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The star attraction of the Piccadilly Club is the dancing team of Mabel and Vic. Victor is infatuated with Mabel, but she rejects his advances, since she is in love with Valentine Wilmot, the club's owner. One night, as Mabel and Vic perform their act, there is a disruption caused by a customer who is unhappy about a dirty plate. When Wilmot goes back to the kitchen to investigate, he finds several employees in the scullery watching Shosho, one of the dishwashers, dancing on a table. That night, Wilmot fires both Shosho and Victor. But the club's sagging fortunes soon lead him to re-evaluate Shosho's talent.Written by
Interesting Blend of Elements, & A Dazzling Performance By Anna May Wong
With a very interesting blend of elements including a convincing Jazz Age setting, effective expressionist-style photography, and a tight story filled with human passion, "Piccadilly" would make for interesting viewing in itself. But it is Anna May Wong's dazzling performance that stands out, even above everything else in the movie.
Set in the "Piccadilly" night club, the story ostensibly stars Jameson Thomas as the club owner, and Gilda Gray as one of the club's star dancers. But it's Wong's character who drives most of the story, and indeed, as soon as Wong comes on screen, it quickly becomes hard to pay much attention to the other characters, except insofar as they interact with her and her plans. The rest of the cast is solid, and there's nothing to criticize about their performances, but they cannot compete with Wong.
What makes Wong's performance so stunning is not only her obvious allure, but also the way in which she plays the role. She communicates a great deal about her character's thoughts and feelings by the most economical and well-chosen of gestures and movements, and by so doing she makes her dominance over the other characters quite convincing. Her little smirks can be devastating, and her subtle encouragements can be nearly overwhelming.
The story is told with good style, making very effective use of lighting and settings to complement the fluid cinematography. The opening sequence is well-conceived, both in pulling the viewer into the world of the characters, and in setting up the story. This part also includes a brief appearance by Charles Laughton in an amusing role.
From there, things build up steadily to a melodramatic, twist-filled final 10 minutes or so. The climactic series of events is made more effective by the careful build-up, and by the way that Wong has made Shosho such a vivid and believable character, one who is more than capable of creating strong feelings in the other characters. It all makes "Piccadilly" well worth seeing.
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