John Wayne's only collaboration with director John Huston turned out to be a major career misstep for both men. Barbarian and the Geisha is the true story of Townsend Harris (Wayne), who in 1856 was appointed the first American consul to Japan. Headquartered in Shimoda, Harris discovers that the Japanese thoroughly mistrust the Americans (and, as it turned out, not without reason). It's an uphill climb, but Harris gradually earns the respect of the local power brokers-and in so doing, is permitted to enter the city of Tokyo. Geisha girl Eiko Ando, originally sent to thwart Harris' mission, falls in love with him and protects him from harm. Though running only 104 minutes, the film seems to drag on for eons. Filmed on location, The Barbarian and the Geisha is consistently good to look at, but the discomfort of both star Wayne and director Huston is painfully obvious in every frame.
by Hal Erickson synopsis