This was filmed at a special performance with no audience on May 6, 1952. As far as we know, this is the only time that Rodgers and Hammerstein filmed a major stage production of one of their shows. The desire to have this particular staging preserved may have been because of a conflict that occurred between Rodgers and Joshus Logan when Logan restaged some of the show for the national tour. Rodgers protested the changes, insisting that what had worked originally should be maintained. Logan felt it necessary to alter the original staging to some degree to suit the different personalities of the different actors in the tour cast. Rodgers relented and allowed the restaging for the tour.
When it came time for the London production, Jerome Whyte (whom Rodgers trusted) was sent over to recreate the original Broadway staging, although Logan did arrive near the end of rehearsals. Somewhat different accounts of what happened when Logan arrived appear in books by Logan and Rodgers, but it does seem that Logan did not try to restage anything.
Urban legend (which may be true in this case) has it that this filming was completely forgotten about until someone discovered the original reels in an office at the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization.
At the beginning of the film, during the overture, the following text appears: "This positive print of the play 'South Pacific' is the property of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein 2nd for library purposes only and that the said print, or any part thereof, shall not be sold, assigned or transferred, by operation of law or otherwise, to any others whomsoever and shall not be distributed, exhibited or licensed for distribution or exhibition, either publicly or privately, through or by any medium, method or process whatsoever, now or hereafter known or devised, and regardless of whether or not any fee or consideration will be charged in connection therewith."
There are few real closeups in the film. The film also circulates in a version that someone has adjused to make it appear in letterbox format. This version tries to simulate closeups at certain points. It also inserts video of Mary Martin performing "Wonderful Guy" from the General Foods television special saluting Rodgers and Hammerstein while retaining the soundtrack from the London filming. Applause has also been added at certain points. There are synchronization issues in parts of this version.