- Adaptation Displacement: The play and film are much better remembered than the original novel. The film likewise experiences this far more than other Rogers & Hammersteins properties. The stage version is rarely revived, so the film is what most people think of first. Also the original stage version was much more patronising to Asian Americans, and received some major changes when it was revived in 2002.
- Alternate Character Interpretation: Mei Li rather quickly realises she loves Ta despite breaking it off with him. Was it from spending time with Sammy and realising how incompatible they are? Or more humorously was it from watching all the American movies, and realising that relationships are complicated? Hence why she decides to forgive Ta for being found at Helen Chao's.
- Author's Saving Throw:
- Juanita Hall was dubbed when she appeared in South Pacific. She gets to sing her own songs here.
- The original stage version was found very patronising to Asian Americans. The film dropped a few of the cringier parts, and focused more on the culture clash in Chinatown. Likewise several white actors who had played Asian characters on the stage were recast with actual Asian actors for the film.
- The revival retool by Chinese American playwright David Henry Hwang, while paying affectionate tribute to the original story, experimented with cultural dynamics and wove the original's more problematic songs into contexts that interrogated deeper into Chinese assimilation struggles. "Chop Suey" and "Grant Avenue" were worked into a context that made it clear the Chinese theater was trying to cater to a white audience.
- Awesome Music: It's Rogers & Hammertstein, duh!
- "A Hundred Million Miracles" - a lovely soothing song that Mei Li sings at the very beginning, turning it into a Crowd Song as the entire street crowds round to watch.
- "I Enjoy Being A Girl" is the movie's most popular song, enjoying numerous covers by singers such as Lea Salonga, Doris Day and Peggy Lee.
- Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: During "Sunday" - a musical number where Sammy and Linda imagine life as newlyweds, there's suddenly a sequence where they have to entertain a bunch of in-laws. A child comes into the scene - presumably Linda and Sammy's - and starts shooting at a cowboy and Indian in a film on TV. The cowboy and Indian break out of the television and chase everyone all around the house. The sequence has nothing to do with Linda and Sammy's song - and when it fades back they don't reference the odd direction their fantasy went in.
- Ear Worm:
- "Chop Suey" with its magnificent wordplay is going to get stuck in your head.
- Fan tan Fannie was leaving her man/Fan Tan Fannie kept waving her fan - Linda's introduction song is ridiculously catchy.
- Ensemble Dark Horse:
- Madame Liang for being the Only Sane Man and getting many of the best songs. Fans of the original stage version were quite annoyed at how her role was cut down in the film adaptation.
- Helen Chao has quite a small role as an Unwitting Instigator of Doom, and disappears for the third act. But she gets a fun Dream Ballet that ensures everyone remembers her. Rogers & Hammerstein even found her a strong character from the novel and couldn't bear to kill her off.
- Sammy Fong is one, especially in the film, as one of the few big roles that Jack Soo got to play in his career. He was essentially a featured extra between this film and the series Barney Miller.
- Fair for Its Day:
Nancy Kwan: "I'm proud of the film...I think you can still see the charm, and how can you go wrong with Rogers & Hammerstein?"
- The film averted many tropes associated with Asians and Asian-Americans in popular culture, featured many diverse characters and all but one of them were played by Asian actors. Considering the lack of representation Asian-Americans still suffer from in today's Hollywood, that's very impressive. What's more is that the film is far less patronising than the stage version - choosing to focus more on the Culture Clash in Chinatown in an honest way. The stage version had a white man Larry Blyden playing Sammy - but the film cast the Asian Jack Soo. It would have done the same for Madam Liang but Anna May Wong's death led to Juanita Hall reprising her role from the stage version.
- It might also be lost on modern viewers used to the Asian Airhead character that Linda Low broke stereotype in terms of Asian roles at the time. Nancy Kwan pointed out that Asian women were usually demure and servile in American films - or else if they were sexual, it was as an evil Dragon Lady. Linda meanwhile is a sexual character, but is not evil and edges towards a Good Bad Girl.
