The main storyline concerns a U.S. Navy nurse stationed on a Pacific island during World War II. Having fallen in love with a middle-aged French plantation owner, she is shocked to discover that he has mixed-race children from an earlier relationship. A sub-plot deals with the romance between U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Joe Cable and a Tonkinese girl, Liat, the daughter of "Bloody Mary". The issue of racial prejudice is sensitively and candidly explored.
The musical was made into a successful film of 1958, starring Rossano Brazzi and Mitzi Gaynor in the leading roles, with Juanita Hall in the part of Bloody Mary which she had played in the original stage production. Kauai, one of the Hawaiian Islands , served as the filming location for the movie.