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... Oriental characters being played by Caucasoid actors?

You know that in AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS Shirley McLaine, a Celt, plays an Indian princess, and Peter Lorre, a Magyar, plays a Japanese--both very poorly, in my opinion.

Today's roster of day films is dedicated to Japan, and the last one is A MAJORITY OF ONE, where Sir Alec Guinness is terribly miscast as a Japanese businessman.

Other than Scandinavian Warner Oland, who made a terrific Charlie Chan, how many Caucasoids have made convincing Orientals?

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Sean Connery?

Mickey Rooney?

 

two unlikely candidates

 

Well as we all know John Wayne is the most unlikely.   

 

As it relates to the question:  I understand why studios would use non Asian actors for Asian roles,  especially major roles.   They already had these non Asian actors under contract and generally these actors were known to the American viewing public.    As we have discussed one negative of the studio-system is that actors were miscast in roles for various economic reasons.    

 

Even the misguided casting of Rooney,  I assume, must have been because he still had some box office appeal and Edwards wanted his name for its promotional value.

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... Oriental characters being played by Caucasoid actors?

You know that in AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS Shirley McLaine, a Celt, plays an Indian princess, and Peter Lorre, a Magyar, plays a Japanese--both very poorly, in my opinion.

Today's roster of day films is dedicated to Japan, and the last one is A MAJORITY OF ONE, where Sir Alec Guinness is terribly miscast as a Japanese businessman.

Other than Scandinavian Warner Oland, who made a terrific Charlie Chan, how many Caucasoids have made convincing Orientals?

 

...Asians.

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... Oriental characters being played by Caucasoid actors?

You know that in AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS Shirley McLaine, a Celt, plays an Indian princess, and Peter Lorre, a Magyar, plays a Japanese--both very poorly, in my opinion.

Today's roster of day films is dedicated to Japan, and the last one is A MAJORITY OF ONE, where Sir Alec Guinness is terribly miscast as a Japanese businessman.

Other than Scandinavian Warner Oland, who made a terrific Charlie Chan, how many Caucasoids have made convincing Orientals?

Brando in TEAHOUSE OF THE AUGUST MOON? (though the portrayal was a caricature)

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Aren't they all?

 

Making fun of other people types is a common form of humor in movies. It always has been. It always will be.

 

Today preachers are made fun of. Rebel flag wavers. Southern people. New York and New Jersey Italians. Some kinds of Mexicans. Donald Trump. Young blonde women and teens (dumb blondes). All kinds of people. Even some kinds of black people and Asians.

 

In the TV comedy show, FAMILY MATTERS, the character Steve Urkle played a young black teen who acted and sounded just like a white nerd. His whole routine was making fun of white nerd teens. I worked with a black reporter at a TV station who could imitate our voices... that is, what WE sounded like to HIM, and he was a laugh riot. He was doing the Steve Urkle voice. :)

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Making fun of other people types is a common form of humor in movies. It always has been. It always will be.

 

Today preachers are made fun of. Rebel flag wavers. Southern people. New York and New Jersey Italians. Some kinds of Mexicans. Donald Trump. Young blonde women and teens (dumb blondes). All kinds of people. Even some kinds of black people and Asians.

 

In the TV comedy show, FAMILY MATTERS, the character Steve Urkle played a young black teen who acted and sounded just like a white nerd. His whole routine was making fun of white nerd teens. I worked with a black reporter at a TV station who could imitate our voices... that is, what WE sounded like to HIM, and he was a laugh riot. He was doing the Steve Urkle voice. :)

 

I meant to imply, somewhat cynically maybe, that all of these instances of Caucasians playing Asians (and other) are a sort of caricature though they may not all be as overtly humorous as your Brando example ... pointing to the artificiality of the practice, i.e., they are virtual caricatures though not necessarily meant to be. Unintentionally funny, in a negative way.   

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I meant to imply, somewhat cynically maybe, that all of these instances of Caucasians playing Asians (and other) are a sort of caricature though they may not all be as overtly humorous as your Brando example ... pointing to the artificiality of the practice, i.e., they are virtual caricatures though not necessarily meant to be. Unintentionally funny, in a negative way.   

