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Race & Hollywood: Asian Images in Film (Tuesdays & Thursdays in June)
Remind Me

The Teahouse of the August Moon

Monday May, 1 2017 at 11:30 AM

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Marlon Brando had the image of a tough, brooding young man, but in 1956, he showed that he could handle comedy, as well. The film is The Teahouse of the August Moon, an adaptation of the long-running Broadway play which, although adapted from a novel, won the Pulitizer Prize for John Patrick, a veteran screenwriter. Glenn Ford says it's one of his favorite movies.

Shortly after World War II, Captain Fisby (Glenn Ford) arrives on the island of Okinawa with the mission of introducing American-style democracy to a village in the form of a social club and small school. Not exactly a top-priority goal but then Fisby is a constant klutz who has been assigned this job to get him out of the way. His accompanying interpreter is Sakini (Brando) who informs him that the villagers have other ideas: They want a teahouse complete with geishas. Not exactly what Fisby had in mind as he tries to figure out whether to go with the school or the teahouse.

The role of Sakini had been played by David Wayne on Broadway, but since he had little track record in movies, the part went to Marlon Brando who had loved the play so much he saw it three times. Brando intended to use some of his salary to finance a United Nations film program in Asia. True to his reputation, he worked on making his role as authentic as possible, studying the motions and spoken accents of real Okinawans though he had to adapt the language slightly to be more intelligible to American audiences. Brando particularly enjoyed working with Louis Calhern, an experienced veteran actor who he had met while filming Julius Caesar (1953). Unfortunately, Calhern died of a heart attack shortly after arriving in Tokyo for filming. (Significant portions of the film were shot back in Hollywood after discovering that the production hadn't quite prepared for the rainy season.)

The other actors were equally dedicated, though certainly a mixed group. Glenn Ford brought a more traditional film style of acting to his part as the befuddled captain. Paul Ford (no relation to Glenn) re-creates his role as a colonel from Broadway (he was also playing a colonel on The Phil Silver Show at the time). Machiko Kyo had been in such Japanese classics as Rashomon (1950), Ugetsu (1953) and Street of Shame (1956), but she didn't speak any English. And of course, Harry Morgan, who would later become familiar on TV's M*A*S*H.

Director: Daniel Mann
Producer: Jack Cummings
Screenplay: John Patrick (also play), based on the book by Vern J. Sneider
Cinematography: John Alton
Editor: Harold F. Kress
Art Direction: William A. Horning, Eddie Imazu
Cast: Marlon Brando (Sakini), Glenn Ford (Captain Fisby), Machiki Kyo (Lotus Blossom), Eddie Albert (Capt. McLean), Paul Ford (Col. Wainwright Purdy III).
C-124m. Letterboxed. Close captioning.
Descriptive video.

by Lang Thompson



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