South Pacific was one of the movies my grandmother made me watch when I was a little girl. In her eyes — and now mine — movies like that were the only ones ever worth watching or remembering, and I grew up singing and miming to Happy Talk. It also made me very much more aware and appreciative of actors like John Kerr. It never occurred to me to wonder why his singing voice (provided by Bill Lee, whom I will swoon over another time) was so much deeper than his speaking voice, but he became one of my earliest childhood crushes solely because of his role as Lieutenant Joseph Cable in the movie (skip to the 00:42 mark before you judge).
As one of the youngest in the cast — besides France Nuyen — his death on February 2, at the age of 81, is a heartbreaking sign that the Old Hollywood generation of true talents is really coming to an end. Even more heartbreaking is the fact that the current generation of moviegoers appears to have heard of films like South Pacific, or Flower Drum Song, or even Casablanca, and the future generation may never have that experience either.
But John Kerr, South Pacific and all the other actors and movies of that time will always be one of the most important hallmarks of my childhood. So be in peace, dear John. Your memory will always be younger than springtime.