- Funny Moments:
- In the "Don't Marry Me" sequence, Sammy takes off his jacket and holds it over a puddle for Mei Li to walk over - and then pulls it away as she lands in the puddle. All to demonstrate what an awful husband he would be.
- Linda's reaction to Sammy having to marry Mei Li instead of her. She does an Eye Take as she reads the invitation, and is ready to get violent on Sammy when he arrives. He insists that nothing has changed, to which Linda says he's marrying someone else. Sammy's response?
"I can't understand why they keep killing each other."
- Mei Li gives her opinion on American movies.
"Don't worry. She came into this country the normal way - through her mother."
- Sammy gets another good one in when he tells his mother he's marrying Linda, as he can't marry Mei Li for being an illegal immigrant.
- Mei Li also tells Ta before they're married that they have to pray to God and thank him for television.
- Genius Bonus: During "Chop Suey", Madame Liang sings that they can watch Clara Bow movies on TV - to which the crowd of kids around her ask who that is. Clara Bow was a big star during the Silent Age - the original 'It Girl' (because she starred in a movie called It). Her career however faded during the 30s and she retired at the age of 28. Madame Liang would of course have been old enough to be around when Clara Bow was famous.
- Heartwarming Moments:
- When Sammy notices Me Li has stolen a bowl of rice, he immediately assures her that he'll feed her and her father.
- The Big Damn Kiss between Ta and Me Li as she realises she does love him.
- After Linda's lying is exposed, Ta apologises to his father and the two reconcile.
- Linda's reaction to Sammy proposing to her and their ensuing "Sunday" number.
- The Triumphant Reprise of "A Hundred Million Miracles" as Mei Li and Ta, and Linda and Sammy have their double wedding. Mei Li and Linda sing the song as equals.
- Hilarious in Hindsight: Anna May Wong had just accepted the role of Madame Liang before her death. She had been a star back in the Silent Age and The Pre-Code Era but often lost out on good parts in favour of white actresses in Yellowface. After she died, the role meant for her went to Juanita Hall...the only cast member to perform in Yellowface.
- Jerkass Woobie: Helen Chao in the novel. Granted she does essentially date rape Ta but her eventual fate of committing suicide over his rejection is quite sad. Notably the film softens her and eliminates the depressing ending.
- LGBT Fanbase: The song "I Enjoy Being A Girl" became very popular at gay nightclubs and with drag queens.
- Mexicans Love Speedy Gonzales: Some Chinese-Americans love this musical, simply because it is about them, no matter how stereotypical. Of course, there are others who find it completely offensive. Its split down the middle. David Henry Hwang had the following to say on this attitude:"As a boomer Asian American, you didn't often see people that looked like you on TV. And the idea that the younger generation, at least, was portrayed as American [in the movie] was unusual. So growing up, the musical represented one of the few positive portrayals of people that looked like me. And then, at another point in my life, it became something to be demonized."
- Minority Show Ghetto: While the film version was a hit (despite persistent rumors that it was a Box Office Bomb), the stage version has rarely been revived because every role needs to be played by an Asian or Asian-American actor.
- Narm: Some of the exaggerated movements the children make in "The Other Generation" are just bizarre.
- One-Scene Wonder:
- Ta's snarky little brother San only appears here and there, but he's guaranteed to make at least one great one-liner every time he does.
- Sammy's overbearing mother doesn't show up until nearly two hours in, but she's brilliantly entertaining.
- Values Dissonance:
- Although Fair for Its Day, Flower Drum Song is to Chinese-Americans as The King and I is to the Thai.
- Linda's Gold Digger tendencies are a source of concern to Master Wang. But it's discovering that she's a club dancer that convinces Ta to abandon their engagement.
- Linda's song "I Enjoy Being A Girl" has jokingly been described by Nancy Kwan as a song feminists would not be happy with. Of course this ignores that Linda is portrayed as a shallow manipulator.
- Values Resonance: The themes of trying to move with the times while still upholding the values of where you came from are still relevant today for many, as noted here."Where is the line between giving away your heritage and becoming accepted in your new society? Which traditions do you choose to keep or to discard? When is the time appropriate to give up on your dream and return home?"
YMMV / Flower Drum Song