Although hampered by a transparent plot, a lean and implausible one-joke premise and a tendency to fluctuate uneasily between comedy and drama, the picture has been richly and elaborately produced on location in Japan, cast with perception and a sharp eye for marquee juxtaposition.
A certain amount of elementary but traditionally evasive information on the Japanese geisha girl weaves helpfully through Norman Krasna’s brittle screenplay about an American film actress (Shirley MacLaine) who blithely and vainly executes a monumental practical joke on her insecure director-husband (Yves Montand) by masquerading as a Geisha to win the part of ‘Madame Butterfly’ in his arty production of same in Japan.
Just as the comedy is about to peter out, there is a radical swerve into sentiment and moral significance. Montand, abruptly (and at long last) cognizant of what is transpiring, and deeply hurt, proposes B-girl monkeyshines, to his bewildered G-girl wife, and the marriage seems about to go to H.
MacLaine gives her customary spirited portrayal in the title role, yet skillfully submerges her unpredictably gregarious personality into that of the dainty, tranquil gesisha for the bulk of the proceedings. Montand has his moments.
1962: Nomination: Best Color Costume Design