AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Madame Butterfly
Director: Marion Gering (Dir)
Release Date:   30 Dec 1932
Premiere Information:   New York premiere: 23 Dec 1932
Production Date:   began 17 Oct 1932
Duration (in mins):   85-86
Duration (in reels):   10
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Cast:   Sylvia Sidney (Cho-cho San)  
    Cary Grant (Lieutenant B. F. Pinkerton)  
    Charlie Ruggles (Lieutenant Barton)  
    Irving Pichel (Yamadori)  
    Helen Jerome Eddy (Cho-cho San's mother)  
    Edmund Breese (Cho-cho San's grandfather)  
    Louise Carter (Suzuki)  
    Sandor Kallay (Goro)  
    Judith Voselli (Madame Goro)  
    Sheila Terry (Adelaide)  
    Dorothy Libaire (Peach Blossom)  
    Berton Churchill (Mr. Sharpless)  
    Philip Horomato ("Trouble")  

Summary: After her honorable samurai father's death, Cho-cho San becomes a geisha at Goro's Tea House to provide an income for her family and get married. A marriage is almost immediately arranged, when American naval lieutenant B. F. Pinkerton, who was brought to Goro's by his friend, Lieutenant Barton, falls in love with Cho-cho San at first sight and spirits her away into the garden. Upon finding out that he need only to leave port to divorce her, Pinkerton marries Cho-cho San. Because her name means butterfly in Japanese, Pinkerton nicknames her "Madame Butterfly." Their life together is blissful. She learns American customs but treats Pinkerton deferentially in the Japanese custom, and soon falls deeply in love with him. Pinkerton promises Cho-cho San that there is room in his heart only for her after she finds a photograph of Adelaide, an American woman, in his trunk. He is reluctant to tell her, however, of his imminent departure, and she finds out by accident. Cho-cho San is heartbroken, but cheers up when Pinkerton vows he will be true to her and return in the spring, when the first robin appears. Three springs pass before Pinkerton returns. By this time, Cho-cho San's son by Pinkerton is almost three-years-old, and she has refrained from naming him until his father's arrival, affectionately calling him "Trouble." Despite her family's urging, Cho-cho San refuses to marry again because Pinkerton told her they were married "till death do them part," but her family feels she has dishonored them and disowns her. In the meantime, Pinkerton has wed Adelaide and returns to Cho-cho San only long enough to tell her of his marriage. Steadfast, Cho-cho San does not reveal they have a son, although she is devastated by Pinkerton's betrayal and her own sense of shame. After sending her son to her family accompanied by her servant, Suzuki, Cho-cho San commits hara-kiri. 

Production Company: Paramount Productions, Inc.  
Production Text: A. B. P. Schulberg Production
Distribution Company: Paramount Productions, Inc.  
Director: Marion Gering (Dir)
Writer: Josephine Lovett (Scr)
  Joseph Moncure March (Scr)
  Harry Hervey (Trt)
Photography: David Abel (Photog)
  Ernest Laszlo (Cam op)
  James King (Asst cam)
Film Editor: Jane Loring (Film ed)
Music: W. Franke Harling (Incidental mus)
Sound: Harry Lindgren (Sd)
Production Misc: Michio Ito (Tech adv)
  Fred Datig (Casting dir)
  William E. Thomas (Still photog)
Country: United States

Songs: Selections from the opera Madame Butterfly , music by Giacomo Puccini, libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica.
Composer: Giuseppe Giacosa
  Luigi Illica
  Giacomo Puccini
Source Text: Based on the novel Madame Butterfly by John Luther Long (New York, 1898) and the play of the same name by David Belasco (New York, 5 Mar 1900).
Authors: David Belasco
  John Luther Long

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Paramount Productions, Inc. 5/1/1933 dd/mm/yyyy LP3534 Yes

Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Noiseless Recording

 
Genre: Drama
 
Subjects (Major): Americans in foreign countries
  Cultural conflict
  Desertion (Marital)
  Japan
  Marriage
  Self-sacrifice
 
Subjects (Minor): Buddhists
  Children
  Disillusionment
  Divorce
  Family honor
  Geishas
  Hara-kiri
  Idealists
  Infidelity
  Officers (Military)
  Photographs
  Servants
  Temples

Note: Giacomo Puccini's music from the opera is heard only in orchestral form. In one scene, Cary Grant sings "My Flower of Japan" (author undetermined). A news item in HR indicates that production was temporarily postponed in Aug 1932, for an undisclosed reason. According to the pressbook and a news item in HR , artist Edward Venturini spent six weeks on location in Japan doing research for transparencies and to film a statue of Buddha, built in 747 A.D., that was used in the film. In addition, J. H. Kerr of Los Angeles provided the Siamese cats used in the film. According to the Var review, the seduction scene was "cleaned up" and "slightly purified by a native marriage ceremony." According to a contemporary Japanese article as quoted in a modern source, the film was a "flop in Japan, or at least Tokyo, because the psychological developments expressed by Cho-Cho San were not accepted by the general Japanese audience." The Japanese women regarded "Cho-Cho San with not so much sympathy as contempt." This article noted that the film showed outdated Japanese feudal behavior. Modern sources indicate that Gary Cooper was originally considered for the lead role, but turned it down. Among the other films based on the same source are: Paramount's 1915 Madame Butterfly , directed by Sidney Olcott and starring Mary Pickford and Olive West (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.2702); Germany's 1919 Harakiri , directed by Fritz Lang and starring Paul Biensfeldt and Lil Dagover; and the 1956 Italian-Japanese production of Madame Butterfly , directed by Carmine Gallone, photography by Claude Renoir and starring Kaoru Yachigusa, Michiko Tanaka and Nicola Filacuridi. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Film Daily   24 Dec 32   p. 4.
HF   21 Jan 33   p . 1.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Jun 32   p. 2
Hollywood Reporter   13 Aug 32   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Oct 32   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Dec 32   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Dec 32   p. 3.
Los Angeles Times   19-Jun-32   
Motion Picture Herald   31 Dec 32   p. 38.
Motion Picture Herald   21 Jan 33   p. 19.
New York Times   26 Dec 32   p. 26.
Variety   27 Dec 32   p. 14.
VarB   16-Dec-32   

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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