Reviewed byKatieVote: 7/10/10
AT LONG LAST I saw The World of Suzie Wong at my school library today. Youjust have to see it to believe it. It is a shame that it takes an outsider(Hollywood) to capture the exotic beauty of the old-time Hong Kong. (WithLove Is a Many-splendored Thing as the forerunner) I have never seen HongKong photographed in a flattering yet realistic light. Nancy Kwan ignitesthe screen with such charm and grace which Asian actresses seriously lacktoday. All through the film I smile whenever I see her. I love herchemistrywith William Holden..yet another favorite of mine...Hong Kong is blessed tobe immortalized by this exquisite romance.
Reviewed bywoolrich2-1Vote: 6/10/10
American William Holden, as former architect turned struggling artist,Robert Lomax, a cynic who's "pushing forty," arrives in 1960 Hong Kongto make a valiant effort for his art. He's never been there and has noidea what to expect. On the ferry boat to Kowloon, he has a sort ofaltercation with the very young & attractive Nancy Kwan, who claims tobe named "Mei Li," a very proper young lady about to enter into anarranged marriage set up by her wealthy father. Shortly beforereluctantly introducing herself, she also almost manages to have Robertarrested by claiming he's a purse snatcher, which, judging from hermirthful expression, she does for the sheer entertainment value of thesituation.
Robert, completely lost and not particularly wealthy, soon makes hisway to the Wan Chai district, and, in his naivete as American abroad,fails to realize he's entered the main prostitution district in thecity. His journey to the seedy hotel where he sets up shop as artistwould be one of the highlights of the film: Robert's amazement andconfusion at the bustling, vibrant city that has become his new homecome across nicely. In many ways, the brilliant cinematography andcamera work turn the city of Hong Kong itself into the unacknowledgedthird star of the film. However, it's a very different Hong Kong thannow: very much a British colonial post, and, in segments of theneighborhoods, almost a Third World city.
Unfortunately, once Robert reaches the hotel, the movie loses muchrealism, and we've plainly entered a 1950's Hollywood set version ofHong Kong, complete with cartoonish prostitutes and Brit sailors onleave. It turns out that prim-and-proper Mei Li's none other than "verypopular" Wan Chai "girl" Suzie Wong. There are some very dated scenesthat follow, although actress Jacqui Chan's charming in an off kilterway as bar girl Gwennie Lee. Nancy Kwan vamps and spouts much pidginEnglish and says "for goodness' sake" about 500 times in a row.Fortunately, Robert, Suzie, and the camera eventually hit the streetsof actual Hong Kong again.
Then, something odd happens with this film, bit by bit. The moviefocuses more and more on Robert and Suzie as a couple, and, bit by bit,Suzie becomes less of a stereotypical bar girl and more and more of ahuman being who behaves unexpectedly. It turns out that she hasdeveloped a persona for herself, a very manipulative, successful one,that's given her an edge in a very harsh city for abandoned youngwomen. She has an active fantasy life, that's enabled her to separateherself psychologically from the more sordid aspects of what she's donein order to survive. Robert too, becomes less and less Joe Gillis, Jr.(for those of you who've seen Holden in SUNSET BLVD. from a decadeearlier), a one-note, crabby cynic with a paternalistic attitudetowards Suzie, and more and more a human being who's in love. He showsthis most plainly when he finds out that Suzie has an infant son, andRobert accepts little Winston affectionately as his own. In a complexway, Suzie, and also little Winston, act as muses for Robert, and hisown art becomes more inspired and interesting because of them. Suziealso benefits from her love for Robert and shows some real emotion forhim rather than her usual play acting.
This is where I find the movie interesting, as it depicts, much morerealistically than one might expect in 1960, the dimensions of abiracial, bicultural couple's life together. Although Robert has madecontact with the British elite in the city and needs them for patronagefor his art, he's never really comfortable with them or theirpatronizing, mildly racist way of observing the Chinese. Kay O'Neill(actress Sylvia Syms), the daughter of a well-placed British banker,falls for Robert, but he doesn't really feel any emotion for her as hedoes for Suzie. Of course, she can't believe Robert would really preferSuzie to her. When he announces he's thinking of marrying Suzie, Kay'sfather says that, of course, he could never hire someone in thosecircumstances. The rest of the Brits more talk around Suzie than to herwhenever she's present. Likewise, most of the Chinese, while politewith Robert, don't know quite what to make of him, either, and he seemsto do better either with Suzie as intermediary or because her friendshelp him along. It's obvious too that sometimes cultural miscues causeSuzie and Robert to misunderstand one another. This leads to thebeginning of the climax of the film, which is somewhat tragic.
No doubt, this has been a controversial film. In the past, manyAsian-American studies professors seemed to grow livid at the mentionof it. This was supposed to be the ne plus ultra (or maybe the nadir,instead) for stereotypical portrayals of all Asian women as submissivelittle China doll characters or bar girls. There is some of that there(although much less than in most other 1950's-early 1960's Americanfilms), but, as I'd noted, the interesting thing's how the stereotypeturns out to be a fake, something created for the advantage (if that'sthe word) of the heroine for relating to foreigners. It's alsointeresting how the genuine romance, one based on a sort of mutualrespect between Robert and Suzie, becomes more important. Mostinteresting of all's the portrayal (that mostly rings true) of abiracial, bicultural romance between two human beings. As someoneinvolved in such a relationship for many years, I found myself givingthe film an extra star for this "rightness" alone.
Plus, if nothing else, this movie's a terrific time capsule/travelogueof Hong Kong, as it was never so brilliantly captured elsewhere onscreen in that era.
Reviewed byHerag HalliVote: 10/10/10
If there was one beautiful face on the screen that mesmerized me in1960--it was Nancy Kwan as Suzie Wong in "The World of Suzie Wong".Forty five years later, I bought the DVD and I treasure this movie asmuch as I did in 1960. This was the time when Stars were Stars andbeauty was not skin deep. Nancy Kwan stole the scenes from her"Permeanent boy friend, Lobert!" (Chinese version of Robert!). WilliamHolden who was at the peak of his career at that time gave a subtle butmemorable perf. There is more romance in this movie than "Casablanca"and "Sound of Music" combined. The location is beautifully captured,with background music embellishing the landscape. This was produced byRay Stark and masterfully directed by Richard Quine. This was whenHollywood was the glamor capitol of the world and artistry and talenttook higher billing. This movie is an attestation to the fact, that-youmake good movies, people will see them no matter what, when and where.The movie was a visual treat, with an old fashioned romance and aninnate beauty that the newer movies will never capture. "To who it mayconcern," Why can't Hollywood make more movie's like this?-"ForGoodness Sake"!!!.
Robert Lomax, tired of working in an office, wants to be an artist. So he moves to Hong Kong to try his hand at painting. Finding a cheap hotel, he checks in, only to find it's used by prostitutes and their "dates" they meet in the bar downstairs. Since he never picks up any of the ladies, they all want to know more about him. Eventually, he does hire one to model for him... and soon falls in love. However, since he's on a limited budget, he can't afford her exclusively, but doesn't want to "share" her with anyone else.