Directed by Jean de Limur • 1929 • United States
Starring Jeanne Eagels, Reginald Owen, Herbert Marshall
Introduction: This film has been programmed as part of the series Hollywood Chinese, a survey on the history of Chinese representation in American cinema, curated by filmmaker Arthur Dong. He notes: “Stereotypes and racist slurs appear throughout this early Paramount sound film, but it’s Lady Tsen Mei, a vaudeville singer of mixed Chinese, white and Black heritage, who stands out as she challenges presumptuous contempt for the Chinese.” For further context, we recommend watching Mr. Dong’s series introduction and his documentary HOLLYWOOD CHINESE, now playing on the Channel.
Legendary stage actor Jeanne Eagels made the last of her rare screen appearances before her tragic death in this early sound adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s play (later remade as a vehicle for Bette Davis). Eagels received a posthumous Academy Award nomination for her electrifying performance as the bored, restless wife of a rubber-plantation owner (Reginald Owen) in Southeast Asia whose affair with another man (Herbert Marshall) turns deadly when she discovers that he has taken a Chinese mistress (pioneering Asian American actress Lady Tsen Mei).