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Madame Butterfly (1932)

Passed | | Drama | 30 December 1932 (USA)
Lieutenant Pinkerton marries geisha-in-training but soon after abandons her and goes back to the US.


Marion Gering


David Belasco (play), John Luther Long (story) | 2 more credits »


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Credited cast:
Sylvia Sidney ... Cho-Cho San
Cary Grant ... Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton
Charles Ruggles ... Lt. Barton
Irving Pichel ... Yomadori
Helen Jerome Eddy ... Cho-Cho's mother
Edmund Breese ... Cho-Cho's grandfather
Louise Carter ... Suzuki
Sándor Kállay Sándor Kállay ... Goro
Judith Vosselli ... Madame Goro
Sheila Terry ... Mrs. Pinkerton
Dorothy Libaire ... Peach Blossom
Berton Churchill ... American Consul
Philip Horomato Philip Horomato ... Trouble
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Charita Alden Charita Alden
Wallis Clark Wallis Clark ... Comm. Anderson


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 ... Written by Debbie Dunlap <dwdunlap@erols.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

japan | based on play | See All (2) »




Passed | See all certifications »






Release Date:

30 December 1932 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ein Falter flog zum Licht See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The Japanese censor cut a scene where Cary Grant and Sylvia Sidney share an embrace, because Miss Sidney's elbow was exposed. See more »


When the US Navy returns to Tokyo Bay/Yokohama, mountains are seen rising from the sea. There are no mountains in that area. See more »


Madame Goro: So this is Cho-Cho-San; what distinction, what eyes, what teeth. And you speak also the English?
Cho-Cho San: Yes, I learned from visiting scholar. She teach me very high class Brooklyn accent.
See more »


Version of Madame Butterfly (1995) See more »

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User Reviews

"Till Death Due Us Part"
30 November 2002 | by lugonianSee all my reviews

MADAME BUTTERFLY (Paramount, 1932), directed by Marion Gering, stars Sylvia Sidney in one of her most atypical movie roles of her career, as well as memorable, that of a Japanese maiden. Those familiar with the Giacomo Puccini opera of that same name, will take notice that this screen adaptation is not an operatic reproduction but just simply a straightforward dramatic story in itself.

As for the plot, Lieutenant Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton (Cary Grant) and Lieutenant Barton (Charlie Ruggles) are two American Navy officers on shore in Japan. At a gathering, Pinkerton meets Cho-Cho San (Sylvia Sidney), a beautiful Japanese maiden who is about to become a Geisha. She disgraces her family by accepting Pinkerton's love to become his bride. Although she takes her marriage vows seriously, theirs are not truly bound with love. After the "honeymoon" is over, Pinkerton returns to the states with the fleet, with Cho-Cho San, whom Pinkerton has nicknamed "Butterfly," remaining in Japan where she keeps his home until he returns. Three years pass. During that time, Cho-Cho San, has given birth to a son she names "Trouble" (Philip Horomate). She is still confident that someday her husband will return to her. But what has happened to Pinkerton during that time? Did he go down with his ship? No quite. He has married his fiancé, an American girl named Adelaide (Sheila Terry), whom he intends on taking with him to Japan.

Sylvia Sidney, who by this time has been playing tragic American heroines in such Depression dramas as AN American TRAGEDY and STREET SCENE (both 1931), resumes playing this sort of role, but this time as a Japanese girl. She gives a believable performance, particularly with her round doll face features. Cary Grant, still relatively new to films and on a fast rise to leading man status, is acceptable as Pinkerton, giving one of his more noted performances during his early years as a screen actor, which began the very year of the release of MADAME BUTTERFLY. Charlie Ruggles provides some humorous moments as Barton.

The supporting cast includes: Helen Jerome-Eddy and Grandma San; Edmund Breese as Cho-Cho's grandfather; Sandor Kallay as Goro; with Irving Pichel as Yomadori; Berton Churchill as Sharpless; and Louise Carter as Suzuki.

Rarely seen in recent years, MADAME BUTTERFLY used to have frequent revivals during the mid afternoon or after midnight hours on commercial television way back in the 1960s and 70s, and with Cary Grant who had reached super star status in motion pictures lasting more than 20 years (retiring in 1966), his name alone would guarantee viewer-ship whenever shown.

While MADAME BUTTERFLY is an acceptable version based on David Belasco's play, the plot, however, can be a trifle slow at times during its 85 minutes of screen time, but Sylvia Sidney's performance, the presence of Cary Grant, as well as the reproduction of Japanese settings, make this curio worth watching, it it could ever be found or revived again. (***)

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