Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Toll of the Sea (1922)

The Toll of the Sea
Director: Chester M. Franklin
USA 1922
54 min

The Toll of the Sea was produced by the Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation in 1922, and was the first color film made in Hollywood. The main character, Lotus Flower, is played by Anna May Wong in her first leading role. Wong was only seventeen years old then.

The script is loosely based on Puccini's opera Madame Butterfly from 1904. To explain the plot in short, without spoiling too much, the Chinese girl Lotus Flower finds an american man, Allen Carver (Kenneth Harlan), in the water by her village. The inhabitants take care of him, and soon Allen and Lotus Flower have fallen in love.
Alas, he has to return to America and can't take Lotus Flower with him. Will he come back for her? Or will he forget her, like many other Americans have done before with their Chinese wives?

Perhaps the movie's portrayal of the traditional China is a little bit cliché, with the deep love for their flower gardens and enormous respect for the power of the sea, but it is beautiful and I love it. Apart from the romantic scenery and the sadness of the story, the film also delivers a wonderful subtle humour, often in connection to Lotus Flower's cute naivity, like her comment about "those United States":

"Christian lady at Mission tell me America fine place. Women free -- can spend all husband's money."

Anna May Wong really does a great and moving performance as the hopefull and naive Chinese girl, and it is of no surprise that she came to be the first Chinese-American movie star and flapper icon.


Anonymous said...

You can download 37 silent movies here.

Anonymous said...

A nice blog:

Lolita said...

Thanks a lot, Manuel!