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The Geisha Boy

The Geisha Boy(1958)

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During the opening credits, traditionally dressed Geisha dancers use fans to reveal the credits. The last credit is revealed by a Japanese fan dancer, who appears to be naked behind her large, feathered fan. At the film's conclusion, Jerry Lewis, as "Gilbert Wooley," chews on a carrot, looks at the camera and stutters "That's all, folks," while the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoon music plays. The ending was a tribute by director Frank Tashlin, who directed cartoons for Warner Bros. in the 1930s and 1940.
       Several "in jokes" occur throughout the film, such as when Gilbert, complimenting "Kimi Sikita" on her beauty, states that now he understands why Marlon Brando liked Japan so much, a reference to the 1957 Warner Bros. production Sayonara (see below). When Gilbert looks up at Mount Fujiyama, he briefly sees a semi-circle of stars around it, making it resemble the Paramount logo. In the sequence in which Gilbert first attempts to find Kimi's home, he asks a Japanese gardener for directions, but when the man speaks, subtitles in Japanese appear superimposed over him. When Gilbert speaks, English subtitles appear, and in disgust, Gilbert states, "We don't understand each other and the subtitles are all mixed up," then departs.
       Among reviewers, the most commented-upon joke was The Geisha Boy's parody of the 1957 Columbia release The Bridge on the River Kwai, which co-starred Sessue Hayakawa as the sadistic commander of a prisoner of war camp during World War II. In The Bridge on the River Kwai, Hayakawa's character forces Allied prisoners to build a bridge vital to the Japanese. In The Geisha Boy, the first time Gilbert meets Hayakawa, who plays "Kimi's father," Hayakawa is dressed in a military uniform and is overseeing the building of a small wooden bridge over the family's swimming pool. The workers are whistling the song "Col. Bogey's March," made popular by the earlier film. Gilbert is unnerved by the encounter and comments that Hayakawa resembles "that actor," but Hayakawa retorts that he was building bridges long before the actor was. As Gilbert is turning to leave, he catches a glimpse of actor Alec Guinness, who played a British officer in The Bridge on the River Kwai, in a bit of footage from that film. Bob Hope is also seen briefly in stock footage when "Mitsuo Watanabe" watches a television broadcast of one of Hope's USO tours. The footage of Hope is dubbed into Japanese.
       According to the Paramount Scripts Collection, located at the AMPAS Library, the title of Rudy Makoul's original teleplay, which was never produced, was "Pete-San," and was set in Korea rather than Japan. On May 16, 1958, Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" column noted that Cathy Crosby was being sought for the role of "Betty Pearson" and Red Skelton for a "guest spot." Although Hollywood Reporter news items include the following actors in the cast, their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed: Jeannie Dawson, Hank Mann, Robert Eyer, Edo Mita and Jerry Lewis' father Danny.
       A July 17, 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Paramount had decided to shoot all of its black-and-white features in standard 35mm "with the top and bottom of frames cropped in the camera finder for projection in either wide or flat screen by theatres." Atlhough the news item stated that The Geisha Boy was currently shooting in the standard 35mm format, the onscreen credits state that it is in VistaVision, Paramount's widescreen process. Studio publicity noted that portions of the picture were shot on location at the Lockheed Air Terminal in Burbank, CA as well as locations in Griffith Park and Bronson Canyon. A house in Beverly Hills was used for Kimi's home; the UCLA Physics building was the setting for the USAF headquarters in Tokyo; and the baseball sequences were shot at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles.
       Although several reviews and studio publicity stated that The Geisha Boy marked Lewis' debut as a film producer, he had earlier produced his 1957 film The Delicate Delinquent. The Geisha Boy did mark the first screen appearance of the Dodgers baseball team after their move to Los Angeles from Brooklyn. According to the picture's pressbook, players from the Little Tokyo Giants and Nisei Trading appeared as the players of the Tokyo Tonichi. The film marked the feature film debuts of Suzanne Pleshette, famous Japanese sumo wrestler Ryuzo Demura and Robert Kazuyoshi Hirano. Nobu Atsumi McCarthy, who, according to studio publicity, was cast after Lewis interviewed 200 Japanese actresses, had appeared previously in a small role in the Twentieth Century-Fox production The Hunter, which was released in September 1958 (see below). In most of the actress' film and television appearances, she was billed as Nobu McCarthy. Studio publicity added that Lewis considered more than 250 children before casting Hirano, who had been living in the United States for nine months. Other boys who were tested for the role of Mitsuo included Lance Kitamura, Robert Kirano and Mike Maruhashi.
       Studio publicity also reported that numerous rabbits were used to portray "Harry." The Motion Picture Herald Prod Digest review mistakenly lists Harry as "Harvey," a reference to the noted 1950 film of that name. The Geisha Boy marked the first screen appearance of Marie McDonald since the 1950 Republic release Hit Parade of 1951 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 for both) and her first film since her alleged and well-publicized kidnapping in January 1957. Police, who suspected that the incident was staged for publicity, never made an arrest in the case. McDonald did not make another film until the 1963 Noonan-Taylor Productions film Promises! Promises! (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70).