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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' who meet in the bar downstairs. Since he never picks up any of ladies, they all want to know more about him. Eventually he does hire one to model for him, but soon falls in love. But, since he's on a limited budget, he can't afford her exclusively, and doesn't want to 'share' her. Written by
Brian W Martz <B.Martz@Genie.com>
When Robert Lomax (Holden) begins to strip the European clothes off Suzy Wong (Kwan), her hair is piled smartly up under her cap and can be seen to remain that way. However, when Lomax goes to pull the cap off her head, Suzy's long tresses are fully down and covering her back. See more »
If I were a prizefighter, and I kept getting my brains knocked out, I'd be foolish if I didn't quit.
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This is a "guy" romance, and it is oh, so romantic!
Today there are many "chick flicks." The World of Suzie Wong is the quintessential "romance for guys."
There are two parallel themes in this film: 1) the "Pygmalion" theme, which was old when George Bernard Shaw's play first appeared in 1913. Pygmalion, in classical legend, was the king of Cyprus who fell in love with his own sculpture. Hence the theme of beginning with a raw material (in this case a woman of no great position or education) and to some degree transforming her into she whom you might adore.
Some may object to this theme carrying racist overtones, but in my view the reverse is true. The very fact that in this type of romantic union the protagonists are of unequal social position means that the man is attracted to the woman because of her human qualities, not because of any advantage she can provide to him in terms of social status or wealth. In fact, a man who loves such a woman is often looked down upon socially, which is present in this story. The object of Robert Lomax's love is Susie Wong for who she is as a woman and how she makes him feel, and he gladly, even cynically disregards the disparagements of those who do not approve.
2) Theme number two is the enchantment of the East. This is magic stuff for those so smitten, and once smitten, these is no cure. In this way, this wonderful story (novel and film) is understated. It is barely believable that Lomax's attraction to Suzie would start from nothing and grow so slowly to compelling strength. This mixture of desire and fascination is more likely to stormily seize a man's heart, but "Robert meets Suzie-falls crazy in love-marries Suzie" would make for a ten-minute film, and that just wouldn't do, would it?
It's also an interesting commentary on the film makers of the fifties that when they wanted to tell the story of interracial romance they had to attenuate the effect. Both Nancy Kwan and France Nguyen (in South Pacific) were of mixed parentage.
When a guy with Quixotic romantic notions (which Lomax clearly has, or he would not be in Hong Kong trying to paint professionally) beholds the lovlieness of a Nancy Kwan in those subtle, but oh, so sexy silk dresses (cheongsam in Cantonese, Qipao [shee pow] in Mandarin), he sees a vision of feminine loveliness he thought could only exist in the Platonic realm of the form. He sees perfection. He is enchanted. There is no cure save to have this woman for his own or death. This enchantment your humble correspondent knows first-hand, and therefore connects deeply with Robert and Suzie.
The World of Suzie Wong is so very romantic, and the themes explored here are enduring. I love the novel -- I love the film. I can't imagine anyone but William Holden playing Lomax. This role belongs to he.
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