Newest Reviews
Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
Windom's Way
True Don Quixote, The
Mitchells vs. the Machines, The
Dora and the Lost City of Gold
Unholy, The
How to Deter a Robber
Offering, The
Enola Holmes
Big Calamity, The
Man Under Table
Freedom Fields
Boy Behind the Door, The
Swords of the Space Ark
I Still See You
Most Beautiful Boy in the World, The
Luz: The Flower of Evil
Human Voice, The
Guns Akimbo
Being a Human Person
Giants and Toys
Millionaires Express
Bringing Up Baby
World to Come, The
Air Conditioner
Fear and Loathing in Aspen
Riders of Justice
Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki, The
For Those Who Think Young
Justice League: War
Fuzzy Pink Nightgown, The
Scooby-Doo! Moon Monster Madness
Night of the Sharks
Werewolves Within
Newest Articles
Truth Kills: Blow Out on Blu-ray
A Monument to All the Bullshit in the World: 1970s Disaster Movies
Take Care with Peanuts: Interview with Melissa Menta (SVP of Marketing)
Silent is Golden: Futtocks End... and Other Short Stories on Blu-ray
Winner on Losers: West 11 on Blu-ray
Freewheelin' - Bob Dylan: Odds and Ends on Digital
Never Sleep: The Night of the Hunter on Blu-ray
Sherlock vs Ripper: Murder by Decree on Blu-ray
That Ol' Black Magic: Encounter of the Spooky Kind on Blu-ray
She's Evil! She's Brilliant! Basic Instinct on Blu-ray
Hong Kong Dreamin': World of Wong Kar Wai on Blu-ray
Buckle Your Swash: The Devil-Ship Pirates on Blu-ray
Way of the Exploding Fist: One Armed Boxer on Blu-ray
A Lot of Growing Up to Do: Fast Times at Ridgemont High on Blu-ray
Oh My Godard: Masculin Feminin on Blu-ray
Let Us Play: Play for Today Volume 2 on Blu-ray
Before The Matrix, There was Johnny Mnemonic: on Digital
More Than Mad Science: Karloff at Columbia on Blu-ray
Indian Summer: The Darjeeling Limited on Blu-ray
3 from 1950s Hollyweird: Dr. T, Mankind and Plan 9
Meiko Kaji's Girl Gangs: Stray Cat Rock on Arrow
Having a Wild Weekend: Catch Us If You Can on Blu-ray
The Drifters: Star Lucie Bourdeu Interview
Meiko Kaji Behind Bars: Female Prisoner Scorpion on Arrow
The Horror of the Soviets: Viy on Blu-ray
  Piccadilly China Girl
Year: 1929
Director: E.A. Dupont
Stars: Gilda Gray, Anna May Wong, Jameson Thomas, Cyril Ritchard, King Hou Chang, Hannah Jones, Gordon Begg, Harry Terry
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The big draw at the Piccadilly Club is the dancing duo of Mabel (Gilda Gray) and Victor (Cyril Ritchard), who take to the ballroom floor for a display of hoofing the likes of which London in the Roaring Twenties has never seen. But what the public do not know is the couple's working relationship is not as sunny as it appears, indeed Victor is in love with Mabel, but she brushes him off and prefers the club owner Valentine Wilmot (Jameson Thomas) who she is partly in love with, and partly looking to boost her career by association with him. Yet she has reckoned without Shosho (Anna May Wong) in the scullery...

Anna May Wong was the first Chinese American to become a movie star across the world, and as such has attracted a fascination ever since, as much for the chances she missed due to racism as for the opportunities she did enjoy. She could not be a "conventional" leading lady in Hollywood, that was, a white star, since the Code of production forbade her enjoying romantic scenes with any actor except a similarly Chinese one; they would call it miscegenation if she did, and that was as good as illegal and would have ruined her career. At least in Piccadilly she was allowed to be romanced by a white man, but even so there were caveats.

She was not allowed to kiss him, for instance, and since she and the Wilmot character were obviously having a terrific time together, the morals of the day decreed their affair should end tragically. Therefore audiences were given the thrill of a woman of Asian descent who was obviously beautiful and prompted to imagine what it would be like to fall in love with her, then asked to enjoy her punishment for stoking such ardour. At least director E.A. Dupont included a scene where a random white woman is thrown out of a pub for dancing with a black man, thereby acknowledging the prejudices of the times were suffered by many.

Before it all went pear-shaped for Shosho and Wilmot, he has placed her as the jewel in the crown of his nightclub show, though interestingly on her own terms: she knows what is best for her and refuses to compromise. Though it was sweet to see her delight at getting good reviews in the newspaper for her dance act: she was not quite the dragon lady stereotype she could have been and what Wong was trying to escape from by seeking work outside of the restrictive Hollywood establishment. Nevertheless, those more bigoted views against the Chinese that had been exacerbated since Victorian times were not entirely absent, and this would have been a more satisfying experience with a happy ending.

Actually, none of the three leads had happy endings in real life, all dying prematurely in their fifties. Thomas probably had the best of it, moving to Hollywood and playing a few cads before succumbing to tuberculosis, while Gray was a Polish American cabaret dancer credited with inventing the shimmy (which she does here!). She dearly wished to be a movie star, and this was her best shot, only to find herself outshone by the allure of Anna May Wong. As for Anna May, she suffered a troubled personal life with a string of affairs and a tendency towards alcoholism as a result. As one of the earliest, true cult movie stars her fans to this day will tell you she deserved better, and it's impossible to disagree, as all the acclaim in the world was not much use to her after she died. But you can see her at her best here, acting everyone else off the screen, and making you wonder what she could have achieved in more enlightened times. Look out also in Piccadilly for Charles Laughton as a revolting diner!

[The BFI release this on Blu-ray with the following features:

Remastered by the BFI National Archive and presented in High Definition
Talk of the Town (2021): an in-depth interview with film critic, author and filmmaker Jasper Sharp on the life and career of Anna May Wong
Piccadilly: A Video Essay (2021): a newly recorded video essay by BFI curator and silent film expert Bryony Dixon
Cosmopolitan London (1924, 10 mins)
Neil Brand on composing for Piccadilly (2004, 20 mins): the acclaimed composer discusses his score for the film
Prologue from the sound version of the film (5 mins)
Newly commissioned sleeve art by David Downton
**FIRST PRESSING ONLY** Fully illustrated booklet with new writing on the film by BFI curator Bryony Dixon and an essay on the score by Neil Brand.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


This review has been viewed 237 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Andrew Pragasam
Darren Jones
Enoch Sneed
  Desbris M
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt
  Sdfadf Rtfgsdf


Last Updated: