Sessue Hayakawa & Anna May Wong Movies + Doris Day & Sophia Loren

by Andre Soares

Sessue Hayakawa on Turner Classic Movies

Sessue HayakawaTuesday, June 3, highlights on Turner Classic Movies:

TCM continues with the not-to-be-missed “Asian Images in Film” series, with several silents and a couple of early talkies featuring East Asian characters.

The Cheat is an overwrought melodrama that is a must-see simply because it stars Sessue Hayakawa (right), the first (and only?) Hollywood-made East Asian superstar. Hayakawa is fine as a wealthy – and very kinky – Easterner who teaches a white woman, played by stage star Fannie Ward, who is the master. (Without Hayakawa, the 1931 remake starring Tallulah Bankhead is all but unwatchable.) Later that evening, TCM will also show the 1919 Hayakawa vehicle The Dragon Painter, which I haven't seen.

Mr. Wu is another over-the-top melodrama, this time featuring Lon Chaney as one more kinky and vengeful East Asian aristocrat, while The Mask of Fu Manchu is a politically incorrect hoot, what with slanted-eyed Boris Karloff and Myrna Loy wreaking more vengeful and kinky havoc on poor white folk. No that Lewis Stone, Charles Starrett, and especially Karen Morley didn't deserve it.

Now, a kind and unkinky member of the “yellow race” (that's how they're referred to in those films) can be found in the person of white-race member Richard Barthelmess in D.W. Griffith's sentimental but touching Broken Blossoms. Barthelmess is superb as the young Chinese immigrant who'll sacrifice it all for the sake of Lillian Gish's suffering maiden, while Danish-born Nils Asther is quite good as the Chinese general who discovers in The Bitter Tea of General Yen that loving a white woman (Barbara Stanwyck) is dangerous business.

Several B-grade John Derek (photo, below right) flicks are hardly what I'd call highlights, but they may be worth a look, while The Big Boodle merits mention if only because it was one of Errol Flynn's last films.

Schedule (Pacific Time) and synopses from the TCM website:

1:00am [Western] Fighting Kentuckian, The (1949)
A militiaman falls for a Frenchwoman and tries to protect her people from land grabbers.
Cast: John Wayne, Vera Ralston, Oliver Hardy. Dir.: George Waggner. Black and white. 100 mins

2:41am [Short Film] Short Film: One Reel Wonders: Glimpses Of Kentucky (1941)
C-8 mins

3:00am Family Secret, The (1951)
When his son accidentally kills someone, a lawyer must defend the man wrongly charged with the murder.
Cast: John Derek, Lee J. Cobb, Jody Lawrance. Dir.: Henry Levin. Black and white. 85 mins

4:35am [Short Film] Short Film: One Reel Wonders: Roaming Through Arizona (1944)
This “Traveltalk” explores about the history, land, people, and culture of Arizona.
Cast: James A. Fitzpatrick C-9 mins

4:45am Mask of the Avenger (1951)
When his father is murdered, an Italian nobleman becomes an outlaw to avenge the crime.
Cast: John Derek, Anthony Quinn, Jody Lawrance. Dir.: Phil Karlson. Color. 83 mins

6:15am [Western] Ambush at Tomahawk Gap (1953)
Ex-cons searching for buried loot are interrupted by an Indian attack.
Cast: John Hodiak, John Derek, David Brian. Dir.: Fred Sears. Color. 73 mins

7:30am [War] Mission Over Korea (1953)
A rookie pilot in the Korean War wants to avenge his brother's death.
Cast: William Chun, John Derek, Richard Erdman. Dir.: Fred Sears. Black and white. 85 mins

9:00am Prince of Pirates (1953)
A prince fights to free his people from his older brother's oppressive rule.
Cast: John Derek, Barbara Rush, Carla Balenda. Dir.: Sidney Salkow. Color. 80 mins

10:30am [Western] War Paint (1953)
Bloodthirsty renegades try to stop a Cavalry lieutenant from delivering a peace treaty to a powerful Indian chief.
Cast: Robert Stack, Joan Taylor, Peter Graves. Dir.: Lesley Selander. Color. 85 mins

12:00pm Rebellion of the Hanged, The (1954)
The miserable conditions at a mahogany camp in the Mexican jungle lead the workers to revolt.
Cast: Pedro Armendariz, Carlos Moctezuma, Victor Junco. Dir.: Alfredo Crevenna. Black and white. 82 mins

1:30pm Big Boodle, The (1957)
Tough guy fights Cuban gangsters and counterfeiters.
Cast: Errol Flynn, Pedro Armendariz, Rossana Rory. Dir.: Richard Wilson. Black and white. 84 mins