 

Maybe I'm misunderstanding your point, but couldn't one say all acting is 'a sort of caricature',  even when played by people that actually belonged to the ethnic group associated with their character?    e.g.  James Cagney and how he played Irish characters;   While his acting reflected some of his actual persona he also played to the type based on other Irish people he knew and grew up with.    To me that is 'a sort of caricature'.

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Maybe I'm misunderstanding your point, but couldn't one say all acting is 'a sort of caricature',  even when played by people that actually belonged to the ethnic group associated with their character?    e.g.  James Cagney and how he played Irish characters;   While his acting reflected some of his actual persona he also played to the type based on other Irish people he knew and grew up with.    To me that is 'a sort of caricature'.

 

I don't know if all acting is caricature or not, but if it is let the those of a certain race be their own caricature, not by actors of a different race. Your Cagney example is less noxious that the norm, for instance Brando bouncing around like a Chinese man when he obviously isn't one. It's insulting to the Chinese (Isn't it? If it is anywhere on the same level of black face, then probably so). I don't think I'm saying anything that is not a commonly held belief. I don't think it's still done, is it? In the early days it was probably difficult to find just the actor you wanted in a case like this, and as pointed out by others the Studios wanted make use of actors already under contract.

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I don't know if all acting is caricature or not, but if it is let the those of a certain race be their own caricature, not by actors of a different race. Your Cagney example is less noxious that the norm, for instance Brando bouncing around like a Chinese man when he obviously isn't one. It's insulting to the Chinese (Isn't it? If it is anywhere on the same level of black face, then probably so). I don't think I'm saying anything that is not a commonly held belief. I don't think it's still done, is it? In the early days it was probably difficult to find just the actor you wanted in a case like this, and as pointed out by others the Studios wanted make use of actors already under contract.

 

Well we can agree to disagree.   I view acting as,  well acting;  playing a part.    So all I care about is how authentic the actor APPEARS as it relates to the character they are playing.   That is true for a gentle type of man (e.g.  E.G. Robinson) playing a violent criminal as it is for someone of one ethnic group playing a character from another group.    Of course things like accents and looks can make it difficult for an actor to appear authentic.    I reject that but not because I view it as offensive to some ethnic group but only because it is poor casting or acting.  

 

Note that I'm also using the term ethnic group instead of race.   I do this because it is easier for an actor to appear authentic playing various ethnic characters than it is to 'crossover' from one social classifications of race to another.     e.g.  the various ethnic characters Anthony Quinn played.    In most cases I felt he appeared authentic.   

 

Also, as you know I'm a half breed so even if I was offended I could only be half offended.   ;)

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Sorry, but I'm going to disagree here that Brando's Sakini character in THE TEAHOUSE OF THE AUGUST MOON is either "played for laughs" OR is all that much of a "caricature".

 

Nope, sorry, but the way Brando plays that character is not only with a lot of dignity, but he ALSO plays that character as the perhaps the WISEST of any of the characters in that film and "the voice of the story"

 

I mean, does he NOT pretty much "control" and "influence" the actions of Glenn Ford's Capt. Fisby's rather "naive" U.S. Army Officer, and pretty much becomes the very reason Fisby ultimately has an epiphany about how America seems to often want to change the world into its own image, and how quite often that course of action is a foolhardy enterprise, and which is pretty much the whole point of the story?

 

Nope, sorry again, but in THIS case, and even THOUGH Brando was of course Caucasian, I think he was pretty damn GOOD in this role and fleshed out the Sakini character VERY well, and trust me here, I've never been THAT big a fan of the guy.

 

(...of course then again I suppose I COULD be a bit biased here, as TEAHOUSE is the ONLY freakin' movie I've ever liked Glenn Ford IN!!!) LOL

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Making fun of other people types is a common form of humor in movies. It always has been. It always will be.

