The scene opens on a beautiful, secluded island in the South Pacific, in the 1940s at the height of the Second World War. On the terrace of a splendid plantation home, two young children are singing and playing together ("Dites-Moi"). The children are half-Polynesian, half-European. The children’s nurse calls them inside, and Ensign Nellie Forbush and Emile de Becque come to sit on the terrace. Nellie is a U.S. Navy Nurse stationed on the island, a naive but feisty young lady from Little Rock, Arkansas. Emile de Becque is a worldly, wealthy, middle-aged French expatriate who owns and lives on a plantation on the island. Despite having known each other for only two weeks, they have fallen in love and are sharing a romantic evening. Nellie tells Emile about how the rest of the fleet hospital thinks she’s odd for being so cheerful all the time ("A Cockeyed Optimist"). They haven’t actually confessed their love to one another yet, and, separately, they wonder if their feelings will be returned ("Twin Soliloquies"). Emile decides to express his amorous feelings to Nellie, reminiscing about the magical evening when they met: they were both at a dinner and dance at the officers’ club, locked eyes across the crowded room, and immediately felt attracted to one another ("Some Enchanted Evening"). He is hesitant to tell her how he feels because he is quite a bit older than she, but she seems receptive to his words. He even admits the real reason that he left France -- he killed a man. Nellie is taken aback, but says that “I hardly know you, and yet I know it’s all right.” Promising to think about their relationship, she leaves, and once she does, Emile calls the children to him -- unbeknownst to his new girlfriend, he is their father.
In the meantime, the scene switches to a rowdy group of American Sailors, Marines, and Seabees, singing about a native islander woman nicknamed Bloody Mary, a sassy and pushy