The Geisha Boy (1958)

95 or 98 mins | Comedy | December 1958

Director:

Frank Tashlin

Writer:

Frank Tashlin

Producer:

Jerry Lewis

Cinematographer:

Haskell Boggs

Editor:

Alma Macrorie

Production Designers:

Hal Pereira, Tambi Larsen
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HISTORY

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 (see above), Hayakawa’s character forces Allied prisoners to build a bridge vital ... More Less

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 (see above), 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 16 May 1958, HR ’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 HR 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 17 Jul 1958 HR 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 (see above). 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 Sep 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 MPHPD 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 Jan 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 ). More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
24 Nov 1958.
---
Daily Variety
12 Nov 58
p. 3.
Film Daily
12 Nov 58
p. 8.
Harrison's Reports
15 Nov 1958.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 May 1958
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jun 1958
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jun 1958
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jun 1958
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jul 1958
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jul 1958
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jul 1958
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Aug 1958
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Aug 1958
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Aug 1958
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Aug 1958
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Nov 58
p. 3.
LAMirror-News
31 Dec 1958.
---
Los Angeles Times
31 Dec 1958.
---
Motion Picture Daily
12 Nov 1958
p. 1, 5.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
15 Nov 58
p. 52.
New York Times
24 Dec 58
p. 00.
Newsweek
29 Dec 1958
p. 64.
Time
19 Jan 1959.
---
Variety
19 Nov 58
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
With These New Personalities:
Nobu Atsumi McCarthy
Sidney Melton
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
Dial dir
Dial dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Screen story and scr
Based on a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Asst cam
Company grip
Gaffer
Best boy
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop shop
Standby painter
COSTUMES
Cost
Men's ward
Men's cost
Women's cost
MUSIC
Mus score
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Makeup
Hair style supv
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to the prod
Tech adv
Tech adv
Unit prod mgr
Prod mgr
Asst prod mgr
Casting dir
Casting secy
Scr supv
Pub
Rabbit trainer
Craft service
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
DETAILS
Release Date:
December 1958
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 23 Dec 1958; Los Angeles opening: 31 Dec 1958
Production Date:
16 Jun--7 Aug 1958; addl seq 12 Sep 1958
Copyright Claimant:
York Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
1 December 1958
Copyright Number:
LP12534
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
VistaVision Motion Picture High-Fidelity
Duration(in mins):
95 or 98
Length(in feet):
8,775
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19090
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After being unemployed for six months, inept magician Gilbert Wooley, accompanied by his beloved, clever rabbit Harry, signs on for a USO tour of Japan. At the Los Angeles airport, Gilbert incurs the wrath of movie star Lola Livingston when she blames him for causing her poodle to bark, thereby making an officer enforce the regulation that no pets are allowed. Worried that his act will be ruined without Harry, Gilbert hides him in his trunk, then orders several carrot salads so that he can feed the rabbit. After everyone is asleep, Gilbert sneaks into the cargo hold to feed Harry, but the bunny escapes and in the ensuing chaos, Gilbert inadvertently releases an expanding life raft that traps commanding officer Maj. Ridgley in Lola’s sleeping berth. The next morning, sympathetic WAF sergeant Betty Pearson reveals to Gilbert that she is aware of his complicity in the incident and advises him to apologize to Lola before she can complain to the press about Ridgley and ruin his career. When Lola, dressed in an evening gown, is about to descend the stairs leading from the plane, Gilbert approaches her, and as she rebuffs him, he becomes entangled in her skirt and rips it off. They both tumble down the stairs and Gilbert, trying to cover the now-exposed Lola, wraps her in the red carpet laid down to greet her. Their shenanigans are photographed by the waiting press and delight six-year-old orphan Mitsuo Watanabe, who has accompanied his aunt, translator Kimi Sikita, to the airport. That night, Kimi and Mitsuo visit Gilbert at his hotel, where Kimi explains that Gilbert is the first ... +