 

Today preachers are made fun of. Rebel flag wavers. Southern people. New York and New Jersey Italians. Some kinds of Mexicans. Donald Trump. Young blonde women and teens (dumb blondes). All kinds of people. Even some kinds of black people and Asians.

 

In the TV comedy show, FAMILY MATTERS, the character Steve Urkle played a young black teen who acted and sounded just like a white nerd. His whole routine was making fun of white nerd teens. I worked with a black reporter at a TV station who could imitate our voices... that is, what WE sounded like to HIM, and he was a laugh riot. He was doing the Steve Urkle voice. :)

Great post, Fred. I like how you took this topic and spun it around.

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Roz Russell, in said film, is also miscast as a Jewish woman.

I don't think so.  What is wrong with her character, is her lines; and, the fact that when she's speaking, they have stereotypical "Jewish" music underscoring her scenes.

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I don't think so.  What is wrong with her character, is her lines; and, the fact that when she's speaking, they have stereotypical "Jewish" music underscoring her scenes.

Well, that is an interesting point and I agree with you there. But my comment was meant to remind the OP that there are several things wrong with the casting and portrayals of these characters-- it is more than just anglos in yellow face that makes the film as problematic as it is.

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How Do You Stand On The Question Of ...... Oriental characters being played by Caucasoid actors?

 

I have no problem with anybody playing anything.

 

With or without makeup - whatever works.

 

It's called acting. There's a long tradition of actors playing all kinds of parts that aren't themselves in real life.

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Well we can agree to disagree.   I few acting as,  well acting;  playing a part.    So all I care about is how authentic the actor APPEARS as it relates to the character they are playing.   That is true for a gentle type of man (e.g.  E.G. Robinson) playing a violent criminal as it is for someone of one ethnic group playing a character from another group.    Of course things like accents and looks can make it difficult for an actor to appear authentic.    I reject that but not because I view it as offensive to some ethnic group but only because it is poor casting or acting.  

 

Note that I'm also using the term ethnic group instead of race.   I do this because it is easier for an actor to appear authentic playing various ethnic characters than it is to 'crossover' from one social classifications of race to another.     e.g.  the various ethnic characters Anthony Quinn played.    In most cases I felt he appeared authentic.   

 

Also, as you know I'm a half breed so even if I was offended I could only be half offended.   ;)

 

James, in the first bold portion above, it surprises me that you would not think important the difference between the two. The first case shows the versatility of an actor, we see that all the time ... but an ethnic role being played someone of a different ethnic group is categorically different and I would think would at times be viewed an untoward practice, whereas your first example would never be considered that way. But in your context, "acting as playing a part" I admire your exceedingly broad generality seeing both in the same light. Voltaire was right, defining terms can be helpful.

 

I did not mean the use of "race" as distinct from "ethnic group." My use was too crude, your term is better.

 

Just to be clear, I don't consider this a soapbox issue. And the word "caricature" is not what I would have used. I was answering Fred's comment about Brando being a caricature in his portrayal in Teahouse and simply played off the word so as to make an offhand and perhaps too brief as well as snippy reply, "Aren't they all?" ... meaning that there is something inappropriate about the practice of casting that way and that it shows rather obviously and results in a negative vibe that may have an effect on the viewer (as being unintentionally funny, for instance, which would be disastrous).

 

Dargo, I agree that Brando was excellent in that role and that James would probably agree in that what does it matter, acting is acting. I can agree insofar the movie is not ruined for me. But in general the undercurrent of a negative vibe is still present.

 

laffite

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James, in the first bold portion above, it surprises me that you would not think important the difference between the two. The first case shows the versatility of an actor, we see that all the time ... but an ethnic role being played someone of a different ethnic group is categorically different and I would think would at times be viewed an untoward practice, whereas your first example would never be considered that way. But in your context, "acting as playing a part" I admire your exceedingly broad generality seeing both in the same light. Voltaire was right, defining terms can be helpful.

 

I did not mean the use of "race" as distinct from "ethnic group." My use was too crude, your term is better.

