Oliver's mother, a penniless outcast, died giving birth to him. As a young boy Oliver is brought up in a workhouse, later apprenticed to an uncaring undertaker, and eventually is taken in ... See full summary »
James A. Marcus,
Raised by his grandfather to adhere to the ancient laws of China, Mandarin Wu is a strict authoritarian. However, he is a doting father to his beautiful daughter Nang Ping. Nang Ping is to be married to a man of her father's choosing, a man she does not even know. But she falls in love with a dashing British visitor to China, Basil Gregory. Basil informs Nang Ping that he must return to Britain with his family, but she surprises him with the revelation that she carries his child. Wu learns of his daughter's dishonor and lets the ancient laws of China lead him relentlessly toward tragedy. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
No, not a great silent film, but nearly so and still an absorbing and entertaining 90 minutes in which to wallow in yet another great Lon Chaney performance. And with some high MGM production values, I almost wished some of Cedric Gibbons' garden scenes could have been shot in Technicolor, although the b&w nitrate print is pristine and atmospheric.
Simple tale expertly unfolded: Honourable Mandarin Mr. Wu's beautiful daughter Nang Ping falls in love with heavily made up Englishman Ralph Forbes with the usual tragic biological consequences. Worthy of University dissertations is the portrayal of both East and West as hamstrung by racist social customs and conventions, real and fictional. It persists today: some people are simultaneously hamstrung by the fact that miscegenation can be frowned upon in certain backward quarters but paradoxically also that a member of one race can act the part of another on film and stage. Mr. Wu is shown to be the then usual Chinese stereotype with inscrutable savagery masked with a veneer of (Western) inculcated civilisation, but a real Chinese would have had to have played it the same as Chaney: it was merely the custom after all. And the whites were also shown to be usual Western stereotypes in a foreign country with condescension and arrogance mixed with ingenuousness. Anna May Wong is here in another good role as sidekick to the unfortunate heroine, whilst Holmes Herbert had a few patronising scenes and never looked older. The climax to the affair is striking - if remade today I'd expect a somewhat different conclusion to mull over!
All in all well worth watching for enlightened silent melodrama fans.
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