A Girl Named Tamiko (1962)
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Unfortunately, Paramount Studios has NOT released a wide screen DVD of this little seen & underrated film.
The rest of the cast delivers well although one wishes Martha Hyer's character had been given a bit more time to be developed.
Visually very well done.
Set in 1960s Japan, Eurasian photographer Ivan Kalin (the underrated British actor Laurence Harvey) lives life with a chip on his shoulder concerning his Japanese hosts. His disdain stems from the fact that both his mother and father were killed due to Japanese military aggression. Ivan sees their culture as cold, structured and racist and is convinced there is no room for success there for a foreigner, despite his talents. Seeing the United States as a better opportunity for him to become successful, Ivan becomes a "user" and there seems to be no end to the people he will use to get what he wants including those closest to him.
While at a nightclub, Ivan's life is changes forever when he meets a beautiful, intelligent Japanese girl named Tamiko (played by the enchantingly beautiful and unsung France Nuyen). Simultaneously, he rekindles an affair with vivacious, and influential Fay Wilson (all-time favorite bad girl beauty Martha Hyer). While obviously attracted to Tamiko, Ivan nevertheless sees Fay and her connections as his "free ticket" to the United States. With fame and fortune within his grasp, Ivan abandons the matters of the heart and pursues Fay until he has her in the palm of his hand. However, Ivan can't stop thinking about Tamiko, who in herself is the epitome of Japanese culture, everything which he despises. However, in Tamiko, Ivan sees the purity, and spiritual essence of Japanese culture stripped of its rigid structure and caste system. Tamiko, herself having lost her parents during the war, understands Ivan's hurt and anger against her people. Of course their path to romance is blocked not only by Ivan's selfish affair with Fay but also by Tamiko's brother Minya (played by great character actor John Fujioka). With his sister contracted into an arranged marriage with a Japanese of nobility, Minya forbids Tamiko to even be seen in public with Ivan. Nevertheless, the attraction is too strong and not even the rigidness of racism and social barriers can keep them apart.
While made in the melodramatic style of early 1960s Hollywood films such as The Best of Everything and Peyton Place, A Girl Named Tamiko manages to be a touching, honest and romantic journey into cultural differences, prejudices and intolerance. The performances by the two leads Nuyen and Harvey are both engaging and believable. Neither attempts to force an emotional response, rather they allow their budding romance to blossom into a simmer leaving only the censors to keep it from boiling over into something more "steamier."
The film was directed by John Sturges whose string of action-Western hits (The Magnificent Seven, Bad Day at Black Rock and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral), kind of made him the James Cameron of his time. Unfortunately, A Girl Named Tamiko was not a box office success when it was released. However, in watching this film, this doesn't appear to be the result of Sturges inability to handle softer material. In fact I feel it's just the opposite. Sturges effectively balances the sensitivities and delicacies of this "controversial" material without wimping out when it came to showcasing the prejudices of both Asian and Western cultures towards one another. His actors seem relaxed and at ease with the material, which is reflected in the steady, yet understated performances.
He is torn between his attraction to the blonde American Martha Hyer and the Japanese Tamiko (France Nuyen).
It has its moments and some glimpses of Japanese culture, but is not the greatest film.
In the film Harvey is born of a Russian father and a Chinese mother. His parents were killed in the late war and not finding Mao Tse-Tung's new regime too congenial Harvey is in Tokyo where he makes a living as a talented photographer, but finds certain cultural barriers in the way of being prosperous. He also has a nasty prejudice toward the Japanese courtesy of the late war.
For Harvey he's playing a Eurasian version of Joe Lampton his famous working class social climber from Room At The Top. He's not above using his good looks and debonair manner on the female of the species. Right now he's gota a campaign going aimed at Martha Hyer who works at the American embassy. He's wanting a visa to America real bad.
But then there's this girl named Tamiko played by France Nuyen who is from Japanese aristocracy. He'd like to disgrace her, part of his payback, but then there's that romance thing and you never can tell where and how it will fall.
Hyer's part is similar to her Oscar nominated role from Some Came Running as the woman helping Frank Sinatra regain his muse. She was one of the most beautiful women ever to grace the screen, but always seemed to be the one who loses the leading man in the end as she does her.
Nuyen looks regal and aristocratic throughout and there's a nice small part for Miyoshi Umeki as a geisha.
Such occidentals as Steve Brodie, Gary Merrill, Lee Patrick, and Michael Wilding fill out the rest of the cast nicely. For Laurence Harvey fans this is one of his best performances and in the end he's not a total heel.