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Movies, Television and Broadway

My Geisha

Paramount 1962

After my battle with story line on The Children's Hour, I was ready for a change of heart and My Geisha was tailor made for that change. It was produced by my husband, Steve Parker, filmed in Japan, featured my young daughter, Sachi in a small part and was in some respects, almost autobiographical. My Geisha is the story of an American movie star, Lucy Dell, whose husband Paul (Yves Montabond) is tired of his reputation as the director of his wife's films. He goes to Japan, determined to make an avant-garde film of Puccini's Madam Butterfly, staring a young unknown Geisha.

What I thought would be a vacation with pay suddenly turned into a ritual study of the Geisha... not an easy task for a westerner. Although no westerner had ever been allowed to even enter the Geisha training school, I was granted permission to live with the Geishas for two weeks, learning the intricacies of the delicate tea ceremony, the Japanese dance and how to play the stringed instrument. I can remember the hardest part was the Japanese dance, an art so subtle that at times the movements were barely discernible.

Learning to act like a Geisha was easy for me, but what I had to go through to look like one - well, that was another matter. First, I had to wear contact lenses to change my eye color from blue to brown. Next, my eyes were pulled back with adhesive tape to form a slant and then I had to don a Zolb wig and 25 pound costume to complete the transition. At first the contact lenses made me feel sick to my stomach and once I fainted right off my chair and if wasn't bad enough my heavy wig and costume caused me to lip a disc in my back. I had to wear a steel corset for four weeks. Attaching gauze, spirit gum and liquid adhesive to the corners of my eyes made them look slanted. Strings were then attached to the gauze and pulled tight around my head. I remember my temples getting so raw from ripping off the gauze that at the end of the picture they had to shoot me from the other side so that the red raw flesh wouldn't show. Meanwhile the contact lenses were in my eyes grinding away, especially when - in the scene where I am singing on the hill - the smoke made my eyes tear and my throat burn.

My sojourn in Japan lasted seven months, although filming of My Geisha was only ten weeks. I spent happy time with Steve and Sachi in this wonderful land of ancient enchantment until I had to return to Hollywood for the film Two for The SeeSaw.

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