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Teahouse of the August Moon

(1956 c 123')

En: 7 Ed: 6

John Patrick adapted his play from the book by Vern J. Sneider. Under a bumbling American colonel a captain and his Japanese translator give in to Okinawans and let them build a teahouse for his geisha with a brandy brewery to make money.

         On Okinawa in 1946 children give gum to Sakini (Marlon Brando), who introduces the history of Okinawa’s conquest by Chinese pirates, English missionaries, Japanese warlords, and American marines. Okinawa is different and has no locks on doors. A naked lady may bathe in a public bath, but a picture of a nude lady in a private home is improper. Okinawa is not easy to change. Col. Purdy and officers do not fraternize with enlisted men. Sergeant Gregovich (Harry Morgan) is his assistant and searches for Col. Purdy’s Adventure magazine so he can read it first. Every day Col. Wainwright Purdy III (Paul Ford) predicts it will not rain. When Purdy calls Sakini, he hides. Purdy finds him and asks why one piece of his laundry gets lost each time. Purdy is not surprised they were subjugated by the Japanese. He tells Sakini to pull up his socks. Purdy tells Gregovich he is going to get rid of the interpreter, but he is needed. Purdy says they are waiting for Captain Fisby. Purdy does not want non-coms to dance with enlisted men and asks for a sign to be painted. Purdy looks for Sakini and is annoyed when Sakini finds him.

         Captain Fisby (Glenn Ford) comes into the office, and Purdy welcomes him. Purdy says he is sending him to Tobiki. Fisby admits he was requested to request leaving psychological warfare. Before that he was in the Paymaster’s General’s office. Purdy says he has difficulty with machines. A machine made a mistake of a quarter million dollars, and he was ordered to lick envelopes. Purdy hopes to be a general soon. Fisby says he was not cut out to be a soldier, but Purdy says they must adapt. Purdy says his job is to teach the natives democracy. Fisby says he taught humanities in college. Purdy hands him a large book called Plan B to use as his Bible. Fisby admits his Japanese is not too good. Purdy calls in Sakini and assigns him to Fisby at Tobiki. Purdy assigns a jeep to Fisby and tells them to leave at once. Fisby quotes Victor Hugo, and Purdy thinks it is poetry. Purdy orders Fisby to build a school and organize a ladies league for democratic action. Purdy orders him to put the village on the map. They salute and say goodbye.

         Fisby tells Sakini he has to pack his gear, and Sakini shows him his jeep; but a woman is on top because she wants to visit her grandson, who is the mayor of Tobiki. Fisby asks if the stuff is his, but Sakini says it is hers. Sakini says her daughter is coming too. She arrives with a cart and goes back for her children. Four children climb up on the jeep. One child goes to get the goat, but Fisby says the goat cannot ride on the jeep. An old man sits on the back. Fisby tells him to get off. Purdy asks Fisby what he is doing. Men make fun of the goat, and the jeep takes off.

         Fisby drives on a dirt road and asks which way to Tobiki, but the old lady wants to go to Awasi. Sakini tells him to turn left, and they arrive at Awasi. The children want to go to Yatoda to see the ocean, and they go there. Finally they arrive at Tobiki.

         Fisby and Sakini move into an office, and Fisby says they came there to relieve them of oppression. Sakini says they are used to that speech. Sakini goes out to tell the people that Fisby will speak to them.

         A bell is rung, and people gather. Fisby stands on a platform, and Sakini says the people brought gifts. Fisby says he accepts in the name of the United States occupation forces. Men give him a cricket box, chopsticks, and wooden sandals. An unmarried lady gives him three turtle eggs. An old man gives him a cup, and Mr. Oshira speaks English and says the August moon is good and wise. Fisby says they could start an industry and will sell these items. Sakini says they like him. Fisby says they will build a schoolhouse for their children. He asks if they want to be ignorant, and they say yes. Fisby promises them daily rice. The school will be in the shape of a pentagon. They laugh because children do not have five sides. Fisby says they will learn about democracy. They ask what that is, and Fisby says it is the right to make the wrong choice. Fisby says he can write to the President. They ask if he sends the letter. Fisby asks for a chief of agriculture, and Sakini recommends a young man who can draw. Sakini says they only grow sweet potatoes. Fisby promises him a helmet. Fisby asks for a chief of police, and they choose a wrestler who wants a helmet too. Fisby asks for a president for the ladies league for democratic action, and they want Higa Jiga (Nijiko Kiyokawa). Fisby asks if they have any questions. An old lady asks what time it is. They want to leave to watch the sunset. The crowd leaves, and Fisby asks Sakini how they did. Fisby takes the gifts in his house.

