Madame Butterfly


1h 26m 1932

Brief Synopsis

Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton is on shore-leave in Japan. He and his buddy Lieutenant Barton, out for a night on the town, stop in at a local establishment to check out the food, drink and girls, 'uh, and girls' to quote Lt. Barton. Pinkerton spies Cho-Cho San and immediately falls in lust. Barton counsels Pinkerton that he can 'marry' this beautiful Japanese girl, enjoy himself with cultural approval, then sail happily on back to America unshackled, since abandonment equates divorce in Japan. Barton assures Pinkerton that once abandoned, Cho-Cho will be free to marry whomever she chooses from amongst the Japanese people. When Pinkerton's ship sails out of port, Butterfly waits patiently for her husband to come home. Three years pass. Ever with her eye toward the harbor, Butterfly holds a secret delight that she eagerly wishes to surprise her husband with: their son. Pinkerton arrives in Japan with his American bride by his side. He goes to Butterfly to make his apologies and to finally end what Butterfly for three years has cherished in her heart.

Film Details

Release Date
Dec 30, 1932
Premiere Information
New York premiere: 23 Dec 1932
Production Company
Paramount Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Productions, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Madame Butterfly by John Luther Long (New York, 1898) and the play of the same name by David Belasco (New York, 5 Mar 1900).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 26m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10 reels

Synopsis

After her honorable samurai father's death, Cho-cho San becomes a geisha at Goro's Tea House to provide an income for her family and get married. A marriage is almost immediately arranged, when American naval lieutenant B. F. Pinkerton, who was brought to Goro's by his friend, Lieutenant Barton, falls in love with Cho-cho San at first sight and spirits her away into the garden. Upon finding out that he need only to leave port to divorce her, Pinkerton marries Cho-cho San. Because her name means butterfly in Japanese, Pinkerton nicknames her "Madame Butterfly." Their life together is blissful. She learns American customs but treats Pinkerton deferentially in the Japanese custom, and soon falls deeply in love with him. Pinkerton promises Cho-cho San that there is room in his heart only for her after she finds a photograph of Adelaide, an American woman, in his trunk. He is reluctant to tell her, however, of his imminent departure, and she finds out by accident. Cho-cho San is heartbroken, but cheers up when Pinkerton vows he will be true to her and return in the spring, when the first robin appears. Three springs pass before Pinkerton returns. By this time, Cho-cho San's son by Pinkerton is almost three-years-old, and she has refrained from naming him until his father's arrival, affectionately calling him "Trouble." Despite her family's urging, Cho-cho San refuses to marry again because Pinkerton told her they were married "till death do them part," but her family feels she has dishonored them and disowns her. In the meantime, Pinkerton has wed Adelaide and returns to Cho-cho San only long enough to tell her of his marriage. Steadfast, Cho-cho San does not reveal they have a son, although she is devastated by Pinkerton's betrayal and her own sense of shame. After sending her son to her family accompanied by her servant, Suzuki, Cho-cho San commits hara-kiri.

Film Details

Release Date
Dec 30, 1932
Premiere Information
New York premiere: 23 Dec 1932
Production Company
Paramount Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Productions, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Madame Butterfly by John Luther Long (New York, 1898) and the play of the same name by David Belasco (New York, 5 Mar 1900).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 26m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10 reels

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Giacomo Puccini's music from the opera is heard only in orchestral form. In one scene, Cary Grant sings "My Flower of Japan" (author undetermined). A news item in Hollywood Reporter indicates that production was temporarily postponed in August 1932, for an undisclosed reason. According to the pressbook and a news item in Hollywood Reporter, artist Edward Venturini spent six weeks on location in Japan doing research for transparencies and to film a statue of Buddha, built in 747 A.D., that was used in the film. In addition, J. H. Kerr of Los Angeles provided the Siamese cats used in the film. According to the Variety review, the seduction scene was "cleaned up" and "slightly purified by a native marriage ceremony." According to a contemporary Japanese article as quoted in a modern source, the film was a "flop in Japan, or at least Tokyo, because the psychological developments expressed by Cho-Cho San were not accepted by the general Japanese audience." The Japanese women regarded "Cho-Cho San with not so much sympathy as contempt." This article noted that the film showed outdated Japanese feudal behavior. Modern sources indicate that Gary Cooper was originally considered for the lead role, but turned it down. Among the other films based on the same source are: Paramount's 1915 Madame Butterfly, directed by Sidney Olcott and starring Mary Pickford and Olive West (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20; F1.2702); Germany's 1919 Harakiri, directed by Fritz Lang and starring Paul Biensfeldt and Lil Dagover; and the 1956 Italian-Japanese production of Madame Butterfly, directed by Carmine Gallone, photography by Claude Renoir and starring Kaoru Yachigusa, Michiko Tanaka and Nicola Filacuridi.