[KineJapan] Viewing 'Nippon'

Roger Macy macyroger at yahoo.co.uk
Tue May 18 02:56:37 EDT 2021

 Dear William, dear all.Thank you for putting me right.  The Miller in question was Henry Miller, author of Tropic of Cancer.
The information on Nippon is still just as valuable but I have put William to a lot of trouble and a very painstaking correction.  Again, William, both a thanks and an apology.  I have been corresponding with Wayne under the heading 'Miller in Paris' and, somewhere along the line confused them. Wayne had no warning of my dyslexia for names and I wasn't alert to this one as I hadn't spotted that my mind was treating them as one of my rotating pairs.
Thanks also to William for pointing me to the chapter in his book.

Humble pie.Roger

    On Tuesday, 18 May 2021, 05:59:03 BST, William M. Drew via KineJapan <kinejapan at mailman.yale.edu> wrote:  
   I have long had an interest in the reception and knowledge of non-Western cinema in the West, especially the United States, prior to the triumph of "Rashomon" in 1951. Indeed, I devoted an entire chapter in my book, "The Last Silent Picture Show: Silent Films on American Screens in the 1930s," to the screenings of early Indian, Chinese and Japanese films in America. Consequently, it was with keen interest that I read Roger's post about the compilation film, "Nippon," and the impression it made on Arthur Miller. However, because I do have a memory for dates, I was struck by his statement that Miller arrived in Paris in 1932 and was still there on October 17, 1933 when he commented on his recently viewing Sylvia Sidney's "Madame Butterfly" and mentioned his previously seeing "Nippon." That immediately made me wonder to which Arthur Miller was he referring as his post did not specify the individual in question? I'm assuming it was not Arthur C. Miller (1895-1970), the celebrated cinematographer who was far too busy in Hollywood then to spend a year or more in Paris. Therefore, I guess he meant Arthur A. Miller (1915-2005), the renowned playwright, who was the subject of the research project called "Arthur Miller and Japan." But since this Arthur Miller was born in the year 1915, he would have been 16 or 17 if he went to Paris in 1932. Trying to account for this, I did an Internet search of various biographies of Miller, including his own memoirs, and could turn up no evidence that he was ever in Europe during the 1930s. I also checked the ships' passenger lists on ancestry.com for that decade and could find nothing that would point to his having crossed the Atlantic in those years. The following timeline of his life published by the Arthur Miller Society establishes the basic facts of his life in the Depression years. https://arthurmillersociety.net/am-chronology/  He grew up in New York and graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1932. His family experienced hard times in the '30s and, as a result, Miller had to take on several menial jobs, including clerking in an auto parts warehouse in 1933-4, before entering the University of Michigan in the fall of 1934. After his initial success writing plays and radio dramas in the late 1930s, he went on his first overseas trip in 1940, a two-week journey to South America to obtain research information for a play that was never produced. It appears that he first visited Europe in 1948 following his triumph with "All My Sons" and the year before "Death of a Salesman" opened on Broadway.  That people with the same name, even famous ones, can be confused is more common than one might at first believe. My guess, therefore, is that a researcher came across these comments by an Arthur Miller and immediately assumed it was the legendary dramatist. To be sure, if Roger and Wayne Arnold can furnish solid evidence that the future author of "All My Sons," "Death of a Salesman," and "The Crucible," and the future husband of MM, was in Paris in 1932-3, I will acknowledge that I've been corrected. But there would then have to be some explanation or clarification as to why neither all the biographies of Miller nor the passenger lists lend any support to this claim.   As I said at the outset, I certainly consider the West's view of Asian cinema during the first half of the 20th century to be an important and often overlooked topic. But as with everything else, I believe that research information should be as accurate as possible. Hence, as I think the Arthur Miller who commented on the 1932 "Madame Butterfly" and "Nippon" was likely someone other than the American dramatist, I would hope there would be some effort to determine who this observer was before jumping to conclusions. William M. Drew     In a message dated 5/16/2021 12:47:03 PM Pacific Standard Time, kinejapan at mailman.yale.edu writes: 

Dear All,

I’ve been asked by Wayne Arnold, of the University of Kitakyushu, who is researching ‘Arthur Miller and Japan’ about what ‘Japanese films’ Arthur Miller had seen when he wrote, in Paris, on 17 October, 1933 (underlining is ours) :-

A most beautiful end to a most wonderful day was Sylvia
Sidney’s performance of Cho-Cho-San—Madame Butterfly. I was
thrilled. More than that, deeply moved. Having seen the celebrated
films by the Japanese players some time ago (Ancient, Medieval, and
Modem Japan) I had some basis of comparison whereby to judge her
interpretation. All that an Occidental could bring to the role I felt
she had brought. It is one of the most restrained, most artistiq films
America has produced. A pure film with the operatic melodies well
subdued and never intruding. The dignity of the theme worthy to
make you weep.

Miller had arrived in Paris in 1932 and the range of films with Japanese players to be seen was limited.  One film fits his description very well – the European-edited compilation by Carl Koch, Nippon. Pordenone says

cut versions (each 20 minutes) of three Japanese silent films — two 1928 jidai geki, Tempei Jidai-Kaito Samimaro (The Time of the Tempei Shamimaro) by Eichi Koishi and Kagaribi (Torches) by Tetsuroku Hoshi, as well as Daitokai Rodoshahen (The Life of Workers in the Big City), a gendai geki by Kiyohiko Ushihara .... This anthology is structured as a historical panorama, from the early Tempei era via the Tokugawa period up to the present.

Clearly, Miller’s yardstick of the authentic was heavily pre-digested and seems to accord with his romanticized view. But Wayne would like to see it and, indeed, so would I.   Does anyone know of a viewing source outside the archives ? (I can’t see that anyone could claim copyright on it.)

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