Cast & Crew
After the end of World War II, American Army posts are attempting to foster democracy throughout Okinawa. Col. Wainwright Purdy III, heads his post with short-sighted rigor, hewing closely to army-issued textbooks and strict military order. Hindering him in his exactitude is translator Sakini, a native Okinawan who artfully champions the culture and causes of the locals while appearing fully deferential to his boss. When Purdy learns that Capt. Fisby is being sent to his unit from the department of psychological warfare, he is thrilled to have another officer serving him, but upon arriving, Fisby proves himself to be a bumbling misfit who has been kicked out of every other military department. Regardless, Purdy remains cheerful as he sends Fisby to bring capitalism to the town of Tobiki, helped by Sakini and a military document on rebuilding villages. Sakini immediately frustrates Fisby by loading his jeep with an old woman, her daughter and grandchildren, their luggage and several goats. Although Fisby tries to take command, the Okinawans dupe him into stopping at several towns along their route so that they can visit relatives. When they finally arrive in Tobiki, Sakini listens to Fisby's prepared speech and applauds it as very similar to the speech the Japanese officials made when they took over, then subsequently stole everything the villagers owned. Fisby tries to address the villagers, but is interrupted by the various presents they offer him, including a cricket cage, wooden shoes called gata and a cup, which the bestower explains will be filled with an "August moon," signifying maturity and wisdom. Fisby then is inspired to create a souvenir business to bring profits to the town, and declares his intent to build a schoolhouse that, as Purdy has ordered, will be shaped like the Pentagon. Finally, he announces the appointment of a mayor, heads of agriculture and police, and a ladies' league president, and the villagers nominate locals to the respective posts. Later, Sakini presents geisha Lotus Blossom as another gift for Fisby, but he assumes she is a prostitute and attempts to dismiss her. Sakini, however, informs him that she will lose face if he throws her out, so Fisby tries to ignore Lotus Blossom's ministrations, despite the fact that she is aggressively undressing him even as he talks on the phone to Purdy. The next day, the village women, led by Miss Higa Jiga and interpreted by Sakini, gather to complain to Fisby that Lotus Blossom represents an "unfair market advantage," and to demand similar perfumes, makeup and kimonos so they can compete with her. When they threaten to write to the U. S. government, an anxious Fisby succumbs, but puts his foot down when they demand geisha lessons. Later, when Lotus Blossom again attempts to wait on Fisby, he explodes in frustration, calling her work immoral, until Sakini explains that geishas merely comfort men with songs and sympathy. Relieved, Fisby announces that Lotus Blossom will teach all the women to be geishas. Soon after, however, the men come to him en masse asking for a teahouse to house the geishas, and although Fisby tries once again to refuse, he gives in after elderly Omura states that this is his last chance to live his life's dream to enter a teahouse, thus freeing his soul for death. Over the next weeks, while the building is constructed quickly, Fisby leads the villagers in the production of their handmade crafts and increases the goat herd, but when Purdy hears no schoolhouse has been built, he commissions psychiatrist Capt. McLean to investigate. McLean is at first alarmed to discover that Fisby now wears gatas and a kimono and spends his days with Lotus Blossom, but upon hearing that Fisby's plans for economic recovery include a garden, McLean, a secret organic farming enthusiast, grows overjoyed at the idea of testing his germination theories. Soon after, Fisby learns that none of the village souvenirs have sold to the Marines, who prefer the cheap, shoddy versions already available. Fisby is dejected until Sakini informs him that the villagers have gone to drink their sorrows away with homemade sweet-potato brandy, and upon testing the liquor on a goat, the captain declares brandy their newest commodity. Within days a still is built and the village is earning ever-increasing commissions, but Fisby's greatest triumphs come with watching the sunset each night with Lotus Blossom, and finally capturing his very own cricket for his cricket cage. On the night the teahouse opens, Fisby and McLean are thrilled to discover its lavish beauty and the charm of the women inside, who dance and sing for them. To return the favor, the officers lead the village in a rendition of "Deep in the Heart of Texas," but are interrupted by the arrival of Purdy, who reacts with horror, ordering the teahouse and and all of the stills demolished, and placing Fisby under technical arrest. Before leaving Tobiki, Fisby, devastated by what he sees as his ultimate failure, visits the ruined teahouse, where Lotus Blossom tearfully asks him to marry her. He responds, however, that she belongs in Okinawa, and promises to remember all that is beautiful about her "when the August moon rises." Sakini also requests to leave with Fisby, who reminds him gently that he must stay to help the next officer in command. Sakini assures the captain that he has not failed, and Fisby responds that Tobiki has taught him that even when one feels conquered, one can retain a sense of independence and peace. Just then, a frantic Purdy informs them that the American press, upon hearing about Tobiki, have hailed it as an example of American ingenuity, and Congressmen are en route to inspect the village. Although the officers bemoan the stills' destruction, Sakini explains that the villagers merely pretended to demolish the teahouse, and within minutes, both the stills and the teahouse have been restored. As Purdy, Fisby, Lotus Blossom and McLean enter the teahouse along with the happy villagers, Sakini concludes his "little story" with his wishes that an August moon will bring gentle sleep.
