Different Angle Query on Japanese Film Remakes

Michael Raine mjraine
Wed Jul 12 20:01:20 EDT 2006

Reinforcing Aaron's recommendation, Yamamoto's Nihon eiga ni okeru gaikoku
eiga no eikyo is indeed the motherlode for this sort of thing, at least for
the prewar (does anyone have any recommendations for postwar? The practice
doesn't go away, of course). What I particularly like about the book is that
it doesn't just spot similarities between films but makes the connection
clear by showing that the "source" film was well known in Japan, was
discussed as a source by director and scriptwriter, etc, and was
acknowledged as such by contemporary critics. Kishi Matsuo even claimed that
Ozu's Ukikusa monogatari (which in some ways is Ozu's most "traditional"
film) was not only based on The Barker (1928) but on four other films -- he
said it was like gomoku meshi! It seems that Yamamoto's research consisted
of reading through all the old film journals and prewar monographs that were
available at the time, so he gives a strong sense of important debates and
critical currents, even if the commentary on the films themselves isn't so
precise. His division of the book into Sadoul-inspired standard categories
like "french impressionism" and "german expressionism" etc may seem old
fashioned but it's also a fair representation of the contours of prewar
critical thinking, eg the Moussinac "rhythm" debate. By the 1930s it seems
that at least some critics were conscious of an historical shift during the
1920s from the US to Europe (and USSR) as the center of interest for film
stylistics, though Ozu seems to have stuck with mainstream Hollywood for the
most part. It's interesting that Yamamoto reports US intertexts for both of
Ozu's "wartime" films. Ozu was certainly a cinephile who was open to this
kind of borrowing, but Yamamoto makes clear that he was far from alone.
Critics seem to have regarded it as standard practice. That's what's
important, of course: what does it mean to borrow across cultural,
geopolitical, etc divides? Are the divisions more important than the
commercial similarities? Yamamoto has a series of terms, like kakikae,
shitajiki, hoan eiga, Nihonka, etc to refer to this process. It will be
interesting to see what you make of the problem! 


-----Original Message-----
From: Michael McCaskey [mailto:mccaskem at georgetown.edu] 
Sent: Tuesday, July 11, 2006 11:19 AM
To: KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
Subject: Re: Different Angle Query on Japanese Film Remakes

Dear Minaguchi-san,

Thank you for your new information on Stella Dallas, and for raising the Ozu
point. According to Sato Tadao, in both Eiga shisoshi and Nihon eiga shi,
Ozu engaged in at least the "remakes" below, but Sato only gives the titles,
and little more information--I followed up in more detail to check each out
a bit more:

Ozu Yasujiro's 1933 film Dekigokoro, "Passing Fancy," is about the trials
and tribulations in a family where the father becomes involved with another
woman, and this is resented by his son. This film is supposed to have been
inspired by King Vidor's The Champ, a 1931 American film about a boxer who
encounters a woman his son becomes jealous of - until the son finds out the
woman is actually his mother.

Ozu's 1934 Ukigusa Monogatari, is the story of a father, a traveling actor,
who has a reunion with his illegitimate son after many years of separation,
in a town where the acting troupe is on tour. The son thinks the man is his
uncle, but a female performer in the troupe, emotionally attached to the
father, becomes resentful of this newly revived relationship, and sets out
to try to undermine it. Ozu later remade this 1934 silent film, in a 1959
version in color with sound, shortening the title to Ukigusa.

Ozu's Ukigusa plot is supposed to have been based on that of The Barker, a
1928 American film directed by George Fitzmaurice, who had directed Rudolph
Valentino in Son of the Sheik in 1926, and later directed Greta Garbo in
Mata Hari in 1931. In The Barker, a carnival barker encounters his long-lost
son, but the barker's current girlfriend becomes resentful when she
discovers the barker has had another family, and the barker tries to conceal
his relationship with her from his son. She then tries to seduce the son as
a sort of revenge. The Barker was remade in 1933, as Hoopla, with Clara Bow,
and again in 1945 as The Diamond Horseshoe, starring Betty Grable. The
Barker surfaced once again, as an early US TV drama, in the 1952 Broadway
Television Theater series, under its original title.

