From the S&S archives: On the Town
Stars and Stripes November 1, 1957
THE TINY FISHING VILLAGE OF KAWANA, JAPAN, WILL have something to talk about for years and years to come. On cold winter nights, when the families gather around the hibachi, they can laugh and reminisce about the time in 1957 when a Hollywood movie company made actors of them all.
The entire town — lock, stock and wrinkled mama-sans — has been hired by 20th Century-Fox for the Townsend Harris biopic (starring John Wayne), which is being filmed on location in Japan.
AT NIGHT, THE MEN OF THE VILLAGE PUSH THEIR boats from the beach and put out to sea, returning the next morning with their catch. Then, in a Cinderella-like transformation, they don samurai costumes to play residents of the town of Shimoda where Townsend Harris landed in 1856.
Over 300 localites supplemented by 270 extras imported from Kyoto, giggle and jostle one another with great good will as the "crazy" people from Hollywood make them do the same things over and over.
They take ten only when the silver-haired man in the African bush jacket (Director John Huston) flashes a great big smile, indicating that he's happy with the scene.
LOCAL BOY RETURNING TO KAWANA AFTER SEEKING his fortune in the city would be shocked at the physical change in the old hometown. Art director Jack Smith has given Kawana a highly professional "face-dropping."
He camouflaged the telephone poles and built thatched roofs for the houses that were covered with modern tile, returning the village to its probable appearance during the 19th Century. (Smith's biggest problem was convincing the proud owner of a TV set that his big aerial would have to go).
Rounding out this fairyland atmosphere of thatched roofs, samurai and kimono-clad geisha, is the four-masted, 300-foot Kaio-Maru.
THE COLORFUL BARK, property of the Japanese Maritime Academy, represents the San Jacinto, part of Commodore Perry's famed "Black Fleet." (Normally a glistening white, the Kaio-Maru's hull was painted black for the picture).
The most exciting thing that has happened to the Fox crew so far occurred last Sunday morning. With the camera grinding away — recording an O-bon festival — a school of leaping dolphin was sighted several hundred yards offshore.
Ignoring the camera, Huston and their samurai costumes, the excited fishermen bolted for their boats and set out to herd the dolphin — cowboy fashion — into Kawana harbor. The sight of these bizarrely dressed little men slaughtering over 250 dolphin has since been described by Huston as "a wonderful ... and terrifying experience."
"HARRIS" NOTES ON A SHABBY CUFF — When Fox advertised for grips and prop men, 14 able-bodied Japanese males answered the call. The following day, 14 wives reported for work-and have been doing a bang-up job! ... Sam Jaffe, the screen's immortal Gunga Din, plays a Japanese-speaking Dutch interpreter and has already mastered a staggering amount of the language.