disguises: My Geisha

My Geisha

Paul Robaix is a well known director, married to Lucy Dell (Shirley MacLaine), a famous movie star who has starred in many of his movies. But his next project is Madame Butterfly and he wants a Japanese actress for the role although Lucy is desperate for the part.

Despite her protests Paul casts the geisha Yoko Mori as Madame Butterfly. It is only part way through filming that Paul realises that the exotic leading lady, for whom he has fallen, is in fact Lucy.

The makeup

The Japanese disguise and Geisha makeup by Wally Westmore and Shu Uemura was better than many attempts at making up white Americans as Japanese/Chinese characters (but she still looked like Shirley MacLaine). With the eye-tabs pulling her eyes upwards, this was a particularly uncomfortable makeup. Junjiro Yamada was the wig maker.

Shu Uemura states on his website that:

His first substantial opportunity came during the filming of Paramount‘s My Geisha, starring Shirley MacLaine, when Ms. MacLaine’s makeup artist fell ill and Mr Uemura was called to substitute. Upon completion of Ms. MacLaine’s intricate and laborious geisha makeup, Mr Uemura had transformed the actress’s Caucasian face entirely into a Japanese geisha with Asian features.