Henry "harry" Morgan
Raynum K. Tsukamoto
Harry Harvey Jr.
Mr. Kimio Eto
Mrs. Kimio Eto
William A. Horning
Al Kelly Jr.
Harold F. Kress
Dr. Wesley C. Miller
Edwin B. Willis
The Teahouse of the August Moon
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.
by Lang Thompson
The Teahouse of the August Moon
Eddie Albert (1906-2005)
The son of a real estate agent, Albert was born Edward Albert Heimberger in Rock Island, Ill., on April 22, 1906. His family relocated to Minneapolis when he was still an infant. Long entralled by theatre, he studied drama at the University of Minnesota. After years of developing his acting chops in touring companies, summer stock and a stint with a Mexican circus, he signed a contract with Warner Bros. and made his film debut in Brother Rat (1938). Although hardly a stellar early film career, he made some pleasant B-pictures, playing slap happy youths in Brother Rat and a Baby (1940), and The Wagons Roll at Night (1941).
His career was interrupted for military service for World War II, and after his stint (1942-45), he came back and developed a stronger, more mature screen image: Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (1947); Carrie (1952); his Oscar® nominated turn as the Bohemian photographer friend of Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday (1953); a charming Ali Hakim in Oklahoma (1955); and to many critics, his finest hour as an actor, when he was cast unnervingly against type as a cowardly military officer whose lack of commitment to his troops results in their deaths in Attack! (1956).
As he settled into middle-age, Albert discovered belated fame when he made the move to Hooterville. For six seasons (1965-71), television viewers loved Eddie Albert as Oliver Wendal Douglas, the bemused city slicker who, along with his charming wife Lisa (Eva Gabor), takes a chance on buying a farm in the country and dealing with all the strange characters that come along their way. Of course, I'm talking about Green Acres. If he did nothing else, Alberts proved he could be a stalwart straight man in the most inane situations, and pull it off with grace.
After the run of Green Acres, Albert found two of his best roles in the late stages of his career that once again cast him against his genial, good-natured persona: the fiercly overprotective father of Cybill Shepherd in The Heartbreak Kid (1972), for which he earned his second Oscar® nomination; and the sadistic warden in Robert Aldrich's raucous gridiron comedy The Longest Yard (1974). Soon, Albert was in demand again, and he had another hit series, playing a retired police officer who partners with a retired con artist (Robert Wagner) to form a detective agency in Switch (1975-78).
The good roles slowed down slightly by the dawn of the '80s, both film: The Concorde: Airport '79 (1979), How to Beat the High Co$t of Living (1980), Take This Job and Shove It (1981); and television: Highway to Heaven, Murder, She Wrote, Thirtysomething, offered him little in the way of expansion. Yet, Albert spent his golden years in a most admirable fashion, he became something of activist for world health and pollution issues throughout the latter stages of his life. It is widely acknowledged that International Earth Day (April 22) is honored on his birthday for his tireless work on environemental matters. Albert was married to famed hispanic actress Margo (1945-85) until her death, and is survived by his son, actor Edward Albert, a daughter, and two granddaughters.
by Michael T. Toole
Eddie Albert (1906-2005)
You'll need an interpreter...- Col. Wainwright Purdy III
I can study the language.- Captain Fisby
No need. We won the war.- Col. Wainwright Purdy III
Plan B calls for the schoolhouse to be pentagon-shaped.- Col. Wainwright Purdy III
Production began with Louis Calhern playing Col. Purdy, but Calhern died after more than a month of filming. His scenes were reshot with Paul Ford (I).
