Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, August 22, 2022


 If JohnWayne can play Ghengis Khan then surely Edward G. Robinson can play Chinese hatcher man Wong Low Get and Loretta Young can play the lovely Chinese maiden Sun Tya San.

Welcome back to the good (?) ol' days when Caucasians regularly played orientals in the films.

In this one at lest, Robinson does a fantastic job with his character nd turns in one top-notch performnce.

Wong Low Get is a hatchet man (executioner) for a tong in Chinatown who is tasked with killing his best friend and blood brother Sun Yat Ming (J. Carroll Naish, who, despite his Irish ancestry,  later played Charlie Chan, as well as a host of Italian and Native American characters).   Sun, in a surprising show of friendship, not only forgives Wong, but bequeaths him all of his earthly possessions, including his six-year-old daughter San, whom he pledges to Wong as a wife.  Wong swears before Buddha that San will know only happiness.

Time passes.  Wong becomes more powerful in the tong and San grows up and marries him.  San, as noted above is played by a 19-year-old Loretta Young, who also does a great acting job.  Another tong was draws Wong out of retirement.  San falls in love with a neer-do-well bodyguard, Harry En Hai (played by Englishman Leslie Fenton).  Wong returns from the tong was to discover his wife's affair.  Rather than kill the two of them, he charges Harry with San's happiness.  Wong renounces his vilent ways and because of this is banished from the tong.  San and Harry det deportd to China whre Harry is charged with dealing in opium.  Harry sells San to a brothel owner.  Wong discovers this and, no completely broke, works his way to China as a stoker of a steamship, determined to make Harry pay for betraying the lovely San.

The ending of the film is a classic.

The film also features Charles Middleton of Ming the Merciless fame as "Lip Hop Fat."  Also note that Robinson's then-wife Gladys Lloyd has an uncredited part as "Fan Yi."

Directed by William A. Wellman from a script by J. Grubb Alexander and based on a play, The Honorable Mr. Wong, by Achmed Abdullah and David Belasco.  Abdullah ws a popular adventure and thriller writer who scripted The Thief of Bagdad and The Lives of a Bengal Lancer; Belacos was a noted playwright whose plays The Girl of the Golden West and Madame Butterfly were made into operas by Giacomo Puccini (Belasco was also the person who gave Mary Pickford her stage name); Alexander has 98 credits on IMDb, including Moby Dick (1930 version), Svengali, and The Sea Wolf.  Wellma directed many classic films over his career, including Wings (the firt film to win an Academy Award), The Public Enemy, A Star Is Born, The Ox-Bow Incident, Story of G.I. Joe, and The High and the Mighty.

It should also be noted that, throughout the film, music director used vriations of the popular 1916 song "Poor Butterfly," which was inspired by Puccini's opera based on Belasco's play.

Also, I have a strong feeling that 'The Honorable Mt. Wong" was based on a short story by Achmed Abdullah that I once read in one of Abdullah's short story collections, probably under a different title.  Since I can't pinpoint the story this may just be one of my senior moments.

In any event, this is a film well worth your time.  Enjoy.

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