Villa Theatre
3092 Highland Drive
Salt Lake City, Utah


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•7/23/58 - John Kerr Fit Perfectly Role In 'South Pacific'
•7/23/58 - Premiere's Ticket Goal - $5,000 For Handicapped
•7/28/58 - New Film To Bring Reality To 'South Pacific' Premiere
•7/30/58 - Seats Still Available for 'South Pacific' Benefit
•7/31/58 - Salt Lake Theater Wins Circuit Courtesy Award
•7/31/58 - Villa Sells Out For Benefit Premiere Of 'South Pacific'
•8/1/58 - Huge Audience Thrills To Glamorous Premiere, Outstanding 'South Pacific'
•8/1/58 - Salt Lakers Throng To Gala Premiere
•9/1/58 - Revolutionary Change In Theaters Seen

•11/10/58 - Theaters Honor Couple For Admissions Mark
•6/2/59 - 'S. Pacific' Sets All-Time Record

Related Links

•TODD-AO & South Pacific (WideScreen Museum)
•Actor John Kerr (IMDB)



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 Home  »  History  »  South Pacific  »  Huge Audience Thrills To Glamorous Premiere

Photo of crowd at entrance

'HOLLYWOOD' PREMIERE IN SALT LAKE - Capacity crowds mill before the Villa Theater Thursday evening during the Mountain West premiere of the spectacular "South Pacific" film. All proceeds from the Deseret News sponsored benefit performance went to help youngsters of the Salt Lake County Assn. for Retarded Children. The movie opens an indefinite regular run at the Villa Friday.
Deseret News, 1 August 1958, page B1

Benefit Performance

Huge Audience Thrills To Glamorous Premiere, Outstanding 'South Pacific'

Deseret News Entertainment Editor
Deseret News, 1 August 1958, page B1

The sweeping lights, glamor and excitement of a Hollywood premiere - and a wonderfully satisfying movie - proved to more than 1,300 Utahns Thursday evening that ". . . the greatest of these is charity."

For the gay premiere-goers who packed the Villa Theater, the first local showing of the renowned "South Pacific" film, in spectacular Todd-AO, was a completely gratifying experience.

And for many handicapped Utah youngsters, the benefit performance provided a life-long thrill, reaped through expanded facilities and help made possible by the donations of the first-nighters. All proceeds of the Deseret News sponsored premiere went to the Salt Lake County Assn. for Retarded Children.

Magnificent Sound, Color

Unquestionably, the film version of the successful novel and Broadway play brings to Utahns the most magnificent sound and color yet heard or seen on Salt Lake screens. And the gripping realism of the Todd-AO process draws a viewer literally into the magic of the South Seas.

For the crowds who streamed to the benefit performance - including such dignitaries as Gov. and Mrs. George D. Clyde and Mayor and Mrs. Adiel F. Stewart - the excitement of the premiere began even before entering the lobby of the theater.

ORCHIDS FROM PACIFIC - Receiving an orchid at the "South Pacific" premiere Thursday evening is Mrs. George D. Clyde, watched by Gov. Clyde. Early arrivers received orchids.
Deseret News, 1 August 1958, page B1

HOLLYWOOD ACTRESS - Lovely Patricia Owens, in Utah's capital city for gala benefit premiere of "South Pacific," receives an orchid from Florence Kamauoha.
Deseret News, 1 August 1958, page B1

Orchids For Ladies

Under sweeping arc lights, charming Hawaiian maidens passed among the crowd and pinned orchids on the ladies, the Pacific flowers provided through the courtesy of Western Air Lines.

And inside the lobby, the strains of Hawaiian music and graceful native dances increased the pre-show atmosphere of gaiety.

PREMIERE - South Pacific atmosphere was added to showing by South Seas dancers.
Deseret News, 1 August 1958, page B1

GIVES THANKS - Mrs. E. H. Dorland expresses appreciation to Deseret News for benefit showing.
Deseret News, 1 August 1958, page B1

In a short ceremony, Mrs. E. H. Dorland, president of the Retarded Children's Assn., expressed the association's gratitude for the audience's donations - made through purchasing the $3-$7-$10 tickets. Sidney Newman, advertising director for Magna Theater Corp., representing the movie producers, also spoke briefly.

