Wife! Be Like a Rose!
Wife! Be Like a Rose!
Theatrical poster to Wife! Be Like a Rose!
Directed by Mikio Naruse[1]
Written by Mikio Naruse
Based on Futarizuma (二人妻) by Minoru Nakano
Music by Noboru Itō
Cinematography Hiroshi Suzuki
Editing by Kōichi Iwashita
Distributed by P.C.L.
Released August 15, 1935
Running time 74 min.
IMDb profile
JMDb profile

Wife! Be Like a Rose! or Kimiko (妻よ薔薇のやうに Tsuma yo bara no yō ni) is a 1935 film directed by Mikio Naruse.[1] It won the Best Film prize at the Kinema Jumpo Awards. In 1937 it became first Japanese sound film released in the United states, and the first Japanese film to have a successful run in the United States.[2]


Kimiko, whose parents have divorced, hopes to gain her father's permission to marry. Despite reports to the contrary, Kimiko finds her father's new spouse to be a better wife than her own mother, a traditional, silently suffering, but cold woman. The new wife, an ex-geisha, has secretly been supporting both Kimiko and her mother by sending money.[3]



Naruse had begun directing at Shōchiku, the home studio of Yasujirō Ozu. Ozu was an early supporter of Naruse's work, but Shiro Kido, the head of the studio, criticized his similarity to the older director, telling Naruse he didn't need two Ozus. With this lack of support from the studio, in 1934 Naruse left Shōchiku for P.C.L., later Tōhō studio.[4]

Wife! Be Like a Rose! was adapted by Naruse from Minoru Nakano's play Two Wives (Futarizuma).[4] Donald Richie notes that Naruse employs American gestures and styles made popular in such current films as It Happened One Night in order to contrast the "modern" characters, Kimiko and the second wife, with the more traditional first wife. This film also exhibits a more active camera style than Naruse would use in his later films, as a way of emphasizing the story's siding with the "modern".[5]

Wife! Be Like a Rose! film was named Best Film at the Kinema Jumpo Awards, and this was seen as a vindication for Naruse's move to P.C.L. Naruse later commented, "At Shōchiku I was allowed to direct; at P.C.L. I was asked to direct. A significant difference."[4]

U.S. ReleaseEdit

In 1937 Wife! Be Like a Rose! achieved another long-held goal of the Japanese film industry by playing successfully in the United States. It was titled Kimiko during its run in New York.[6] Wife! Be Like a Rose! was not the first Japanese film to have a release in the United States, Teinosuke Kinugasa's Crossroads having been shown in 1932 under the title Slums of Tokyo, an Oriental Sex Drama. However, with its avant-garde style and an exploitative advertising campaign proclaiming "For Adults Only! Nobody Under 18 Admitted!", Kinugasa's film received little U.S. critical attention or box-office success.[7]

Herbert Greene of the University of Chicago wished to show a Japanese film as part of his Educational Film Cooperative. This was a project which showed international films at schools, universities, and other non-commercial venues. Possibly because of the film's Kinema Jumpo award, Wife! Be Like a Rose! was recommended to Greene. Greene believed the film deserved to have a public release in the U.S., and the Filmarte Theater, a small New York theater for foreign films, agreed to screen it. In preparing the film for its U.S. release, it was re-titled to Kimiko, English subtitles were created, and it was substantially re-edited, with approximately 20 minutes cut. Pre-release press screenings of the film were positive, with some audience members moved to tears. However, after Wife! Be Like a Rose! opened to the U.S. public on April 12, 1937,[8] critical reaction was mixed.[7]

The 21st-century Japanese film scholar and critic Kiyoaki Okubo writes that the film "received terrible reviews" and was "a box-office failure,"[8] though a reading of contemporary reviews does not reveal such extreme negativity. Writing in Nation, Mark Van Doren called Kimiko "one of the most moving films I know."[9] Most U.S. critical reaction was less than positive.

Variety judged the film to have an "unaffected charm", a "[w]ealth of picturesque atmosphere and vivid photography," and "quiet drollery" comparable to the U.S. films My Man Godfrey and Frank Capra's Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (both 1936). The Variety review complained about the slow pacing and the actors' under-played emotions, judging that these gave the film "little entertainment value for average American film audiences". The review concluded the film to have more value for its glimpse into an unfamiliar culture than as a piece of entertainment.[10]

Frank S. Nugent, critic for The New York Times and later Hollywood screenwriter, also complained about the film's slow pacing. He criticized the film's American influences, which, he wrote, made the film a "curious hybrid of East and West". He felt that Naruse's nods to Hollywood were clumsy imitations of Hollywood technique. Possibly unknowingly reacting to the the film's heavy U.S. re-editing, Nugent was especially critical of the film's scene-changes, calling them "awkardly amateur". He nevertheless judged the film to have a "sturdy honesty" and wrote that the acting was "expert". Kiyoaki Okubo counters Nugent’s review, calling it "relentlessly harsh", laced with "anti-Asian racism", and, further, hints that Nugent may have later used plot points from Wife! Be Like a Rose! in his script for the John Ford film Donovan’s Reef (1963).[8]



  • "Kimiko (1935)" at the Internet Movie Database
  • Okubo, Kiyoaki (trans. to English by Guy Yasko). (2005). "Kimiko in New York", originally in Shigehiko Hasumi & Sadao Yamane (eds.), Naruse Mikio no sekai e [Into the World of Mikio Naruse] (Japan: Chikuma Shobo, 2005), pp. 183-198; and Iconics: Japanese Journal of Image and Sciences, no. 73 (November 2004), in Rouge, December 2006.
  • Richie, Donald (2001). A Hundred Years of Japanese Film: A Concise History. Tokyo: Kodansha International. pp. 60, 127, 128, 286-287. ISBN 4-7700-2682-X.
  • "妻よ薔薇のやうに" (in Japanese). Japanese Movie Database. Retrieved 2011-03-17.


  • 1937-04-26 "Kimiko". Time.
  • Hobe. 1937-04-14 "Kimiko". Variety.
  • Nugent, Frank S. 1937-04-13 "Kimiko (1937) THE SCREEN; At the Filmarte" in The New York Times.
  • Van Doren, Mark. (10 April 1937) "Japanese Triangle" in Nation.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "妻よ薔薇のやうに" (in Japanese). Japanese Movie Database. Retrieved 2011-03-17.
  2. Richie, p. 287.
  3. Richie, pp. 61, 286-287.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Richie, p. 60.
  5. Richie, p. 62.
  6. Richie pp. 61-62.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Smith, Greg M. "Critical Reception of Rashomon in the West". in Asian Cinema, (Fall/Winter 2002), p. 115-28.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Okubo, Kiyoaki, "Kimiko in New York"
  9. Van Doren, Mark, "Japanese Triangle" in Nation. Quoted in Smith, Greg M.
  10. Hobe. 1937-04-14 "Kimiko". Variety.
  11. "Awards for Kimiko (1935)" at IMDb.

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