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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.Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Based on the true story of American diplomat Townsend Harris, his time in Japan in the 1850s and 60s, and his romance with a 17-year-old geisha named Kichi. Their story is one of the most well-known folk tales in Japan. The real Harris died in New York in 1878, and the real Kichi committed suicide in Shimoda in 1892. See more »
When Harris is before a panel of Japanese leaders to convince them to vote to accept the treaty, he is asked by one if the U.S. imports Africans for slavery. He answers regrettably yes and goes on to say many are trying to end slavery. The story took place around 1858, fifty years after The Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves of 1807 took effect in 1808. See more »
If you were to make a real film about Townsend Harris, the first American diplomat in Japan, the guy you would have cast in the role was Clifton Webb. The real Harris was an aesthete like Webb's persona on screen, never married, might have been gay as Webb was. Now that would have been an interesting film.
But done the way John Huston did it, with Harris as a romantic figure, Tyrone Power would have been perfect casting. I have a gut feeling that since 20th Century Fox produced this, the property might have been at one time meant for Power. Wayne looked so awkward and ridiculous mouthing those romantic lines that Ty Power could have done in his sleep.
John Huston said that in casting John Wayne he was trying to show a clash of cultures, Tokugawa Japan being opened to the west by the young vibrant, expanding America and Huston saw Wayne as the personification of 19th century America. Well it didn't work. Supposedly both men developed a hearty dislike of the other.
I will say this though, it's a spectacularly photographed film and it does show quite accurately the Japan that Townsend Harris was dealing with.
But it was still one of the big duds for the Duke's career.
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