 

Just to be clear, I don't consider this a soapbox issue. And the word "caricature" is not what I would have used. I was answering Fred's comment about Brando being a caricature in his portrayal in Teahouse and simply played off the word so as to make an offhand and perhaps too brief as well as snippy reply, "Aren't they all?" ... meaning that there is something inappropriate about the practice of casting that way and that it shows rather obviously and results in a negative vibe that may have an effect on the viewer (as being unintentionally funny, for instance, which would be disastrous).

 

Dargo, I agree that Brando was excellent in that role and that James would probably agree in that what does it matter, acting is acting. I can agree insofar the movie is not ruined for me. But in general the undercurrent of a negative vibe is still present.

 

Laffite

 

So the root of the 'issue' here is this 'undercurrent of a negative vibe'.   While I do understand that POV (well at least I believe I do),  I just don't feel the same way.   As I stated,  my view is that I only get a 'negative vibe' when the actor doesn't come off as authentic or can't handle the part.   

 

Therefore while I understand what motivates feeling this 'undercurrent' I admit I don't have much sympathy for those that do.   (yea, I know that sounds harsh but I feel they are just being overly sensitive).      

 

Have you seen the 1993 film Much Ado About Nothing?   Denzel Washington plays Don Pedro of Aragon.   Why was he cast?  Because he is a fantastic actor.    He pulled of the role regardless of the fact he looked different than the rest of the cast.

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I have no problem with anybody playing anything.

 

With or without makeup - whatever works.

 

It's called acting. There's a long tradition of actors playing all kinds of parts that aren't themselves in real life.

 

A long tradition? Practically all roles are like that even those played by actors who are sometimes characterized as only capable of "playing themselves." Even their acting skill constitute a bit more than that. But if you want to include "playing all kinds of parts that aren't themselves in real life" to include playing ethnic groups other than your own, then it's your prerogative to do so. I would just note that "changing" the color of your skin and adopting the cultural demeanor that is extrinsic to your own does not fall under "acting" it is something assumed by the actor before acting even begins and fraught with problems. For instance, an actor might indeed do a brilliant job of acting but still appear ridiculous or indeed a caricature, where caricature, per se, is not the goal. 

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A long tradition? Practically all roles are like that even those played by actors who are sometimes characterized as only capable of "playing themselves." Even their acting skill constitute a bit more than that. But if you want to include "playing all kinds of parts that aren't themselves in real life" to include playing ethnic groups other than your own, then it's your prerogative to do so. I would just note that "changing" the color of your skin and adopting the cultural demeanor that is extrinsic to your own does not fall under "acting" it is something assumed by the actor before acting even begins and fraught with problems. For instance, an actor might indeed do a brilliant job of acting but still appear ridiculous or indeed a caricature, where caricature, per se, is not the goal. 

A related question is should women play Hamlet?  I saw Fiona Shaw play Richard II. She was fine. It can all be done; it's the politics of it that's the issue these days; the acting job has to do with the actor's talent.

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A related question is should women play Hamlet?  I saw Fiona Shaw play Richard II. She was fine. It can all be done; it's the politics of it that's the issue these days; the acting job has to do with the actor's talent.

 

I suppose that came about partly for novelty ... but a cute idea. I suppose the role is transferable though it might be a stretch to see our hero-oine as an experienced fencer. Did they use croquet in the final scene, with poisoned croquet balls? "A palpable hit" of a different kind? At the beginning of Oliver's Hamlet, a voice over narrator says (simplistically) "This is the story of a man who couldn't make up his mind," but I suppose there would be no reason to believe that a woman couldn't make up her mind either, and if I may say so (affectionately) perhaps even find it more difficult. A modern director of the Euro-Trash variety might fashion a dark subplot where our friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have lewd intent on our Hamletiona (rhymes with Fiona) giving one of the duo the line, "You would play upon my pipe," a line given the traditional hero and in a completely different (and non-prurient) context. But good for Fiona, she is not only allowed to act in a play at all, but even one where she plays a character of the opposite sex, quite an accomplishment considering that in Elizabethan times, an actRESS couldn't get any work at all.

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