Perhaps to celebrate my 13th birthday, or perhaps my Bar-Mitzvpah, my mom and dad took my sister and me downtown to see South Pacific. In those days one got dressed up to go downtown. The movie was at a large, fancy movie theater of which there were many downtown; like the Chicago Theater, the Oriental, the Woods.
Now a days, movies open without fan fair but in those days the large movie companies premiered their releases in the downtown theaters, they were big events, and seats were reserved.
The movie left its lasting impression on my young mind for many reasons. I certainly was homosexual at 13 but not practicing. At that age also, I certainly did not understand what being "Gay" meant or what I was really feeling. Seeing all those naked men singing and dancing on the beaches of the South Pacific must have aroused me not only sexually but also intellectually and emotionally.
At that age I did not have ideas, or opinions, or beliefs, at least ones of which I was aware. I knew what my parents and teachers had taught me to think and believe and while I probably felt conflicted in those beliefs, the conflict was not yet approachable.
I had not yet seen or experienced the adventures of the world, had never been on my own, and while I was already dealing with issues of "independence," I had very little.
The romance of the South Pacific island affected me: lush jungle plants, beautiful water, sunsets, sandy beaches, island life.
The good looking sailors who apparently were enjoying themselves, sang and danced with each other in the same way that boys and girls danced at the parties I attended at school.
Even though the movie takes place on the island because of war, very little of the carnage of war was shown; only more good looking, half naked men enjoying themselves in the hospital wards.
When Lieutenant Cable arrived on the Island, I instantly fell in love with him. When he fell in love with Liat, the Polynesian girl, it was as if he had fallen in love with me. When he died, I was bereft and grieved for a time after the movie.
I had fallen in love with love. Until that movie I did not really understand what love was about. One did not see much "love" in ones parents at that age if only because during the 1950's adults did not overtly demonstrate or discuss the concept of love.
I assume that my parents loved each other but at the age of thirteen I did not see much evidence of their love, only bickering and fighting and conflict in their relationship.
In addition to Cable and Liat's love affair, that of Emile, the French Man and his relationship with Nellie, the American nurse, was more proof that love existed, even though not easily attained.
So in addition to the lovely afternoon, downtown at the rare occasion of seeing a movie with my family, I was initiated into the world of fantasy, pleasure, independence, sex, and love. My unrecognized homosexuality was titillated and most likely provided much masterbatory material. In all, a productive afternoon and one that remains vividly etched in my memory.
South Pacific is a 1958 American romantic musical film adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific, and based on James A. Michener's Tales of the South Pacific. The film, directed byJoshua Logan, starred Rossano Brazzi, Mitzi Gaynor, John Kerr and Ray Walston in the leading roles with Juanita Hall as Bloody Mary, the part that she had played in the original stage production.