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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Majority Of One (1961)

While traveling across the Pacific on an ocean liner with her daughter (Madlyn Rhue) and son in law (Ray Danton), a Jewish widow (Rosalind Russell) strikes up a relationship with a wealthy Japanese businessman (Alec Guinness) that leads to stronger feelings which doesn't please her daughter and son in law. This rather charming piece on healing old wounds (both protagonists have lost children in WWII) and overcoming racial prejudice was one of the hits of the 1959 Broadway season winning its star, Gertrude Berg, a best actress Tony. The film version, directed by Mervyn LeRoy, clocks in at a running time of 2 1/2 hours which seems rather inflated for its slight story. But that's the least of the film's problems. Major miscasting of the leads compromises the film severely. As a Jewish mother Rosalind Russell is all wrong, she's every bit an inauthentic as Ellen Burstyn in REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. She dutifully wears the gray wig, the frumpy old lady clothes and walks with a slight shuffle but when she says "messhuggah", you can't help but cringe. If they remake it, it would make a great role for Streisand. The political correctness of Caucasians playing Asian aside, Guinness is every bit as inauthentic as Russell. Unlike, say, Brando in TEAHOUSE OF THE AUGUST MOON, he never suggests Japanese. With Mae Questal (who would have filled Russell's shoes nicely), Alan Mowbray, Frank Wilcox, Harriet MacGibbon and George Takei.

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