         Outside a man brings Lotus Blossom (Machiko Kyo), and Sakini tells Fisby he has a present. Mr. Sumata gave her a first-class geisha-girl. Fisby tells Sakini to return his gift, but Mr. Sumata left. Fisby says she cannot stay there. Fisby says he knows what she is trained to do. He tells Sakini where to put her, but he says she will lose face. Sakini leaves and says she knows her business. She offers Fisby a bathrobe. Purdy calls, and while Fisby talks to him she takes off his shoes. Purdy asks for a progress report and urges him to build a fire under them. She is taking off Fisby’s clothes, and Purdy asks if he wants a deck of cards. Purdy says he is getting weak and says goodbye. Fisby pushes her outside while he still has his pants on.

         Fisby goes looking for Sakini, who says he was looking for him. Fisby says no one is working and asks where his chief of agriculture is. Sakini says Lotus Blossom left her things at Awasi, and all the officials and Oshira went to help her.

         People return singing, and they watch Lotus Blossom go in the house. People talk to Sakini, and Fisby comes out and asks what it is. Sakini says it is discrimination. A woman plays out how Lotus Blossom acted. Fisby says it is not democratic, and he will do something. He and Sakini escape into the house. Fisby calls Awasi and says he wants to transfer Lotus Blossom to a major, but he learns she nearly wrecked his plan for recovery. Fisby says she has been booted out of every village. Fisby says she will not cause dissension there. Women come in, and Higa Jiga says she wants democratic action. Fisby says they will take care of it. She says Lotus Blossom is unfair competition. She must have everything that Lotus Blossom has. She gives Fisby a list with lipstick and perfume. Fisby says he will call for talcum powder and shaving lotion. This makes the women happy. Higa Jiga wants him to get Lotus Blossom to teach them how to be geisha girls, but Fisby says no.

         Lotus Blossom goes out walking with her umbrella, and a Japanese man tries to follow her. She goes into Fisby’s office, and he asks where she has been. She gives him a flower bud, and Sakini explains what it means. She starts washing his feet, but Fisby tells her to leave his feet alone. Sakini asks if he wants tea or music. She says he is jealous. Sakini asks Fisby if he wants to tell her his troubles. Fisby learns men took money from her, and Fisby says he will not take money from her. He says everybody knows what geisha-girls do. Sakini explains that men tell troubles to geisha-girls, and troubles go away. Fisby apologizes and smiles. She asks if he is mad. Fisby asks her to give geisha lessons to the ladies.

         Lotus Blossom is teaching Higa Jiga and other ladies how to dance. Sakini and men tell Fisby that they want him to build them a teahouse. Lotus Blossom arrives. Fisby says they will have a school, not a teahouse. The men are disappointed and says Fisby is mean. Oshira says these men have never been inside teahouses. He has dreamed of visiting a teahouse all his life. He is old and does not want to leave the world with envy or regret. He begs for the teahouse. Fisby says they have no carpenters, and two carpenters come forward. Fisby says all right. Sakini leads the men in cheering.

         People are working and singing outside. In his office Fisby calls Purdy, who asks about the schoolhouse. Fisby says he needs more lumber. Purdy asks about his progress and the extra kids. Fisby says they are goats. Purdy says what another village can do. Fisby says they started an industry making getas (sandals) and cricket cages. Purdy asks if Fisby has taken his salt pills or gone out without his hat. Fisby says his brain is ventilated. Purdy asks Gregovich to call a psychiatrist for Fisby.

         Captain McLean (Eddie Albert) arrives and goes in Fisby’s house. Fisby comes back wearing a robe and meets him. Fisby notices he is from the medical corps, and McLean says he is on leave. Fisby shows him his cricket cages. Fisby asks him to take his shoes off and to sit down. Fisby uses a fan and hands it to McLean, who asks about the building down the road. Fisby says he needs it for his geisha. Fisby says he feels good since he decided not to build the schoolhouse. They are building a teahouse. Fisby says they are wonderful people, and they are making souvenirs. McLean says he sees. Fisby mentions DDT, and McLean warns him not to poison people. McLean says he raises vegetables organically. Chemicals will kill his earthworms. He should use garbage and manure. Fisby asks him to supervise an experimental station. McLean asks if his soil is acid or alkaline. He wishes he had his seed catalogs. Fisby tells him to write a list, and he will get them. McLean says now he can germinate. Fisby goes out to check with his department of agriculture, and he invites him to have tea in the pine grove as the sun goes down. McLean plans his garden as the phone rings. Purdy is calling him and asks for his report on Fisby. McLean says he has to be there for several weeks, and he will work miracles. Purdy offers to send a book, and McLean asks for gardening books and a soil-test kit. He wants bees and says he will build up the soil with manure. Purdy is dumbfounded and hangs up. He wants to send an analyst to analyze his analyst.

         At sunset McLean joins Fisby and Lotus Blossom in the pine grove for jasmine tea. Fisby tells McLean to be quiet so that they can contemplate the end of the day.

