Oscar Movies: My Geisha (1962)–Starring Shirley MacLaine

In this mildly amusing romantic comedy, directed by former cinematographer Jack Cardiff, a popular actress disguises herself as a Japanese geisha to land a part in a film directed by her husband.

Too bad that all the films that French star-singer Yves Montand made in Hollywood, including “Let’s Make Love” opposite Marilyn Monroe, were failures of one kind or another.

Shirley MacLaine, then at the height of her fame (After “The Apartment” and before “Ïrma La Douce,” both helmed skillfully by Billy Wilder), stars as Lucy Dell, a comic actress married to equally successful director Paul Robaix (Yves Montand).

Though Paul has found success creating comic vehicles for Lucy, he wants to expand his range by making a lavish adaptation of Madame Butterfly on location in Japan, using a local actress as the star.

Lucy believes she can be as credible in this part just as as any Japanese woman, and, with the help of the film’s producer (Edward G. Robinson), she plots a scheme to prove it. She poses as Yoko Mori, an innocent young geisha on her way to joining a convent, and her husband is immediately determined to cast her.

The masquerade proves more difficult than imagined, and things become especially complicated when Lucy’s Hollywood playboy co-star (Robert Cummings) falls in love with her demure Yoko persona.

This character-driven comedy is not very funny or biting. It seems content to provides few familiar jibes at Hollywood.
The film’s treatment of Japanese culture borders on ignorance and unintentional stereotyping.

Oscar Context:
The film was nominated for its Color Costume Design by perennial nominee Edith Head, but the winner was Mary Wills for “The Wonderful Life of the Brothers Grimm.”

DVD: December 12, 2006