3:00pm [Western] Star Packer, The (1934)
A U.S. Marshall takes on the job of defeating a mysterious criminal.
Cast: John Wayne, Verna Hillie, George 'Gabby' Hayes. Dir.: Robert N. Bradbury. Black and white. 55 mins

4:00pm Slanted Screen, The (2006)

5:00pm [Silent] Cheat, The (1915)
In this silent film, a society woman makes a costly bargian to pay off her debts.
Cast: Sessue Hayakawa, Fannie Ward, Jack Dean. Dir.: Cecil B. DeMille. Color. 59 mins

6:15pm [Silent] Broken Blossoms (1919)
In this silent film, an Asian man in London falls in love with an abused child.
Cast: Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Donald Crisp. Dir.: D.W. Griffith. Black and white. 89 mins

8:00pm [Silent] Dragon Painter, The (1919)
An artist obsesses over a beautiful woman he believes has been turned into a dragon.
Cast: Sessue Hayakawa, Toyo Fujita, Edward Peil, Sr. Dir.: William Worthington. Black and white. 53 mins

9:00pm [Silent] Mr. Wu (1927)
In this silent film, a Chinese patriarch goes mad when his daughter falls for an Englishman.
Cast: Lon Chaney, Louise Dresser, Anna May Wong. Dir.: William Nigh. Black and white. 91 mins

10:45pm [Romance] Bitter Tea of General Yen, The (1932)
An American missionary falls in love with a Chinese warlord.
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Nils Asther, Walter Connolly. Dir.: Frank Capra. Black and white. 87 mins

12:19am [Short Film] Short Film: One Reel Wonders: Goofy Movies #10 (1934)
BW-10 mins

12:30am [Horror/Science-Fiction] Mask Of Fu Manchu, The (1932)
A Chinese warlord threatens explorers in search of the key to global power.
Cast: Boris Karloff, Lewis Stone, Myrna Loy. Dir.: Charles Brabin. Black and white. 68 mins

Sophia Loren Movies: Mixed Bag

Wednesday, June 4, highlights on Turner Classic Movies:

There's quite a bit to recommend:

The thriller Targets was one of Peter Bogdanovich's first and one of Boris Karloff's last movies; The Won't Forget deals with bigotry in the American south after Lana Turner gets bumped off, purportedly at the hands of a Jewish businessman; and Mary Stevens, M.D. is a pre-Coder starring the stunning-looking Kay Francis.

Sabotage / A Woman Alone is a British-made Alfred Hitchcock curiosity involving terrorism and spies; the film noir In a Lonely Place gave Gloria Grahame (top photo, with Humphrey Bogart) one of her first (and few) leads; and George Stevens' The Talk of the Town is one of the cleverest comedies of the 1940s, providing Ronald Colman and Jean Arthur with some of the best comedic opportunities of their careers.

The Sophia Loren films are a mixed bag, but the light comedy Too Bad She's Bad is worth watching if only to see Loren, playing a shameless thief, before she became an international star. The Italian title, Peccato che sia una canaglia, literally translates as “What a Sin That She's a Crook.”

Schedule (Pacific Time) and synopses from the TCM website:

1:45am Targets (1968)
An aging horror star and a psychotic veteran come face to face at the premiere of the star's most recent film.
Cast: Tim O'Kelly, Boris Karloff, Peter Bogdanovich. Dir.: Peter Bogdanovich. Color. 90 mins. Letterbox.

3:30am [Documentary] MGM Parade Show #7 (1955)
Ray Bolger performs in a clip from “The Great Ziegfeld”; Debbie Reynolds introduces a clip from “The Tender Trap.” Hosted by George Murphy. Black and white. 26 min.

4:00am They Won't Forget (1937)
Bigotry flares when a Jewish businessman is accused of killing a small-town girl in the South.
Cast: Claude Rains, Gloria Dickson, Allyn Joslyn. Dir.: Mervyn LeRoy. Black and white. 95 min.

5:45am Mary Stevens, M.D. (1933)
A woman doctor decides to have a baby without benefit of marriage.
Cast: Kay Francis, Lyle Talbot, Glenda Farrell. Dir.: Lloyd Bacon. Black and white. 72 min.

7:00am In a Lonely Place (1950)
An aspiring actress begins to suspect that her temperamental boyfriend is a murderer.
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy. Dir.: Nicholas Ray. Black and white. 93 min.

