The World of Suzie Wong is set in 1960 Hong Kong and stars William Holden and newcomer actress Nancy Kwan and directed by Richard Quine.
I’m a fan of Richard Quine’s films. He directed many fine actors like Jack Lemmon, Jimmy Stewart, William Holden, Audrey Hepburn, Natalie Wood, Merle Oberon and Kim Novak, to whom he was engaged back in the 1960’s.
This film tells the story of the interracial romance between the two main characters. The character of William Holden is new to Hong Kong, a former architect who has decided to start a second career as a painter and Nancy Kwan is a “good-time” girl from the notorious Wan Chai district.
Holden was at the peak of his career when he made Suzie Wong, with an impressive list of films already under his belt, films like Sunset Boulevard, Born Yesterday, Stalag 17, Sabrina, Bridges at Toko-Ri, Love is a Many Splendoured Thing, Picnic and The Bridge on the River Kwai among them. He was an amazing dramatic actor and rugged leading man who could transition very easily to romantic and comedic roles.
The World of Suzie Wong was a best-selling novel written by Richard Mason which was adapted into a stage production in 1958 starring William Shatner and France Nguyen in the lead roles. Bond girl Tsai Chin starred in the West End production in 1959. The book was then adapted for the big screen in 1960.
No doubt the subject matter was considered controversial for the time and is still today. “The World of Suzie Wong” has largely been criticised for allegedly perpetuating the stereotypical portrayals of the meek, submissive Oriental woman. I found there was something beyond the stereotype we might have expected to see on the screen. This film does not hide the poverty and the slums, nor does it shy away from some very blunt racist discussions. It offers some important points on colonialism and exploitation.
I hate to put spoilers on these posts so you’ll have to see it if you want to know more.
Director Richard Quine did an excellent job, the acting is superb. The other star of the film is this vibrant, bustling city. Watching it is like looking into a time capsule tour of 1960 Hong Kong. Along with the brilliant film score by George Duning (Moonglow, Love Theme), the brilliant cinematography and camera of courtesy of Geoffrey Unsworth who is considered one of the greatest cinematographers of the 20th Century, you will enjoy a feast for your eyes. Mr. Unsworth is the recipient of two Oscars, five Bafta Awards, and three awards from the British Society of Cinematographers. I’ve never seen anyone else capture Hong Kong of that era like Mr. Unsworth did with this film. It was amazing how he so superbly captured the city’s beauty while showing the gloomy depths some of its inhabitants lived.