         Lotus Blossom plays music and sings as Fisby lays on his bed. McLean comes in wearing a robe and asks for help with his garden. Fisby has him sit down, and she sings. Sakini comes in and says everyone came back. They all go out, and Fisby sees the souvenirs and asks why they did not sell any. Oshira says soldiers say they can do better in the 5 and 10-cent store. Fisby tells them he is proud of their work, and they applaud. Sakini says they want to earn some money for the teahouse. They are going home to get drunk. Fisby asks what they drink. Sakini says they make fine brandy from sweet potatoes. Sakini gives a bottle to Fisby, who tries it. He asks how old it is, and Sakini says seven days. McLean declines to try it. Fisby tests it on a goat. The goat drinks some, and then Fisby and McLean try it. Fisby says he is going to start the cooperative brewing company of Tobiki. They go in his house, and he calls the officers club in Awasi. He tells the major he can supply them with brandy if he keeps the source secret. He calls it seven-star batata. He tells him the price and takes an order for five gallons. Fisby gets a call from GHQ for an order of thirty gallons. They cheer, and Fisby catches a cricket.

         The Tobiki Cooperative Brewing Company is operating. McLean tells Fisby they are diverting water for a lotus pond.

         In the evening Sakini invites Fisby and McLean to the teahouse opening. They go in the gate, and people around the pond bow. They take their shoes off and go in the building. People are sitting on the floor, and they sit on pillows. Six women in costumes come out and dance while another sings. Then Lotus Blossom dances slowly, and two attendants remove garments from her. People applaud, and she hands Fisby a blooming flower. Everyone bows to him. He says she is lovely and hands another flower to her. Sakini says it means he gave his heart to her.

         Purdy and Gregovich arrive in a jeep. In the teahouse Fisby and McLean sing “Deep in the Heart of Texas” while Sakini teaches it to others. They all sing and clap. Purdy steps in water, and they come in. The people quickly leave.

         In Fisby’s house Purdy asks him how many lectures he delivered on democratic theory, and Fisby says none. McLean says he must go, and Purdy tells him to transplant himself to his unit. McLean says his plants will die, and he asks Fisby to take care of his beans. He goes out. Purdy asks if the schoolhouse is finished. Fisby says they built a teahouse so that Lotus Blossom could teach the ladies league geisha dancing. Purdy says the human race is degenerate. Fisby says his mother could watch what they do in the teahouse. The phone rings, and Purdy answers it. He tells Commander Myers that this is not a brewery. Purdy says he sees. Fisby says there was nothing else they could make that anyone would buy. Purdy says he has broken his wife’s heart because he wanted to be a general. Purdy asks what he did with the money, and Fisby says he banked it in Seattle in the name of the Tobiki Cooperative to share it. Purdy says that is Communism, and he puts Fisby under technical arrest. Purdy calls Gregovich, who congratulates Fisby. Purdy orders Gregovich to destroy the stills.

         People watch as Gregovich chops up the barrels and still equipment.

         At night Fisby sees Lotus Blossom on the floor which remains. They kneel facing each other, and she pretends to be serving him tea. She cries. Sakini says the jeep is loaded and asks if he is taking Lotus Blossom. Fisby asks if he can do anything for her before he goes. She wants to marry him, and he asks why. She says he is the nicest man. He says he is clumsy, and he would disillusion her. She says she would like to go to America where people are happy. Fisby says he will remember what is beautiful. She says she will never forget him. She will make up a song story about him, and he will be famous in Okinawa. A young man runs up and is glad that she will be his. She gives Fisby her fan, and she will not leave until he drops the fan from his face. He holds the fan in front of his face as she walks away.

         Purdy tells McLean he has written a full report and says he will not tolerate rotten apples in his barrel. He answers the phone and tells McLean to sit down and take his shoes off. Purdy says he will be back.

         Sakini ask Fisby if he will take him. Fisby says the major will need his help. He says they will have to use the schoolhouse for a teahouse. Sakini says Fisby is not a failure. Fisby says he used to worry about not being a success. He learned the wisdom of gracious acceptance. He has made peace between his ambitions and his limitations. They say goodbye, and Fisby leaves. Purdy arrives and asks Sakini where Fisby is. He comes back, and Purdy says he can’t leave. Purdy says a senator is using this village as an example. They are bringing photographers for a magazine spread. Fisby suggests they could quarantine the senators, but Purdy says they have immunity. Purdy hopes to be a brigadier. Gregovich walks through the water and is drunk. He says he obeyed the orders, and Purdy wishes he hadn’t. Gregovich passes out, and Purdy calls it desertion. Gregovich gets up, and Purdy tells him to sober up. They hear a plane arriving, and Purdy says he is a sinking ship. Sakini says they had Gregovich break the water barrel. Purdy is glad and calls him an American. Sakini says they took away and hid the teahouse. He calls, and people bring back the walls and set them up. They lower the roof on them and stop singing. They all bow to each other. Purdy says it needs a sign, and Fisby offers him a cup of tea. They go in the teahouse. Outside Sakini tells the audience that the story is concluded. He says wisdom makes life endurable.

         This comedy satirizes the American military occupation of Okinawa after the war by contrasting the two cultures. The Americans try to teach them democracy, but the Okinawans have their own ways of cooperating and getting things done.

Copyright © 2010 by Sanderson Beck

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