Sayonara is a 1957 color (Technicolor) American film starring Marlon Brando.The picture 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 was produced by William Goetz and directed by Joshua Logan. Unlike most 1950s romantic dramas, Sayonara deals squarely with racism and prejudice. The supporting cast also features Patricia Owens, James Garner, Martha Scott, Ricardo Montalban, and Miiko Taka.
Major Lloyd “Ace” Gruver (Marlon Brando), the son of a U.S. Army general, is stationed at Itami Air Force Base near Kobe, Japan. He falls in love with a Japanese entertainer, Hana-ogi (Miiko Taka), who is a performer for a Takarazuka-like theater company, whom he meets through his enlisted crew chief, Airman Joe Kelly (Red Buttons).
Joe is about to wed a Japanese woman, Katsumi (Miyoshi Umeki), in spite of the disapproval of the United States military, which will not recognize the marriage. The Air Force, including Ace, is against the marriage. Ace and Joe have an argument during which Ace uses a racial slur to describe Katsumi. Ace eventually apologizes, then agrees to be Joe’s best man at the wedding.
Joe 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, Joe realizes that he will not be able to take Katsumi, who is now pregnant.
Finding no other way to be together, Joe and Katsumi commit double suicide. This strengthens Ace’s resolve to marry Hana-ogi. When a Stars and Stripes reporter asks him what will he say to the “big brass” as well as to the Japanese, neither of which will be particularly happy, Ace says, “Tell ’em we said, ‘Sayonara.'”