Ozu made a 1936 film, Hitori Musuko (Only Son), his first sound film, about
a self-sacrificing mother who sends her son off to Tokyo, and works hard to
support him so he can have a better life than she has. The son has his own
ideas of what success is, however, and he and his mother clash when she
feels he has disappointed her, even marrying without consulting her first.
(http://www.shochiku.co.jp/video/dvd/2003/da0269_5.html, accessed July 8,
This Ozu picture is said to have been inspired by Leo McCarey's Make Way for
Tomorrow, though it's hard to see how - there must be a different US picture
related to this one, but apparently Make Way for Tomorrow is actually where
Ozu got the idea for 

(4) Tokyo Story, where two old people also have a sad time traveling.

Ozu's Chichi Ariki, "There Was a Father," a 1942 film about a
self-sacrificing widowed father, a teacher, devoted to bettering his own
son's life, was based on the 1927 American film Sorrell and Son, about a
British father who devotes himself to putting his son through medical
school. This film was directed and scripted by Herbert Brenon, who had made
the first film version of The Great Gatsby the year before. Sorrell and Son
began as a very popular novel by the British writer Warwick Deeping, and in
1933 it was remade in Britain as a sound film.

If I've made any mistakes, please let me know so I can make corrections.

It seems unusual that Sato focused so much on these Ozu films as remakes. He
gives few other specific remake examples by anyone else. I checked these all
from other angles, and they all do seem to be verified remakes. I have two
books on Ozu, but they say nothing about these remakes, so I'm getting other
books on Ozu as well, including the one about Ozu by Sato.

I have also followed Aaron Gerow's very good suggestion, and put in an
interlibrary loan request for the Yamamoto Kikuo book, which seems to be
over 600 pages, so I should be able to find more numerous remake examples by
many other directors verified there. I had not planned to write so much
about early Japanese remakes of foreign films, but it seems I need to find
out about and write about more of them.

With Many Thanks To All,

Michael McCaskey

----- Original Message -----
From: kiseko minaguchi <kiko at main.teikyo-u.ac.jp>
Date: Monday, July 10, 2006 9:19 pm
Subject: Re: Different Angle Query on Japanese Film Remakes

> I would say Ozu's films have many which got inspiration from Hollywood 
> films, which he intensively saw while stationed abroad. Concerning 
> women's films, I mentioned much about the Japanese remaking of Stella 
> Dallas in my book CINEMA MATERNITY (sairyusha 2005. language: 
> Japanese) Minaguchi
> ----- Original Message -----
> ??? : "Aaron Gerow" <gerowaaron at sbcglobal.net> ?? : 
> <KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu>
> ???? : 2006?7?7? 14:33
> ?? : Re: Different Angle Query on Japanese Film Remakes
> >
> > On 2006.7.6, at 10:14  AM, Michael McCaskey wrote:
> >
> >> I also am trying to find some information, as historical
> background, on
> >> any significant pre-1940 Japanese remakes of any US or European
> films. 
> >> There must have been some, I would think.
> >
> > The main source, if it has not already been mentioned, is
> Yamamoto Kikuo's
> > Nihon eiga ni okeru gaikoku eiga no eikyo (Waseda Shuppanbu,
> 1983). It
> > concentrates on the prewar and, since it focuses on contemporary
> reports
> > of influence, mentions many films that don't even exist today.
> >
> >
> > Aaron Gerow
> > Assistant Professor
> > Film Studies Program/East Asian Languages and Literatures Yale 
> > University
> > 53 Wall Street, Room 316
> > PO Box 208363
> > New Haven, CT 06520-8363
> > USA
> > Phone: 1-203-432-7082
> > Fax: 1-203-432-6764
> > e-mail: aaron.gerow at yale.edu
> > 

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