And an additional touch of glamor was provided in the appearance of Hollywood star Patricia Owens.

But once the curtain lifted, the audience was lost to all but the compelling power of the giant curved screen, installed with the special equipment needed at a cost of $25,000.

A special treat was provided in a short introductory film showing off the capabilities of the Todd-AO process - and after screaming on a breath-snatching roller coaster ride, flying over the Grand Tetons, skiing at Sun Valley and going on an electric-flying motorcycle ride over San Francisco's hills, everyone was convinced that Todd-AO was IT.

Photo courtesy of Paul Shultz

Almost Perfect

This is a picture no one, but no one, should miss. It is almost the perfect movie. Story, production, direction, acting, camera work are nearly faultless.

From the opening scenes of the blue Pacific literally coming at the audience to the touching and beautiful ending, moviegoers at the Villa were in another world. They lived the experiences of those whose story was unfolding on that big screen with incomparable Rodgers and Hammerstein music to send it soaring along.

Briefly the story concerns American servicemen on an island in the Pacific in the early days of World War II. A U.S. Navy nurse, played by Mitzi Gaynor, falls in love with a French plantation owner on the island, portrayed by Rossano Brazzi. A concurrent love story concerns a Marine officer (John Kerr) and a beautiful young native girl.

Latest Developments

Producer Buddy Adler and Director Joshua Logan and their crew have used every modern photographic and technical development to tell their story. Lighting changes to establish moods and to tell a story within a story. For instance, when Miss Gaynor's and Brazzi's thoughts are being expressed, they are surrounded by mist. Heavy yellows and reds are used on other occasions, and the story would not be as effective without this changing use of color.

"South Pacific" abounds in memorable moments. For humor, there is a wonderfully gay Thanksgiving festival in which the men and the nurses take part before hundreds of assembled servicemen. And it's done with such abandon that the audience almost feels as if it's part of it.

Funny Moment

Another funny moment occurs when a Seabee smuggles aboard a plane heading for a Japanese island and falls overboard into the Pacific under Japanese guns. The Japanese line in the Seabee in their sights, but he does a double-take and just barely escapes them.

Tender moments are found throughout the picture, particularly in the relationships of the lovers, but especially at the very end, when the clasp of two hands under a table tells more than all the passionate kissing that has gone on before.

The acting is superb, Brazzi, even though he sings "Enchanted Evening" and other songs through the voice of another man, turns in a touching performance as the Frenchman who has settled down on the island and has become a successful planter.

Mitzi Gaynor, beautiful of face, figure and voice, has never been better. She doesn't have the brassiness of a Mary Martin, excepting in the Thanksgiving festival scene, but she gives the role of Nelli Forbush, the Navy nurse, the culture and tenderness it deserves.

Perfect Bloody Mary

Juanita Hall of the original stage cast is the perfect Bloody Mary. Brash, bold, lovable. It's difficult to imagine anyone else in the part. When she sang "Bali Ha'i," there was hardly a movement among last night's crowd.

Ray Waltson, who has been playing in "South Pacific" for several years, portrays Luther Billis, the big-dealing Seabee, as if the part had been created for him. His comedy reminds one of Sgt. Bilko, but with a more settled quality.

John Kerr, a young man of considerable experience in the theater and movies, comes through with a sound Lt. Cable, the tragic-ridden Marine officer who finds out too late he is in love with Bloody Mary's daughter.

Then there is the dialogue of Oscar Hammerstein, now so well known they hardly need repeating.

Immortal Songs

Add to this those immortal songs - the catchy "I'm in Love With a Wonderful Guy," the tender "Younger Than Springtime," the happy ""Cockeyed Optimist," the unforgettable "Twin Soliloquies," the lilting "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair," and the beautiful "Enchanted Evening."

All this really makes great entertainment.

(For further details on the glittering premiere and attending dignitaries, see story on page A-13.)

As the man said: "There's nothing wrong with the movie business that more 'South Pacific' type films won't cure."