February 27, 2005

Anna May's Big Role

Anna May Wong had few starring roles, and many of these were in movies that were not very good. I have read breathless reviews of Daughter of the Dragon, in which she plays the vengeful spawn of Fu Manchu. Call me skeptical.

She co-starred with Dietrich in Shanghai Express - a movie much-praised for its style. Kael called it “irresistibly enjoyable ... a triumphant fusion of sin, glamour, shamelessness, art, and, perhaps, a furtive sense of humor." From what little I've seen so far, Anna May could have classed-up Hee Haw, so von Sternberg probably had the right girl, though she didn't get to speak much.

Her best acting performance in a starring role appears to be Piccadilly (1929 - due out on DVD shortly), one of the last great silent films. Where many reviews of Shanghai Express don't even mention Wong, her notices here veer toward the hyperbolic and worshipful. A British Film Institute note on the film is here.

The kiss, almost shown here, was cut by the censors:

The image “http://www.cinematheque.bc.ca/MayJune04/mayjuneimages/Thomas-Wong.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Very frustrating for all concerned. Wongus Interruptus is the technical term, I believe.

So Piccadilly's next. It's on order, though explaining the box art (not in the movie, btw) to the wife will be a bit of a challenge...


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