Joe Butterfly

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Joe Butterfly
Directed by Jesse Hibbs
Produced by Aaron Rosenberg
Written by Sy Gomberg
Jack Sher
Marion Hargrove
Based on play by Evan Wylie and Jack Ruge
Starring Audie Murphy
Burgess Meredith
George Nader
Cinematography Irving Glassberg
Edited by Milton Carruth
Universal Pictures
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • May 29, 1957 (1957-05-29) (New York City)
  • June 12, 1957 (1957-06-12) (Los Angeles)
Running time
90 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1.3 million (US rentals)[1]

Joe Butterfly is a 1957 American comedy film directed by Jesse Hibbs starring Audie Murphy, George Nader and Keenan Wynn, with Burgess Meredith in the title role as a Japanese man.[2] The movie was action star Murphy's only outright comedy, and it suffered by comparison to the similar Teahouse of the August Moon, released seven months earlier.[3] The film was based on an unproduced play.[4]


The film follows the staff of the Army weekly magazine Yank, who are among the first American troops in Tokyo after Japan's surrender. They are given the difficult task of producing an issue of the magazine in three days. Short on ideas and having to meet the deadline, they enter Japan's black market and come across con artist Joe Butterfly. Butterfly shows them the high life, letting them live in a mansion complete with beautiful girls.



The movie was shot partly in Hong Kong and Japan as well as aboard the USS Los Angeles[5]. According to co-writer Sy Gomberg, Audie Murphy was extremely uncomfortable playing comedy. However, the movie was an enormous hit in Japan, in part because of the Japanese people's admiration for Murphy, and partly because of its sympathetic depiction of the Japanese.[6] Following the film, Murphy brought home a 14-year-old Japanese girl who stayed with the Murphys and helped raise their children while she attended school in America.[7]

The original choice for the title character was meant to be David Wayne who had appeared as Sakini in the stage production of Teahouse of the August Moon. When he was unavailble the role was taken by Burgess Meredith who also played Sakini on stage[8] .


  1. ^ "Top Grosses of 1957", Variety, 8 January 1958: 30
  2. ^ Joe Butterfly at Audie Murphy Memorial Site
  3. ^ Gossett, Sue, The Films and Career of Audie Murphy, Empire Publishing, 1996, p. 82.
  4. ^ Erickson, Hal Military Comedy Films: A Critical Survey and Filmography of Hollywood Releases Since 1918 McFarland, 30 Jul. 2012 p. 176
  5. ^
  6. ^ Don Graham, No Name on the Bullet: The Biography of Audie Murphy, Penguin, 1989 p 266-267
  7. ^ "QUIET HOME LIFE FOR STAR". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 22 May 1957. p. 43. Retrieved 11 July 2012. 
  8. ^ Erickson, Hal Military Comedy Films: A Critical Survey and Filmography of Hollywood Releases Since 1918 McFarland, 30 Jul. 2012 p. 176

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