The Barbarian And The Geisha

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In 1856, the first U.S. Consul General to Japan encounters the hostility of the local authorities and the love of a young geisha.

ACTORS :  John Wayne, Eiko Ando, Sam Jaffe

YEAR OF RELEASE : 1958

POSTAGE : Free postage within Australia

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The Barbarian And The Geisha  Townsend Harris is sent by President Pierce to Japan to serve as the first U.S. Consul-General to that country. Harris discovers enormous hostility to foreigners, as well as the love of a young geisha. JOHN WAYNE on a forbidden and terrifying adventure

Surprising social sensitivity so soon after a horrific war.

The Barbarian And The Geisha  When you consider that this movie was made only 13 years after the end of the war in the Pacific, with its brutality and carnage, it is quite surprising to see that the “The Barbarian and the Geisha” tries to to present the clash of cultures, 100 years earlier, with such apparent equity and fairness.

While some may see John Wayne as the archetypical posterboy for American jingoism, in fact his character clearly tries to understand the country in which he is trying to establish the consulate, and shows genuine remorse, not arrogance, in noting that in early part of his assignment, all that the Americans had established was a cholera epidemic and the torching of the city to quell it.

While the interracial love story behind the title was somewhat superficial, I thought that the more important aspects of colliding cultures and political shadowboxing was quite interesting and well presented.

John Wayne the diplomat-who knew?

 
Many things about The Barbarian and the Geisha are intriguing. This is based on a true story of Townsend Harris, played by John Wayne an American merchant and diplomat who in 1856 was appointed the first U.S. Consul to Japan. The script aptly explores the theme of the cultural differences of isolationist Japan and the expanding pre Civil War America. Shot in Japan, the scenery is stunning, and the costumes are beautiful. Also, this was John Huston’s first and only collaboration with Wayne. The great Manchurian actress, beautiful Eiko Ando passionately plays Okichi, the geisha assigned to Harris. Sam Jaffe does well in support as European interpreter Henry Heusken. There’s none of the bar room brawls found in many Duke movies, but nonetheless much action ensues. A cholera outbreak, an assassination, and half the village burned down for starters give the Yanks reason to be concerned. Not the usual role for John Wayne, but he is exceptional as the cultured passionate diplomat the role calls for.

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