin' a troublemaker named Kelly. He's shacked up with another native girl"). Webster agreed to Crawford's suggestion to order a new regulation that would prohibit any further fraternizations between servicemen and local women:

General, is it all right with you if I post an order to keep these officers from being seen with indigenous personnel? Then if they are seen, there's something we can do about it.

Major Gruver defied the new order by continuing to secretly meet with Hana-Ogi at Kelly's house and in the countryside. He also met with her to attend a traditional tea ceremony. He was becoming well-known to Kelly's Japanese neighbors in the community, and he would often wear a Japanese kimono in Kelly's home. On one occasion, Hana-ogi sang the film's theme song "Sayonara" for him with a puppet doll that resembled herself, for his entertainment. He was beginning to have a deeper acquaintance with and appreciation for Japanese customs that he had never known.

Afterwards, he was visited in Kelly's home by a distressed Eileen, who warned that Colonel Crawford had discovered Gruver's illegal relationship while surveilling Kelly. She specifically alerted him to the military's goal - to punish him as an example:

l just wanted to warn you to be particularly careful about...sticking strictly to military regulations. Oh Lloyd, they'll do anything to hang something on you, to keep you in line. After all, you're the Air Force's pinup boy, you know. Colonel Crawford sounded as if he was after blood.

With a combination of jealousy and actual concern for his well-being and career, she added: "Lloyd, you've really thought seriously about what you're doing, haven't you?...You have a brilliant record in the Air Force. More people depend upon you than you'll ever know. Before you throw all that you've worked for away, Lloyd, be sure."

Shortly later when Major Gruver was with Captain Bailey, who also expressed his worry about how Lloyd was violating the recent orders from Camp Kobe, that read:

Any public display, whatever, of affection for a Japanese national by a member of this command is forbidden. Officers should not even appear on public streets accompanied by indigenous female personnel.

Lloyd confidently and non-chalantly assured Bailey that he was keeping his forbidden relationship a hidden secret: "Oh listen, fool, Hana-ogi and l are just as careful as we can be. We never go anyplace where we're gonna be seen by anybody that matters. We don't even walk down the same street."

During a celebration of Tanabata ("the night of love"), Gruver enjoyed fireworks under the stars with Hana-ogi, when she told him: "What have l done to deserve such happiness? l have seen this night of Tanabata come and go many times, but never before have l understood what it meant. Tanabata. Oh, my heart is so full of love for you."

Meanwhile, Eileen was forced to sit by herself while watching a performance of kabuki. Nakamura explained, by a delivered note, that she was invited to dinner with him. After a traditional meal, they wandered into a beautiful garden where they discussed Gruver's risky, close relationship with Hana-ogi. Nakamura reassuringly made the cautionary suggestion that they would never be able to marry, due to recent censuring rules, traditions and orders ("There are many Japanese, most of them, in fact, who look upon marriage to an Occidental with as much distaste as your people do to one of us"). He maintained a romantic distance from Eileen, but asked if she wanted to become further acquainted with Japanese cultural ways through him - and she accepted ("l need to know more, much more about everything").

Major Gruver also confided in Hana-ogi about how he was questioning his everyday militaristic role of 'giving and taking of orders' that had always ruled his life: ("l been thinkin' that all my life, I been so busy, snappin' to, and givin' orders, and takin' orders, and bein' a General's son and doin' the job, and all that, l just never took time to sit right down, and you know, think about what my reason for living is." He described how he had finally found inner peace.

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