A Majority of One (film)
|A Majority of One|
British quad poster by Tom Chantrell
|Directed by||Mervyn LeRoy|
|Produced by||Harry Stradling|
|Written by||Leonard Spigelgass|
Francis De Sales
|Music by||Max Steiner|
|Edited by||Philip W. Anderson|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
A Majority of One is a 1961 American comedy film directed by Mervyn LeRoy, starring Rosalind Russell and Alec Guinness. It was adapted from the play of the same name by Leonard Spigelgass, which was a Broadway hit in the 1959-1960 season, starring Gertrude Berg and Cedric Hardwicke.
Bertha Jacoby (Rosalind Russell), a Jewish widow, is convinced by her daughter Alice Black (Madlyn Rhue) to move from Brooklyn, New York to Tokyo in order for Bertha to be closer to her along with her husband Jerry Black (Ray Danton), now stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Her feelings about the Japanese with regards to her son's death in World War II start to change on board the ship to Tokyo, where she meets Koichi Asano, a Japanese Buddhist and businessman (Alec Guinness), who also lost a spouse and two children in the war. The two share a bond over lives, their families, and their faiths, which develops into a romance. When she announces to her family of Asano's courtship, her daughter and son-in-law object to the idea of an interracial marriage.
- Rosalind Russell as Bertha Jacoby
- Alec Guinness as Koichi Asano
- Ray Danton as Jerry Black
- Madlyn Rhue as Alice Black
- Mae Questel (credited as Mae Questal) as Essie Rubin
- Marc Marno as Eddie
- Gary Vinson as Mr. McMillan
- Sharon Hugueny as Bride
- Frank Wilcox as Noah Putnam
- Francis De Sales as American embassy representative
- Yuki Shimoda as Mr. Asano's Secretary
- Harriet MacGibbon as Lily Putnam
- Alan Mowbray as Captain Norcross (This was Mowbray's final film role.)
- George Takei as Mr. Asano's majordomo
Guinness went to Japan days prior to production started to study the culture, the people and their customs. He went under heavy makeup to play the role. Russell had misgivings about the role due to her believing that Berg deserved the part (though studio head Jack Warner refused due to doubts over Berg's viability), but she decided to portray the role after hearing that she could co-star with Guinness. The two called each other and agreed mutually to do it. Both actors were Catholic, different from what they portrayed in the film.
A.H. Weiler, film critic for The New York Times, called the film a "truly heartwarming and entertaining affair," and opined that it was a "truthful, satisfying work largely because the combination of funny and apt dialogue and the dedicated cast give it dignity," largely due to Russell's convincing performance as a "self-sufficient Brooklyn dowager," although he thought that "Mr. Guinness still appears to be closer to London than to Tokyo."
A review in the trade magazine Variety declared "Leonard Spigelgass’ brew of schmaltz and sukiyaki is an outstanding film...Russell’s Yiddish hex-cent, though at times it sounds like what it is – a Christian imitating a Jew – is close enough to the genuine article. Guinness becomes Japanese through physical suggestion and masterful elocution."
However, in his 1994 autobiography, George Takei, a Japanese-American actor who later found fame playing Mr. Sulu in the original Star Trek, recalls that while playing a minor role in A Majority of One, he was "shocked" at the "grotesquely offensive" latex make-up applied to Guinness's eyes, and by the "incomprehensible gibberish" of his Japanese lines, producing a disappointing and "disastrous" performance.
In February 2016, Andrea Passafiume, reviewing the film for Turner Classic Movies, wrote: "A Majority of One is a true hidden gem with warmth, humor and a message of tolerance and compassion that remains just as relevant today as it was in 1961."
Awards and nominations
- Oscar for Best Color Cinematography (Harry Stradling, nominee)
- Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures (Mervyn LeRoy, nominee)
- Golden Globe Award for Best Film Promoting International Understanding (winner)
- Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Musical/Comedy (winner, tied with West Side Story)
- Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actress - Musical/Comedy (Rosalind Russell, winner) (Russell's fourth Golden Globe win)
- Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Comedy (Leonard Spigelgass, nominee)
- Jacqueline T. Lynch. "Another Old Movie Blog". anotheroldmovieblog.blogspot.com. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
- "A Majority of One (1961)". IMDb. 3 September 1962. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
- Takei, George (1994). To the Stars: The Autobiography of George Takei, Star Trek's Mr. Sulu. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 074343420X. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
- "A Majority of One". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
- Weiler, A. H. (January 12, 1962). "Seen: 'Majority of One':Film Version of Play Opens at Music Hall". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
- "Review: 'A Majority of One'". Variety. December 31, 1961. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
- Passafiume, Andrea. "This Month: A Majority of One". tcm.com. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 7 February 2016.