This week’s mystery movie was the 1962 Warner Bros. picture A Majority of One, with Rosalind Russell, Alec Guinness, Ray Danton, Madlyn Rhue, Mae Questal, Marc Marno, Gary Vinson, Sharon Hugueny, Frank Wilcox, Francis De Sales, Harriet MacGibbon, Yuki Shimoda and Alan Mowbray.
A Mervyn LeRoy Production.
Based on the play by Leonard Spigelgass, as produced on the stage by The Theatre Guild and Dore Schary.
Photographed by Harry Stradling.
Art direction by John Beckman. Edited by Philip W. Anderson. Sound by Stanley Jones.
Set decoration by Ralph S. Hurst. Technical advisor Takemo K. Shinohara.
Costumes by Orry-Kelly. Makeup by Gordon Bau. Miss Russell’s hairstyles by Jane Shugrue. Supervising hairstylist Jean Burt Reilly.
Orchestrations by Murray Cutter.
Assistant director Gil Kissel.
Music by Max Steiner.
Screenplay by Leonard Spigelgass.
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy.
A Majority of One is available on DVD from Amazon.
More on the film is available from the AFI catalog.
I chose A Majority of One by going through the trades and seeing that the cinematographer, Harry Stradling, was nominated for an Academy Award in the color film category. In those quaint days, there were separate awards for color, won by West Side Story, and black and white, won by The Hustler. The cinematography isn’t all that much. The plot? Terribly dated that delivers what must have been a daring message for the 1960s but seems quaint and heavy-handed today. The casting? The only one more miscast than Rosalind Russell as the goodhearted and somewhat frumpy Jewish widow from Brooklyn is Alec Guinness as a suave Japanese businessman. The film is also long — 156 minutes, according to the AFI catalog, though the version that airs on TCM is shorter, though still more than two hours.
A Majority of One was a popular Broadway play, with 556 performances in a cast headed by Gertrude Berg and Cedric Hardwicke, both replaced for the film, with Mae Questal and Marc Marno reprising their roles.
Brooks Atkinson, writing in The New York Times (Feb. 22, 1959), said:
Leonard Spigelgass’ fairy story about a Brooklyn housewife turned loose in Japan is commonplace theatre, stuffed with considerable old hat. But that is the only critical remark that will creep into this column, For Mr. Spigelgass’ characterizations of the young people as well as their elders are attractive. And his sentiments about native wisdom and general goodwill are not only irreproachable but also charming.
Given its origins on Broadway, I’m going to guess that The New York Times may not have loved it, but at least liked it. We’re in 1962, which is late Bosley Crowther territory. So let’s see if he weighed in.
Nope. Farmed out to Abe Weiler (Jan. 12, 1962):
On the surface, A Majority of One, which arrived at the Music Hall yesterday, is blatant fiction. But Leonard Spigelgass’ adaptation of his hit play is the beneficiary of a small miracle in the casting of Rosalind Russell in the central role of the Jewish widow from Brooklyn whose homely wisdom proves to be as effective in Tokyo as it is on Nostrand Avenue. As a result, this comedy blend of specialized, local middle-class mores and humor and Nipponese formality becomes a wholly acceptable, truly heartwarming and entertaining affair despite its exotic ingredients.
For Monday, we have a mystery gent in a mask. His companions have been blacked out due to insufficient mysteriousness and will appear later in the week.
Update: For Friday, adding mystery guests, previously of insufficient mysteriousness.
Update: This is Rosalind Russell, Madlyn Rhue and Ray Danton. I gave credit for those identifying the cabdriver as Dale Ishimoto, but he plays another taxi driver later in the film.
For Tuesday, we have a mystery gent.
Update: This is Marc Marno.
For Wednesday, we have a mystery woman.
Update: This is Mae Questal, the voice of Betty Boop!
Brain Trust roll call: Jenny M. (mystery movie and Tuesday’s mystery gent) and L.C. (mystery movie and mystery cast).
For “Aha Thursday,” we have this mystery gent. His companion has been cropped out due to insufficient mysteriousness.
Update: For Friday, adding a mystery guest previously of insufficient mysteriousness.
Update: This is Rosalind Russell and George Takei.
Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (mystery movie and all mystery guests), Beach Gal (mystery movie and Monday’s and Wednesday’s mystery guest), Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie and all mystery guests), David Inman (mystery movie and Wednesday’s mystery woman), Gary (mystery movie and Wednesday’s mystery woman), Tucson Barbara (mystery movie and all mystery guests), Benito (mystery movie) and Roget-L.A. (mystery movie and Wednesday’s mystery woman).
For Friday, we have this mystery couple.
Update: This is Madelyn Rhue and Ray Danton.
And this mystery woman.
Update: This is Rosalind Russell.
Finally, this mysterious gent.
Update: This is Alec Guinness.
Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (Thursday’s mystery guest), Beach Gal (Tuesday’s and Thursday’s mystery guests), Tucson Barbara (Thursday’s mystery guest), Howard Mandelbaum (Thursday’s mystery guest), Funky PhD (Thursday’s mystery guest), Anne Papineau (mystery movie and Wednesday’s and Thursday’s mystery guests), Mike Hawks (mystery movie and Wednesday’s and Thursday’s mystery guests), Sylvia E. (mystery movie and mystery cast) and Sarah (mystery movie and Thursday’s mystery gent).