Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The bad old days - Mr Yunioshi

Film: Breakfast at Tiffany's
Year: 1961
Character: Mr Yunioshi, played in yellowface makeup by Mickey Rooney.

One of the all-time lowpoints in Hollywood's relationship with Asian-Americans.

I mean really, what were they thinking?


  1. audrey hepburn. george peppard. audrey hepburn's swingin' wardrobe. moon river. Those are the only reasons why this movie was and is a hit (and why i have the dvd). the mickey rooney character makes me want to punch out Blake Edwards and producer, and the poorly adapted storyline (which has so many holes you could drive the freakin' a-team truck through it) makes me want to knee the screenplay writer's cojones. still, i'd like to give the casting agent and wardrobe academy awards...

    Interestingly, in the same year as Breakfast at Tiffany's was released (1961), Hollywood released the Flower Drum Song, a musical set entirely in the Asian American community in San Francisco and was up for a number of oscars. Yes there are a few 'stereotypical' characters and moments, but generally, the movie portrays Chinese Americans as real people *gasp*! (even if in some cases, b/c of the lack of Asian American actors, the roles are played by 'yellowed-up' white actors).

    So what does that say about the Mickey Rooney/Breakfast at Tiffany incident? that it was probably a misjudgment on the part of the director etc? that they wanted to shoehorn rooney into a role in the movie for added starpower and that was the only role that he could possibly play? that he is the jamboniest jambon this side of daniel day-lewis in there will be blood? i suggest that rooney probably wants to forget this particular role, and that we should do the same!

  2. Interestingly, director Blake Edwards and producer Richard Shepherd have expressed regrets over the Mr Yunioshi character. Mickey Rooney doesn't seem to see the problem, however.