Wednesday, April 29, 2020

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR MAY ON TCM


The Piccadilly Club owned by Valentine Wilmot played by Jameson Thomas (It Happened One Night) is a world unto itself in London of 1929. The class system of the hundreds of workers varies from the slaveys in the kitchen to the wait staff to the entertainers, especially the headliners. The hundreds of customers are a mix of the monied and the curious. 

Cyril Ritchard, Gilda Gray

The dance team of Mabel and Vic is the current main attraction. Vic played by Cyril Ritchard is a particular draw for the ladies in the audience but Vic has eyes only for his partner Mabel played by Gilda Gray, the creator of the infamous shimmy dance. Mabel only has eyes for club owner Valentine Wilmot. Valentine is the man who discovered her, who made her a star, and the man she loves. When Vic leaves the success at the Piccadilly to try his luck on Broadway, he cannot convince Mabel to leave Valentine. As a solo act or even with a new partner, Mabel is no longer a top draw.

Anna May Wong

Charles Laughton makes his film debut as a squeaky wheel diner complaining about a dirty plate. The scandal of a dirty plate leads Wilmot to the scullery where a Chinese girl, Shosho played by Anna May Wong is entertaining and distracting her fellow workers with a dance. In the circle of restaurant life, it was the distraction led to the dirty plate in the first plate, which leads to Wilmot initially firing the girl. His second thoughts come about through Shosho knowing herself, what she wants, and how to get it.

Jameson Thomas, Anna May Wong

Wilmot's growing relationship with Shoso gets her the headliner spot at the Piccadilly. Shosho's success with the Club audience mirrors Anna May's domination of the film with her portrayal. Her character is by turns scheming, downtrodden, joyful, and a wilful user of the men in her life. Shosho gleefully toys with Wilmot's growing affection, throwing it in the face of the jealous and heartbroken Mabel. 

King Hou Chang, Anna May Wong

Always at Shosho's beck and call is Jim played by King Hou Chang. He is her friend, her accompanist, and her emotional slave. The tangled lives of these characters are following one road, the road to murder.

Anna May Wong

Anna May Wong left America in 1926 due to the dearth of challenging and appropriate roles for a woman of her talent and ethnic background. She worked in Germany and on the London stage with Olivier. The melodramatic Piccadilly written by Arnold Bennett and directed by the stylish German master E.A. Dupont is a grand showcase for Anna May and was awarded Top Foreign Film by the National Board of Review in 1929.


TCM is screening Piccadilly on Wednesday, May 6th at 9:00 PM. Wednesdays in May the TCM Spotlight is on Asian Americans in Hollywood. Stay tuned for other opportunities to enjoy the beauty and talent of Anna May Wong.













8 comments:

  1. The beautiful Anna May Wong -- such a neglected actress! One of the biggest scandals for me from golden-age Hollywood is how she didn't get the part of the wife in MGM's adaptation of The Good Earth, due to Production Code rules on 'miscegenation' between actors (among other factors) -- all because of her race, which was right for the role! One of her best roles is in Shanghai Express, in which she holds the screen against Marlene Dietrich. What would her career have been like had she chose to remain in Europe, I wonder?

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    1. There are a lot of what-ifs when we look at Anna May's career. Toll of the Sea should have launched her, all these beings equal. Piccadilly was a Best Foreign Film for the National Board of Review, and that was due to Anna May Wong. Perhaps she should have stayed in Europe.

      She is breathtaking in Shanghai Express. Her detective character in When Were You Born, 1938 should have led to a series. And O-Lan should have been her character, not Ms. Rainer's. All the what-ifs.

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  2. It’s fun to see Charles Laughton a few years before becoming a star. It’s also entertaining to see Cyril Ritchard , forever immortalized as Captain Hook in TV’s first Peter Pan. I can always recognize his distinct voice.

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    1. I had a "rub my eyes, is that him" moment the first time I saw Piccadilly. Of course, if it had been a sound movie, I would have been testing the old ear drums.

      One of my sisters and I have a mock battle over our favourite Captain Hook, she's strictly Ritchard and I'm Conried.

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    2. Well, if it was once serious I'm sure it's "mock" by now.

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  3. PORTRAIT IN BLACK(60) was the final movie of ANNA MAY WONG. The cast included LANA TURNER and LLOYD NOLAN who had both been in the movie PEYTON PLACE(57). JOHN SAXON was also in Portrait In Black. John did 5 eps of GUNSMOKE and 3 eps of BONANZA. He did some eps of FALCON CREST where he played the husband(TONY) of JULIA(ABBY DALTON) who had left during the night. When the show began he had been gone 12 years. He comes back and wants Julia to leave with him. John played the part first then ROBERT LOGGIA did one ep as Tony then they brought John back for a lot of episodes. JOHN SAXON and ROBERT LOGGIA-two very talented actors!

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    1. Anna May passed away at too young an age. Going into the decade of the 1960s I could see her becoming a big deal on television.

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