A Majority of One
British quad poster by Tom Chantrell
Directed byMervyn LeRoy
Written byLeonard Spigelgass
Based onA Majority of One
by Leonard Spigelgass
Produced byHarry Stradling
StarringRosalind Russell
Alec Guinness
Ray Danton
Madlyn Rhue
Mae Questel
Marc Marno
Gary Vinson
Sharon Hugueny
Frank Wilcox
Francis De Sales
Yuki Shimoda
Harriet MacGibbon
CinematographyHarry Stradling
Edited byPhilip W. Anderson
Music byMax Steiner
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • December 27, 1961 (1961-12-27)
Running time
156 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2 million (US/Canada)[1]

A Majority of One is a 1961 American comedy film directed by Mervyn LeRoy, starring Rosalind Russell and Alec Guinness. It was adapted from the play of the same name by Leonard Spigelgass, which was a Broadway hit in the 1959-1960 season, starring Gertrude Berg and Cedric Hardwicke.


Bertha Jacoby (Rosalind Russell), a Jewish widow, is convinced by her daughter Alice Black (Madlyn Rhue) to move from Brooklyn, New York to Tokyo in order for Bertha to be closer to her along with her husband Jerry Black (Ray Danton), now stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Her feelings about the Japanese with regards to her son's death in World War II start to change on board the ship to Tokyo, where she meets Koichi Asano, a Japanese Buddhist[2] and businessman (Alec Guinness), who also lost a spouse and two children in the war. The two share a bond over lives, their families, and their faiths, which develops into a romance. When she announces to her family of Asano's courtship, her daughter and son-in-law object to the idea of an interracial marriage.



Guinness went to Japan days prior to production started to study the culture, the people and their customs. He went under heavy makeup to play the role. Russell had misgivings about the role due to her believing that Berg deserved the part (though studio head Jack Warner refused due to doubts over Berg's viability), but she decided to portray the role after hearing that she could co-star with Guinness. The two called each other and agreed mutually to do it. Both actors were Catholic, different from what they portrayed in the film.[5]


When it premiered at the Radio City Music Hall, A. H. Weiler, film critic for The New York Times, called the film a "truly heartwarming and entertaining affair," and opined that it was a "truthful, satisfying work largely because the combination of funny and apt dialogue and the dedicated cast give it dignity," largely due to Russell's convincing performance as a "self-sufficient Brooklyn dowager," although he thought that "Mr. Guinness still appears to be closer to London than to Tokyo."[6]

A review in the trade magazine Variety declared "Leonard Spigelgass’ brew of schmaltz and sukiyaki is an outstanding film...Russell’s Yiddish hex-cent, though at times it sounds like what it is – a Christian imitating a Jew – is close enough to the genuine article. Guinness becomes Japanese through physical suggestion and masterful elocution."[7]

However, in his 1994 autobiography, George Takei, a Japanese-American actor who later found fame playing Mr. Sulu in the original Star Trek, recalls that while playing a minor role in A Majority of One, he was "shocked" at the "grotesquely offensive" latex make-up applied to Guinness's eyes, and by the "incomprehensible gibberish" of his Japanese lines, producing a disappointing and "disastrous" performance.[4]

In February 2016, Andrea Passafiume, reviewing the film for Turner Classic Movies, wrote: "A Majority of One is a true hidden gem with warmth, humor and a message of tolerance and compassion that remains just as relevant today as it was in 1961."[8]

Awards and nominations

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[9] Best Cinematography – Color Harry Stradling Nominated
Directors Guild of America Awards[10] Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Mervyn LeRoy Nominated
Golden Globe Awards[11] Best Motion Picture – Comedy Won
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Rosalind Russell Won
Best Film Promoting International Understanding Won
Laurel Awards Top Comedy 5th Place
Writers Guild of America Awards[12] Best Written American Comedy Leonard Spigelgass Nominated

See also


  1. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1962". Variety. 9 Jan 1963. p. 13. Please note these are rentals and not gross figures
  2. ^ Jacqueline T. Lynch (13 April 2014). "Another Old Movie Blog". anotheroldmovieblog.blogspot.com. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  3. ^ "A Majority of One (1961)". IMDb. 3 September 1962. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  4. ^ a b Takei, George (1994). To the Stars: The Autobiography of George Takei, Star Trek's Mr. Sulu. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 074343420X. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  5. ^ "A Majority of One". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  6. ^ Weiler, A. H. (January 12, 1962). "Seen: 'Majority of One':Film Version of Play Opens at Music Hall". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  7. ^ "Review: 'A Majority of One'". Variety. December 31, 1961. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  8. ^ Passafiume, Andrea. "This Month: A Majority of One". tcm.com. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  9. ^ "The 34th Academy Awards (1962) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved 2011-08-22.
  10. ^ "14th DGA Awards". Directors Guild of America Awards. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  11. ^ "A Majority of One – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  12. ^ "Awards Winners". Writers Guild of America. Archived from the original on 2012-12-05. Retrieved 2010-06-06.