That’s What’s That

2021 marks the 60th anniversary of the movie version of Flower Drum Song.
32 years later, a second Hollywood movie, The Joy Luck Club,
would also feature an all-Asian cast of principal actors,
and it would carry that successor baton a mere
25 years before Crazy Rich Asians would make
the Asians-playing-lead-roles-in-major-American-films club a threesome.
An Asian guy, I still love to watch Flower Drum Song, the love story
set against a background of Chinese immigration and assimilation.
When Nancy Kwan performs the number about San Francisco’s Chinatown in “Grant Avenue,”
I know it’s actually B.J. Baker, Mickey Rooney’s second wife,
singing that invitation to celebrate Chinese culture.
She dubs Kwan’s voice in all her songs.
Even Reiko Sato, who is featured in the movie’s most beautiful number, “Love Look Away,”
is dubbed by Marilyn Horne of opera fame.
It reminds me of how the producers of West Side Story decided
singer-dancer Rita Moreno’s voice
needed dubbing assistance from Betty Wand.
It’s a toss-up whether I’ll be alive for the next one.
If it’s a musical, I’d love to see all the actors singing.

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