Geisha in Western Movies

Memoirs of a Geisha (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition)

I should hope you know this one if you’re reading this website. Based on the immensely popular novel by Arthur Golden this is the story of Sayuri a young girl sold to a geisha house as a poorly orphan who rises to fame as a geisha of Gion and then lives through World War II and the occupation of Japan. The film is a beautiful but unfortunate portrayal of geisha starring mostly Chinese cast, casual observers may enjoy it but the innaccuracies are likely to rile the true geisha afficionado.

My Geisha 

A famous Hollywood director and his even more famous actress wife go to Japan to prepare for filming of a movie based on Madame Butterfly. While the husband is searching for a leading lady his wife surprises him by disguising herself as a geisha and serving them dinner. The guests do not uncover the ruse and it is held up until she takes the role in the film disguised as Yoko the geisha. This is less of a geisha film and more an Asian influenced Mrs Doubtfire or Tootsie with a slightly more serious twist. There are some nice kimono and an enviable Japanese supporting cast; it stars Shirley Mclaine and Edward G. Robinson.

The Barbarian and The Geisha [VHS]

Surprisingly it is the John Wayne film that has the most historical credibility in this lineup. This movie is a retelling of the true story of the first Consul General to the Empire of Japan in the 19th Century just prior to the Meiji Restoration. During his station in Japan Harris the diplomat famously had an affair with a local geisha Okichi. The doomed love affair across cultural binds is as famous in Japan as Cleopatra and Mark Anthony is to the West.

Geisha Girl

The Japanese develop a pill-sized A-bomb that falls into the hands of two wacky American G.I.s. The Japanese secret service ushers the G.I.s to a Geisha house to get the potent pills back. Wacky post war humour, about as accurate as a mediaeval world map.

  • Trailer: (first part of film rather than trailer)
  • Geisha Girl (1952)—Dir. George P. Breakston
  • IMDB:

The Teahouse Of The August Moon (DVD)

If you can look past the casual racism and dated humour this is worth a watch. Based on a Pulitzer price winning novel and play the Teahouse of the August Moon is a satire on the US occupation of Japan. An officer is sent to Okinawa to “Americanize” a local village but his attempts to follow military orders are waylaid when he discovers the village wishes to build a teahouse instead of a school. Eventually the Americans are won over with the aid of their interpreter and a local Geisha. The cast is stellar including Marlon Brando in unfortunate “yellow face” as the interpreter, Eddie Albert (Green Acres) and Machiko Kyo (Rashomon) as the geisha. Authentic Okinawan music is used throughout.

Geisha Boy [VHS]

When you see a title like this and find it stars Jerry Lewis it leads to some cringing for the movie to come but honestly it’s a rather sweet story. Lewis plays a USO magician entertaining GIs in occupied Japan, he befriends a young Japanese orphan who laughs for the first time since his parents were killed in the war at Lewis’ works. More post war wacky humour, this time with a feel good family movie bent. Geisha content negligable.


Cry For Happy

A Navy photographer and his three-man team occupy a Tokyo geisha house during the Korean War. Though off-limits, four girls are living there. At first, they misunderstand the geisha’s occupation, later romance develops. Eventually the Navy discovers them and the sailors and the geishas decide to quickly convert the geisha house into an temporary orphanage. However the orphanage is successful and finally Prince and Suzuki marry two of the girls.