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

Not Rated  |   |  Drama, Romance  |  20 October 1919 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 6,798 users  
Reviews: 77 user | 64 critic

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


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 <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Drama | Romance


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Parents Guide:




Release Date:

20 October 1919 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Broken Blossoms  »

Box Office


$88,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


(tinted screen)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Cheng Huan is so saintly because D.W. Griffith knew there was a lot of Sinophobia in the US, and audiences would have trouble accepting a Chinese hero. In the original short story, Cheng Huan is just a guy who joined the Chinese merchant marines when he got into debt, grew tired of shipboard life and ended up in Limehouse, a multi-cultural port district in the poor section of London. He was never a Buddhist missionary or a pacifist, and fell just short of being a statutory rapist (albeit, he really loved Lucy); another part of rehabilitating his character was to change Lucy's age from 12 to 16. The audience is not supposed to think they had a sexual relationship, but if people played that out in their heads, it wasn't illegal (unless it was under US miscegenation laws, but Griffith kept the London setting). Anyway, it wasn't child-rape. In the original story, the only way in Cheng Huan he is morally superior to anyone else is his ahead-of-its-time compassion for Lucy. Griffith's personal copy of "Limehouse Nights", the book with the short story "The Chink and the Child"--on which this film is based--with all his screen writing marginal notes, still exists, in a rare book collection at the Lilly Library on the campus of Indiana University, along with a manuscript copy of the story by the author, with comments by Griffith and Lillian Gish. See more »


During the boxing scene, when the two fighters enter the ring; Battling is wearing his robe in one shot, and in the next shot it is off. See more »


Lucy Burrows: Don't do it, Daddy! You'll hit me once too often - and then they'll - they'll hang yer!
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Featured in 100 Years at the Movies (1994) See more »

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User Reviews

The best of all Griffith films
29 December 2002 | by (Sun Prairie, WI) – See all my reviews

Many people believe the best Griffith film is "Intolerance"; some stand by "Way Down East" and still others believe in "Birth of a Nation" despite all its problems. However, I think "Broken Blossoms" is the Griffith film which stands the test of time and still rings true today, over 83 years from its debut.

"Broken Blossoms" is the story of two wounded, abused, seemingly hopeless individuals who find comfort and strength in one another. The Chinaman (played by Richard Barthelmess) and little Lucy Burrows (played by Lillian Gish) are as different as night is to day, however they complement each other and give each other what the other needs; Lucy gives the Chinaman respect as a human being, he in turn gives Lucy affection and love.

What happens to the two souls is, in my opinion, one of the most heartbreaking turn of events ever filmed. The brutal treatment of Lucy by her father and the ultimate sadness of the Chinaman at the end of the film always reduce me to tears.

Those who believe that silent movies are inferior to today's craft really needs to see "Broken Blossoms" and open their hearts and minds to a world that is beyond beauty and beyond pain.

36 of 46 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Is this the best silent movie ever? Chaves7777
Was Cheng Huan a rapist? peterpanlovesitalianbeef
A very beautiful -and sad- story FranLovesBetteD
Evil Eye: The Worst Villian ever nicecity
The first silent film I have ever watched! leedunlop82

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