As part of Movie City Tokyo, FilmInFocus looks at a list of 10 diverse movies shot in Japan’s capital by Western filmmakers.
Slide 4: My Geisha (1962)
With his 1958 movie, The Barbarian and the Geisha, director John Huston supposedly aimed to make a movie that would truly represent Japan, however studio interference ruined his vision and almost made him disown the film. This quest for a realistic depiction of Japan by Hollywood helmers was gently mocked in the 1962 comedy My Geisha, directed by celebrated cinematographer Jack Cardiff and starring Shirley MacLaine. MacLaine plays a glamorous actress who overshadows her husband and regular big screen collaborator, director Yves Montand. When Montand decides to make a movie she cannot be the lead in, Madama Butterfly, MacLaine poses as a geisha for a joke – but then Montand fails to recognize her and casts her as the movie’s heroine! A comedy of errors, its self-mocking central conceit – that Montand wouldn’t identify his own wife – did not lessen the problematic nature of MacLaine’s performance, in particular her terrible attempt at a Japanese accent.