Joe Butterfly is so clearly influenced by Teahouse Of The August Moon that to say much more would be belaboring the point. One viewing of Joe Butterfly and you’ll see why.
This is possibly the only comedy that Audie Murphy ever did and as it would turn out for our most decorated soldier a good choice. He had a flare for it not often seen in his westerns. As fate would have it a military service comedy at that.
Murphy is one of a group of GIs under the command of Major Herbert Anderson who put out Yank magazine which is supposed to be a pseudonym for Stars And Stripes. The others are George Nader, John Agar, and Charles McGraw. Anderson functions like a more worldly Captain Parmenter to this crew. All are connivers but Murphy is the biggest one.
Keenan Wynn is here also playing the same kind of role he did in Don’t Go Near The Water, a much favored war correspondent who hates these guys and loves the privileges this would be Ernie Pyle can gather from the brass.
The Sakini of this piece is Burgess Meredith, once again in the tradition of Occidentals playing Asians. His is the title character, a black market operator who can get just about anything in a war ravaged Tokyo. Meredith is fine and funny, but just like Marlon Brando in Teahouse, Ricardo Montalban in Sayonara, and Mickey Rooney in Breakfast At Tiffany’s it wouldn’t fly today.
Also like Teahouse and Sayonara the film now with war over a decade old looks at the Japanese as human beings. The big problem is housing of course for everybody. Unsaid is the reason for the housing shortage, said recent air war when Curtis LeMay and his bombers flattened Tokyo and many Japanese cities where the housing was wooden.
Joe Butterfly not quite the classic that Teahouse Of The August Moon is, still has some very funny moments in it. For those who like military service comedies, you’ll like Joe Butterfly.