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April Showers: South Pacific

waterworks weeknights at 11

Tonight I thought we'd cover one of the most famous showers in entertainment history. It's not famous for the showering but for the singing. Raise your hands if you've ever sung this song in the shower.

I'm gonna wash that man right out of my hair
I'm gonna wash that man right out of my hair
I'm gonna wash that man right out of my hair
and send him on his way.

Nellie talks herself out of love "before i go any further i better not get started."

It's so catchy it's like a commercial jingle. (Didn't it get coopted for actual commercial jingles at some point?) The strangest thing about the sequence in South Pacific (1958) is that it's not actually sung IN the shower. I had totally forgotten this. Maybe "Billis Bath Club" charged extra for singing? I mean even "use of soap" is an extra there, an extra 5¢.

No, constantly fretful Nellie Forbush (Mitzi Gaynor) actually waits until AFTER she's out of the shower to shampoo her hair. And to sing.

Isn't that nuts?

Early Don't Ask Don't Tell signage (?) and Mitzi's backwards shower activities after the jump.

Singing and shampooing kind of go with showering, where we civilians come from. But maybe things are different in the military, where Nellie is serving it up for the troops. And I guess you gotta have the chorus dancing and singing along -- albeit tepidly (South Pacific is kind of weak sauce as stage-to-screen musicals go, isn't it? Oscar seemed to agree with no big ticket nominations) and they can't really do that IN the shower now can they?


Ride that man right off of your range.
And send him on his way.


So...  after she sings the song the girls dump water on her head (again: isn't that what showering is for?) and then she realizes that the man she's trying to wash out has been listening (he's on the horse). So embarrassed she scampers BACK to the shower. Nellie makes everything so complicated. She's a mess. (She's got to be carefully taught.)

She tries to save face but the jig is up.

You want to forgive Mitzi everything on account of those apple cheeks (if The Lovely Laura Linney could sing, wouldn't she be aces in a Mitzi biopic?) but on the other hand Nellie's romantic confusion is just a little too monotonous. Either you love the guy or you don't, right? This is also a problem with the stage musical but tat least the Rodgers & Hammerstein score is amazement.

One funny thing about this women's "Bath Club" is how modest it is. The military men on this very same co-ed island aren't half so worried about being seen while scrubbing. And some of them, like Stew Pot for instance, are practically gearing up for Tom of Finland auditions even while clothed.

Is "Look But Do Not Touch" the 50s version of  'Don't Ask Don't Tell'?


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Reader Comments (6)

What a classic movie! I do like it very much!

April 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJacky

Lately I've become interested in identifying working and character actors and actresses from the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Mitzi Gaynor, I imagine would be one of those?

April 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterorrin

orrin -- i think she was a bigger star than that though, though i've never known much about her career. I think more famous as a singer/performer than an actress though for sure. South Pacific was her biggest role.

April 26, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nat, the song was co-opted by Clairol for their "Loving Care" product ("I'm gonna wash that grey right out of my hair".) The version I remember (about 1980?) is on YouTube:

That gal's hair (and dress) at the end remind me of a toned-down version of ONJ in Xanadu.

The song stuck with me long before I knew what the source was (and remained in their commericals in some variation for at least five years.)

April 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

so funny\
i like it so much

April 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commentererric

Aw...I remember this song/movie. I was apart of the ensemble (as one of the sailors) for a community college production of it a few years ago, and I really liked this song.

I need to rewatch this again, haha.

April 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge P.

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