Tonight at the Castro Theatre the Silent Film Festival presents Piccadilly at 9:15.
After years of being typecast in Hollywood, Anna May Wong left for Europe in search of better roles. In British director E.A. Dupont’s proto-noir Piccadilly, Wong is mesmerizing. Mark Duguld of the British Film Institute writes, “For all its style and grace, the film’s strongest suit is Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong. Wong appeared in four other British films, and is best known today as support to Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express (US, d. Josef von Sternberg, 1932), but she was arguably never better used than here. As Shosho, the scullery maid who becomes a dance sensation and an object of desire for impresario Valentine (Jameson Thomas), she displays the cold ambition and manipulative sexuality of the classic femme fatale, while revealing—just occasionally—the vulnerability of a young girl.
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Shosho’s exoticism gives her an alarming sexual power over the men who watch her dance—‘I danced once before in Limehouse but there was trouble, men, knives…,’ she tells the transfixed Valentine, in a title which prefigures the narrative’s tragic end. To Wong’s frustration, Shosho and Valentine’s kiss was cut to appease the US censor.”
The cast includes: Gilda Gray (from Rose-Marie), Jameson Thomas (from Chu-Chin-Chow), Cyril Ritchard (from Peter Pan), King Hou Chang (from Son of the Gods), and Charles Laughton (from The Barretts of Wimpole Street).