After being unemployed for six months, inept magician Gilbert Wooley, accompanied by his beloved, clever rabbit Harry, signs on for a USO tour of Japan. At the Los Angeles airport, Gilbert incurs the wrath of movie star Lola Livingston when she blames him for causing her poodle to bark, thereby making an officer enforce the regulation that no pets are allowed. Worried that his act will be ruined without Harry, Gilbert hides him in his trunk, then orders several carrot salads so that he can feed the rabbit. After everyone is asleep, Gilbert sneaks into the cargo hold to feed Harry, but the bunny escapes and in the ensuing chaos, Gilbert inadvertently releases an expanding life raft that traps commanding officer Maj. Ridgley in Lola’s sleeping berth. The next morning, sympathetic WAF sergeant Betty Pearson reveals to Gilbert that she is aware of his complicity in the incident and advises him to apologize to Lola before she can complain to the press about Ridgley and ruin his career. When Lola, dressed in an evening gown, is about to descend the stairs leading from the plane, Gilbert approaches her, and as she rebuffs him, he becomes entangled in her skirt and rips it off. They both tumble down the stairs and Gilbert, trying to cover the now-exposed Lola, wraps her in the red carpet laid down to greet her. Their shenanigans are photographed by the waiting press and delight six-year-old orphan Mitsuo Watanabe, who has accompanied his aunt, translator Kimi Sikita, to the airport. That night, Kimi and Mitsuo visit Gilbert at his hotel, where Kimi explains that Gilbert is the first person to make the despondent Mitsuo laugh since the deaths of his parents. Kimi and her father had despaired of ever seeing the boy happy again, and she expresses her gratitude to Gilbert, who is delighted both by the charming youngster and his lovely aunt. Kimi responds to Gilbert’s compliments by informing him that she is engaged to Ichiyama, Japan’s foremost baseball pitcher, but Mitsuo makes up for the disappointment by telling Gilbert that he loves him and asking him to be his father. Touched by Mitsuo’s admiration for his selflessness in coming to entertain the troops, Gilbert promises to visit the boy soon. Meanwhile, private detective Osokawa informs the jealous Ichiyama, who has hired him to follow Kimi, that Kimi visited a foreigner. Soon after, the immense Ichiyama bursts into Gilbert’s room and begins chasing him through the streets of Tokyo. Gilbert and Harry wind up in a bathhouse but are able to escape by tripping Ichiyama so that he falls into a huge pool occupied by Lola. A large tidal wave floods the street, and the next morning, an infuriated Ridgley fires Gilbert for having caused a public relations nightmare. Gilbert asserts that while he initially came on the USO tour solely to make money, he now wants to help the troops because of Mitsuo’s faith in him, but Ridgley still orders him home. Outside headquarters, Gilbert runs into Mitsuo and Kimi, who tells him that she has broken her engagement to Ichiyama, and that Mitsuo has been praying for Gilbert to be with him always. Gilbert confesses to Kimi that he received a “dishonorable discharge,” but Betty overhears and, wanting to help Gilbert keep Mitsuo's high regard, lies to Gilbert, telling him that Ridgley changed his mind and wants him to go alone to Korea to “headline” his own tour. Gilbert is sent to the front lines and finds himself performing for weary, hungry men one at a time in foxholes within dangerous proximity to enemy fire. Despite the difficult conditions and the occasional attempt by a G.I. to eat Harry, Gilbert perseveres. Eventually Gilbert returns to Tokyo and immediately visits Kimi and Mitsuo, who are overjoyed to see him. Gilbert also meets Kimi’s father, who is obsessed with building a wooden bridge over the family’s large swimming pool. During dinner, Gilbert informs the family that he will be returning to America, as the publicity surrounding his Japanese antics has secured him a booking in Las Vegas. Kimi’s father implores Gilbert to stay and live with them so that Mitsuo will continue to be happy, and although Gilbert regretfully demurs, he agrees to spend a day touring Tokyo with the child. The pair spend a happy day together seeing many sights and even take in a baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Tokyo Tonichi, for whom Ichiyama pitches. After Gilbert’s taunts cause Ichiyama to throw a ball into Gilbert’s mouth, Gilbert and Mitsuo leave and end their evening with dinner at a Geisha house. Gilbert then carries the sleeping child home and bids a silent farewell to Kimi with a kiss. The next day at the airport, Gilbert is astonished to find himself being followed by Mitsuo, who carries a suitcase on which he has written “The Great Wooley, Jr.” Knowing that he must somehow force the youngster to return home, Gilbert yells at him, telling Mitsuo that he no longer loves him and does not want to be his father. Despite his tears, the resolute Mitsuo stows away on the plane. After Gilbert disembarks in Los Angeles and gets a cab, he finds Mitsuo in his trunk and happily promises the child that they will always be together. Unfortunately, Mitsuo’s absence has been reported as a kidnapping, and Ridgley, Betty and the police track down Gilbert and Mitsuo. Mitsuo is soon put on a plane returning to Tokyo, but unknown to him, Gilbert and Harry have stowed away on his plane. Gilbert writes a note to Kimi to collect a trunk with a big X on it, slips the note into the sleeping Mitsuo’s pocket, then hides in the baggage. Although the trunk is battered severely, Kimi and her father succeed in rescuing Gilbert and Harry, and after they recover from their adventures, Gilbert and Harry are joined by Kimi and Mitsuo in a new, successful magic act. While performing one night, Gilbert pulls Harry out of his top hat and is astonished to see numerous baby bunnies following Harry, who is actually a “Harriette.” +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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