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Broken Blossoms or The Yellow Man and the Girl (1919)

Not Rated | | Drama, Romance | 20 October 1919 (USA)
A frail waif, abused by her brutal boxer father in London's seedy Limehouse District, is befriended by a sensitive Chinese immigrant with tragic consequences.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Lucy - The Girl (as Miss Lillian Gish)
...
The Yellow Man (as Mr. Richard Barthelmess)
...
Arthur Howard ...
His Manager
...
Evil Eye (as Edward Peil)
...
The Spying One
Norman Selby ...
A Prizefighter
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Storyline

Cheng Huan is a missionary whose goal is to bring the teachings of peace by Buddha to the civilized Anglo-Saxons. Upon landing in England, he is quickly disillusioned by the intolerance and apathy of the country. He becomes a storekeeper of a small shop. Out his window, he sees the young Lucy Burrows. She is regularly beaten by her prizefighter father, underfed and wears ragged clothes. Even in this deplorable condition, Cheng can see that she is a priceless beauty and he falls in love with her from afar. On the day that she passes out in front of his store, he takes her in and cares for her. With nothing but love in his heart, he dresses her in silks and provides food for her. Still weak, she stays in his shop that night and all that Cheng does is watch over her. The peace and happiness that he sees last only until Battling Burrows finds out that his daughter is with a foreigner. Written by Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Release Date:

20 October 1919 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Broken Blossoms  »

Box Office

Budget:

$88,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(tinted screen)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The failure of the original copyright holder to renew the film's copyright resulted in it falling into public domain, meaning that virtually anyone could duplicate and sell a VHS/DVD copy of the film. Therefore, many of the versions of this film available on the market are either severely (and usually badly) edited and/or of extremely poor quality, having been duped from second- or third-generation (or more) copies of the film. See more »

Goofs

The intertitles state, "The Buddha says, 'What thou dost not want others to do thee, do thou not to others.'" It was actually not the Buddha but Confucius' teaching. See more »

Quotes

Missionary's Brother: My brother leaves for China tomorrow to convert the heathen.
The Yellow Man: I-I wish him luck.
See more »

Connections

Featured in La vela incantata (1982) See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Introduction to Silent Movies for those who only know Chaplin
6 July 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"In this scarlet house of sin, does he ever hear the temple bells?" Broken Blossoms is the movie I use to introduce people to silent film who only know it from Chaplin shorts or Birth of a Nation. It is one of the most sensitive movies ever made, in my opinion, and is usually overlooked in any top 100 movie listing. I fear the oversight is due to the listers not having actually seen it.

The version I have--which is now sadly out of print--is the Thames Video version with Lillian Gish's introduction. It is also the one with the original Louis Gotshalk score, pieces of which are sometimes heard on other versions, but the impact of the full orchestral Gotshalk score is overwhelming on an already exquisite film. If you have a chance to see this version, by all means do so.

In answer to a question in another posting, the movie WAS originally tinted--it was part of the "epic poetry" attempt and was quite common with a lot of Griffith work--even back to "A Corner in Wheat".

While I am an immense Gish fan, a lot has already been said about Miss Lillian in the other comments, so I will concentrate on Dick Bartlemess as Chen Huan. The quote above accompanied by his sad look as he leans against the wall of his curio shop tell it all: wrecked youthful enthusiasm--his despair only temporarily abated by the "pipe" in the Limehouse opium dens. His dreams of youth, all packed away in his garret, are only brought out when the one thing that gives him hope that is goodness amidst all the squalor stumbles into his shop.

Only after Lucy arrives can Chen Huan allow himself to dream--to return to golden days of learning, beauty and goodness and ideals. He literally places his dreams of his lost youth on the trembling body of Lucy, but it such a pristine ideal he dare not "defame" it, or it too will disappear like all his other dreams. He must observe it from afar--almost ephemeral. He knows what Hell is like (even before he was shown the booklet by the Christian Brothers). His hell is his lost heart, his lost love. "Bits and pieces of his shattered life." Almost invariably when I find someone to share the movie with me, they are amazed how well it is made and how well it's core story stands up to today. The particulars of Chinese, Cockney and London are not the point; it is a story of hope and despair, of lovers and dreamers. A mature story for a mature audience.

I often wonder if it could be made today. As open as we think we are, I wonder if the basic story could be told again. No matter--it's been told--excellently


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