Free Screening of Film Noir Classic ‘Crimson Kimono’ at JANM

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A free outdoor screening of the classic Samuel Fuller movie ”The Crimson Kimono” (1959) will be held in the plaza of the Japanese American National Museum, First and Central in Little Tokyo, on Thursday, Oct. 17, beginning at 8 p.m.

The poster for “The Crimson Kimono” emphasizes the interracial romance.

This event is part of the annual Haunted Little Tokyo Film Festival and is organized in partnership with Visual Communications and JANM.

”Crimson Kimono” is a groundbreaking film on several levels. Fuller cast Japanese American actor James Shigeta in the lead role of Joe Kojaku, an LAPD detective. Though a murder motivates the plot, Fuller centered his movie on a love triangle between Kojaku, his partner, Sgt. Charlie Bancroft (Glenn Corbett), and a key witness in the case, Christine Downes (Victoria Shaw). This was during an era when happy romances between men and women of different races were never depicted in film.

Ultimately, Christine chooses Joe, a rare movie event where an Asian American man is coupled with a non-Asian woman. However, pairing a white man with an Asian woman was almost a movie norm at this time. The Fuller love triangle creates racial tensions between the friends, who are both veterans of the Korean War, because Joe feels Charlie is prejudiced against his relationship to a white woman.

From a historical perspective, ”Crimson Kimono” was filmed in 1958 and provides an invaluable glimpse at what Little Tokyo was like 60 years ago. Several scenes take place in and around the neighborhood, including Koyasan Buddhist Temple. The movie culminates with Joe chasing the murderer through the actual 1958 Nisei Week Parade line-up. At this time, the parade was always held at night.

James Shigeta in Little Tokyo in a scene from “The Crimson Kimono.”

A limited number of chairs will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Participants can bring their own portable chairs and blankets as long as they are mindful in not blocking the screen for other viewers. Light refreshments will be available through Buttery Popcorn Co. This program is made possible in part through the support of Los Angeles County Arts and Culture.

Admission to JANM is free that day from 12 to 7:30 p.m. as part of the Free Third Thursday program. Attendees can see the exhibition “At First Light: Dawning of Asian Pacific America,” a collaboration between VC and JANM, which will close on Oct. 20. For more information, call JANM at (213) 625-0414.

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