8:35am [Short Film] Short Film: One Reel Wonders: Chimp, The (1932)
A jealous husband thinks two tenants sneaking a pet chimp into their apartment are carrying on with his wife.
Cast: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Billy Gilbert. Dir.: James Parrott. Black and white. 25 mins

9:00am [Suspense/Mystery] Sabotage (1936)
An unhappily married woman discovers her husband is an enemy agent.
Cast: Sylvia Sidney, Oscar Homolka, John Loder. Dir.: Alfred Hitchcock. Black and white. 77 min.

10:23am [Short Film] Short Film: From The Vaults: Action On The Beach (1964)
BW-6 mins

10:30am [Musical] Muscle Beach Party (1964)
The beach gang goes head-to-head with the bodybuilders of a new gym that's interfering with their strip on the sand.
Cast: Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Luciana Paluzzi. Dir.: William Asher. Color. 95 mins. Letterbox.

12:11pm [Short Film] Short Film: From The Vaults: Sky Divers, The (1969)
C-15 mins

12:30pm Producers, The (1968)
A Broadway producer decides to get rich by creating the biggest flop of his career.
Cast: Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Kenneth Mars. Dir.: Mel Brooks. Color. 90 mins. Letterbox.

2:00pm [Documentary] Role Model: Gene Wilder (2008)
Gene Wilder sits down with Alec Baldwin for an intimate conversation about Wilder's extensive career.
BW-59 mins. Letterbox.

3:00pm Talk Of The Town, The (1942)
An escaped political prisoner and a stuffy law professor vie for the hand of a spirited schoolteacher.
Cast: Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Ronald Colman. Dir.: George Stevens. Black and white. 117 min.

5:00pm Too Bad She's Bad (1954)
A taxi driver falls in love with the young thief who helped steal his cab.
Cast: Vittorio De Sica, Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni. Dir.: Alessandro Blasetti. Black and white. 95 mins. Letterbox.

6:45pm [Romance] Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (above, 1963)
Three tales of very different women using their sexuality as a means to getting what they want.
Cast: Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni, Aldo Giuffre. Dir.: Vittorio De Sica. Color. 114 mins. Letterbox.

9:00pm Millionairess, The (1961)
When the world's richest woman falls for an ascetic Indian doctor, they plan a test to decide whose dreams will come true.
Cast: Sophia Loren, Peter Sellers, Alastair Sim. Dir.: Anthony Asquith. Color. 86 mins. Letterbox.

10:37pm [Short Film] Short Film: One Reel Wonders: Visiting Italy (1951)
A moving postcard of Italy showing Rome, Assisi, Florence, plus many other stunning sights.
C-7 mins

10:45pm It Started In Naples (1960)
An American lawyer trying to settle his brother's affairs in Italy falls for one of the man's in-laws.
Cast: Clark Gable, Sophia Loren, Vittorio de Sica. Dir.: Melville Shavelson. Color. 100 mins. Letterbox.

12:30am Lady L (1965)
A beautiful laundress rises through European society.
Cast: Sophia Loren, Paul Newman, David Niven. Dir.: Peter Ustinov. Color. 109 min.

Sessue Hayakawa, Anna May Wong in Daughter of the Dragon

Doris Day and Anna May Wong on Turner Classic Movies

Thursday, June 5, highlights on Turner Classic Movies:

Love Me or Leave Me is a competent biopic, with Doris Day giving a capable performance as torch singer Ruth Etting, while Johnny Belinda is an underrated psychological drama – one that features a then scandalous rape scene – that boasts an excellent star turn by Jane Wyman, who deservedly won a best actress Oscar. (Not that Irene Dunne in I Remember Mama didn't deserve an Oscar as well.)

Based on Leon Uris' novel about the founding of the state of Israel and adapted by blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, Exodus is quite probably Otto Preminger's worst movie. It's worth a look solely for the – unintentionally funny – scene in which Sal Mineo explains that concentration camp guards had used him as one uses a woman! That's how bad it is.

The Anna May Wong films are a must, if only because, well, Anna May Wong is in them. She's actually quite good as a mysterious train rider in the highly stylized melodrama Shanghai Express, just about stealing the show from fellow train rider and classy prostitute Marlene Dietrich.

Wong is a capable villainess in Daughter of the Dragon, but the film is nothing more than a historical curiosity as it provided Sessue Hayakawa with one of his few roles in Hollywood talkies. As for The Toll of the Sea, it is an early two-strip Technicolor drama about an interracial romance, while Old San Francisco offers a good earthquake sequence and Dolores Costello's loveliness.

More information on Wong can be found at the Anna May Wong Society.

The Daughter of the Dragon image found in this article was restored by the Anna May Wong Society.

