I was 11 when Flower Drum Song came out, and I loved it - all these years, I sing "I Enjoy Being a Girl" to my dog when I bathe her. Watching it again, I keep humming the songs.
It's such a wonderful film - I prefer the story line in it to the book - the introduction of Jack Soo's character and his interaction with Miyoshi Umeki are so joyful. The generation gap scenes are true whatever age or ethnicity you are.
Sometimes you have to put aside your feelings about politics, feminism, etc. and just want to be entertained. Watch James Shigeta singing "You Are Beautiful" and fall in love with him all over again!
I wonder, though, if Rodgers and Hammerstein knew that a flower boat was a floating bordello...
But please read the book -
I was 15 in 1965 when I first read The Flower Drum Song after seeing the movie. I remember feeling shattered at Helen's death. Having recently watched the movie on DVD, I decided to again read it.
Unlike the film, May Li and her father don't appear until the middle of the book. But she is not a sweet little lotus blossom - she stands up for her rights the first time she speaks.
Following Old Master Wang Chi-yang walks through San Francisco's Chinatown, I thought of my own walk there many years ago.
But his reactions to life in a new country and the changing world around him made me think of my own great uncle who emigrated alone from Italy as a young man and who saw so many changes in his 106 years. I also thought of so many immigrants today facing strange things every day.
Wang Ta's friend Chang, a character not in the movie, at one point suggests he take up bowling:
"It's good for mental health...If you get into an argument with your employer and have to accept defeat for the sake of your job, you can always go to a bowling alley and let off your steam by smashing the pins and imagining they are your boss and his family, including his mother-in-law."
There is so much joy, sadness, laughter, guilt, decisions to make (or avoid making) - I don't want to wait 50 years before reading this book again. I want to pick it up and read it again now.
Whether you loved the movie or hated it, you will love the book!