1960: MacLaine talks ‘My Geisha’

Hope film will ease East-West understanding

Oct. 5, 1960

GOOD MORNING: Shirley MacLaine confides the new script of “My Geisha” will carry “a little message” about better East-West understanding so mebbe the twain shall meet. The Norman Krasna pen paints Yves Montand as a “new wave” French film director wed to Miss M. in the Jack Cardiff-directed pic … “The Spinster,” MacLaine’s current film for Metro, will now be lensed here. The New Zealand locations are rained out and both stars (MacLaine and Laurence Harvey) have stop dates. … 2008 Update: Shirley MacLaine was as effervescent as ever (on the phone) from her ranch in Santa Fe, where she has lived for 16 years along with other Hollywood alums Jane Fonda, Gene Hackman, Ali MacGraw and Val Kilmer. Since “My Geisha” Shirley has worked nonstop and has won an Oscar (“Terms of Endearment”), been nominated for five others and won innumerable international film awards. When I asked if she recalled “My Geisha” and any other films, she laughed, “I remember who I was in love with and how much I weighed!” … Among her many other favorites are “Irma la Douce,” “What a Way to Go,” “Can-Can” and “The Apartment.” One of those she (we) remembered fondly was the 1961 “The Children’s Hour,” Lillian Hellman’s story of the love between two women — as played by Shirley and Audrey Hepburn. It was daring for the screen in that era. William Wyler directed, and Shirley told me, “He was so reluctant to do it the way Lillian Hellman wrote it. He cut out scenes in which I expressed my love for Audrey. It was awful — what a shame!” MacLaine also recalled, with anger, this heading on the L.A. Times’ review of the film: “The Lesbian Said, The Better.” She also said of working with Hepburn, “We actually fell in love with each other. She was one of my favorite people, and I’d always visit her when I was in Europe.” While “The Children’s Hour” set was usually very serious, Shirley recalls one day when it was hilarious — that’s when Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin visited. “That was some fun,” she recalls … Shirley recently took bows for her performance as Coco Chanel. “And playing her inspired me to create my line of jewelry, Sky … Everything is going well,” she said. “I’d promote it anytime I made appearances for ‘Coco.’ I have four scripts — comedies, dramas. I feel wonderful. I have many friends — and my ranch animals.” And in case you doubted it, “Yes,” she said, “I am writing another book.” In the present tense? She laughed that Shirley MacLaine laugh.