Schedule (Pacific Time) and synopses from the TCM website:

2:20am [Short Film] Short Film: From The Vaults: Madame - Sophia Loren (Trailer) (1961)
C-2 mins

2:30am [Romance] C'era una Volta (1967)
A prince falls for a peasant girl in a fairy tale kingdom.
Cast: Sophia Loren, Omar Sharif, Dolores Del Rio. Dir.: Francesco Rosi. Color. 103 mins. Letterbox.

4:15am Ghosts - Italian Style (1969)
An unemployed opera singer and his wife find jobs as caretakers in a haunted castle.
Cast: Sophia Loren, Vittorio Gassman, Francesco Tensi. Dir.: Renato Castellani. Color. 93 min.

5:49am [Short Film] Short Film: From The Vaults: Italy's In Season (1967)
C-7 mins

6:15am Union Station (1950)
A secretary gets caught up in the hunt for kidnappers.
Cast: William Holden, Nancy Olson, Barry Fitzgerald. Dir.: Rudolph Mate. Black and white. 81 min.

7:45am [Musical] Love Me Or Leave Me (1955)
True story of torch singer Ruth Etting's struggle to escape the gangster who made her a star.
Cast: Doris Day, James Cagney, Cameron Mitchell. Dir.: Charles Vidor. Color. 122 mins. Letterbox.

10:00am Johnny Belinda (1948)
A small-town doctor helps a deaf-mute farm girl learn to communicate.
Cast: Jane Wyman, Lew Ayres, Agnes Moorehead. Dir.: Jean Negulesco. Black and white. 102 min.

11:44am [Short Film] Short Film: One Reel Wonders: Don Redman And His Orchestra (1934)
BW-10 mins

12:00pm Exodus (1960)
A young Israeli activist fights to set up a homeland for his people.
Cast: Paul Newman, Eva Marie Saint, Sal Mineo. Dir.: Otto Preminger. Color. 208 mins. Letterbox.

3:30pm [Short] Festival of Shorts #24 (2000)
TCM promotes two MGM comedy shorts produced by Peter Smith: Menu (1933) and Penny Wisdom (1937).
C-22 min.

4:00pm [Documentary] Anna May Wong-Frosted Yellow Willows: Her Life, Times and Legend (2008)
A documentary on the life and career of pioneering Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong.
C-50 mins

5:00pm [Silent] Toll of the Sea, The (1922)
An American sailor marries then deserts the Chinese beauty who had saved his life.
Cast: Anna May Wong, Kenneth Harlan, Beatrice Bentley. Dir.: Chester M. Franklin. Color. 55 min.

6:00pm [Silent] Old San Francisco (1927)
In this silent film, an Asian villain menaces a family of aristocratic Spanish settlers.
Cast: Dolores Costello, Warner Oland, Anna May Wong. Dir.: Alan Crosland. Black and white. 89 min.

7:45pm [Silent] Piccadilly (1929)
In this silent film, the dancers at a London nightclub get wrapped up in jealousy and murder.
Cast: Gilda Gray, Jameson Thomas, Anna May Wong. Dir.: E.A. Dupont. Black and white. 109 min.

9:45pm Daughter of the Dragon (1931)
A Chinese princess gets caught between the ruthless warlord Fu Manchu and a handsome secret agent.
Cast: Anna May Wong, Warner Oland, Sessue Hayakawa. Dir.: Lloyd Corrigan. Black and white. 70 mins

11:00pm [Romance] Shanghai Express (1932)
A beautiful temptress re-kindles an old romance while trying to escape her past during a tension-packed train journey.
Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook, Anna May Wong. Dir.: Josef von Sternberg. Black and white. 82 min.

12:30am [Documentary] Anna May Wong-Frosted Yellow Willows: Her Life, Times and Legend (2008)
A documentary on the life and career of pioneering Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong.
C-50 mins

1:30am Study in Scarlet, A (1933)
Sherlock Holmes is called in to solve the case when secret society members start dropping like flies.
Cast: Reginald Owen, Anna May Wong, June Clyde. Dir.: Edwin L. Marin. Black and white. 72 min.

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2 comments

Giuseppe Paolo Mazzarello, M.D. -

Third tale of 'Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow'(1963): Rusconi is a guy who howls in front of Mara engaged with her strip-tease. Before he howls, his businessman dad has already howled to him on the phone to corrupt a politician. Two men very busy enjoying strip-teases.

Reply
Anthony Chan -

Anthony B. Chan has written the best and ultimate biography, Perpetually Cool: The Many Lives of Anna May Wong, 1905-1961 (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2003, 2007).

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