The opening credits include a written statement reading: "We wish to gratefully acknowledge the courtesy and cooperation of the Daiei Motion Picture Company of Japan, Mr. Masaichi Negata, President." Although only John Alton receives onscreen credit as director of photography, a June 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item states that Russell Harlan shot the Japanese location scenes. The film begins and ends with Marlon Brando, as "Sakini," addressing the camera directly. The final monologue, taken verbatim from the play upon which the film was based, concludes with: "Lovely ladies... kind gentlemen-go home to ponder. What was true in the beginning remains true. Pain makes man think. Thought makes man wise. Wisdom makes life endurable. May August moon bring gentle sleep."
John Patrick's stage adaptation of Vern J. Sneider's novel, also entitled Teahouse of the August Moon, won the Pultizer Prize for drama in 1955. In November 1952, Variety announced that M-G-M was negotiating for the screen rights to the play, which had not yet been produced on Broadway. The next month, a Daily Variety news item noted that the studio had purchased the film rights to Sneider's novel. Modern sources note that Brando, after seeing the play in New York, asked to be cast as Sakini. According to a November 1953 Los Angeles Times news item, producer Jack Cummings planned to record a live staging of the play from which the screenwriter could copy passages directly. Patrick eventually was hired to write the screen adaptation, which differed from the play in that "Capt. Fisby," played by John Forsythe on Broadway, rather than Sakini, played on the stage by David Wayne, emerged as the central character.
A September 28, 1953 "Rambling Reporter" item in Hollywood Reporter stated that famed literary agent Irving Lazar sold the property to M-G-M and that the studio was planning for Robert Taylor to star. In June 1954, Hollywood Reporter wrote that Tita Magaleno, a Philippine actress, was testing for the role of a geisha girl. "Rambling Reporter" then noted in August 1955 that Tiger Joe Marsh would test for the role of "Mr. Hokaida." Initially, the filmmakers planned to shoot the entire production in Japan, and on April 16, 1956 began filming various locations including Kyoto and Nara. However, as noted in a June 10, 1956 New York Times piece, after about twenty percent of the scenes, including outdoor footage, was completed, stormy weather forced the production to return to Hollywood in June 1956. Whole sets and the full cast and crew had to be transported to the M-G-M backlot to finish the film.
Long-time stage and film actor Louis Calhern was originally cast in the role of "Col. Purdy," but died of a heart attack on May 12, 1956, in the middle of production. M-G-M replaced him with Paul Ford, who had originated the role of Purdy on stage. Contemporary sources noted Brando's intense preparation for the role of Sakini, which included spending a daily regime of two hours in makeup and several hours studying Japanese. Many contemporary reviews praised the performance of Brando, who was playing against type in the comic role. The Hollywood Reporter review stated, "Brando gives one of the most skillful impersonations in recent memory," and the BHC review called his Sakini "one of the greatest performances ever seen in the long history of the screen." Other reviewers, however, noted that he was physically larger than the slight Okinawan character seen on stage, and modern critics criticized his performance, as did Brando himself in his autobiography, in which he points to his feuds with Glenn Ford as creating an atmosphere of grandstanding. Modern sources add that Brando also disliked director Daniel Mann. Critics also praised Ford's performance, with the Hollywood Reporter reviewer noting, "Nothing in Ford's background can prepare you for the amazing job he does in this part."
As noted in a November 21, 1956 Los Angeles Times article, the film's premiere at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles included in the audience representatives of the Japanese government and more than 1,000 armed forces members. In 1957, Universal Pictures produced a film entitled Joe Butterfly, directed by Jesse Hibbs and starring Audie Murphy and Kieko Shima, which had some thematic similarities to The Teahouse of the August Moon. Hollywood Reporter reported in March 1969 that theatrical producer Herman Levin had asked M-G-M for permission to produce a musical version of the play, which would be written by Patrick, with the music and lyrics written by Stan Freeman and Franklin Underwood. That production was never made.
Released in United States Winter December 1956
Louis Calhern died of a heart attack in Tokyo during filming.
Released in United States Winter December 1956