Tuesday, 22 March 2011

“I just get rid of this conceited ass…”

So, let's talk about a film without so much talk: PICCADILLY by E. A. Dupont (1929).

In a nutshell:

Victor Smile (Cyril Ritchard) and Mable Greenfield (Gilda Gray) are the dancing stars of London’s Piccadilly Club. But (after several attempts to flirt with Mable) Victor quits – and Valentine Wilmot (Jameson Thomas) the nightclub’s owner (and Mable’s lover, too) hires Shosho (Anna May Wong) - an ex-dishwasher from the club’s scullery who got fired after a customer (Charles Laughton) had complained about a dirty plate – as Chinese dancer and her friend Jim (King Hou Chang) as musician. Together they cause a sensation. Valentine develops an affection to Shosho – and she is does not mind to be his girlfriend. This causes jealousy – not only Mable is furious but Jim, too. And then Shosho is found dead in her apartment by her friend Bessie (Hannah Jones) ..

Watch out for...

... a certain Welsh actor named Spike Milland who was an extra in the night-club scene. It was his debut film. He later should change his name, receive an Oscar and look like that:

~ yes, it’s Ray Milland! I like him very much – but as I noticed did not talk about him yet. ~


  • Gilda Gray was famous for her dancing of the shimmy. This was her last big role. ~ I could go on and talk about her - but if you like to I am going to do an extra post about her – just leave a comment! If you want me to make post about anyone else do the same.. ~

  • Shosho signs her contract with the characters 黃柳霜, which is actually Anna May Wong's real Chinese name Huáng Liǔshuāng.

  • The German Title is NACHTWELT which means "night-world" and is no actual German word - but it sounds great.. it's full of mystery;")

  • Cyril Ritchard is listed as Cyrill Ritchard.

  • Jameson Thomas and Anna May Wong work together again in ELSTREE CALLING (1930).

  • The nightclub band is Debroy Somers and His Band.

  • King Hou Chang is listed as "King Ho Chang". He did a total of two films. The other one was SON OF THE GODS (1930).

A nodding acquaintance:

  • You may know Jameson Thomas as King Westley in IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934) or as Mr. Semple in MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN (1936).

  • In 1960 Cyril Ritchard played Captain Hook/ Mr. Darling in TV film PETER PAN.

  • Hannah Jones worked in several films with Alfred Hitchcock such as in RICH AND STRANGE (1931) and MURDER (1930)

See the beauty in it:

The lace which Anna May Wong wears in the seduction scene (which is said to be the most sexy scene in silent films) is exquisite. All dresses are made of very beautiful fabrics – and there is a lot glittering in the air.. ;”)

But I got to admit that one of Gilda Gray’s costume looks like she had an accident with Big Bird of SESAME STREET..

Though the US-film poster implies it: Anna May Wong is not doing her dancing topless. Her dancing costume is - well - very minimalistic. ~ I saw bathing costumes made out of more fabrics. ~ And I love her pajamas and the striped sweater she is wearing!

My favourite feature:

The title and credits are set on a bus, which is quite exciting – I like these more than just simple “writing on unicoloured background”.

This is a film for fans of:

  • silent dramas

  • Anna May Wong

  • Gilda Gray

  • glitter,

  • silk,

  • silent film dancing scenes

  • pearls,

  • stockings with (heavy) runs

  • lace,

  • feathers

  • and 1920ies fashion

Quotes corner:

“I wish you wouldn’t behave like that, Victor.”

I really, really like this film. ~ My sister and I are very enthusiastic Anna May Wong fans..~

I love that every inside-shot has an amber colouring and every outside-shot a blue one, while flashbacks are coloured b/w and Anna May Wong’s dance is purple.

Charles Laughton does a quite decadent scene – he reminds me of an roman emperor or something like that.. I like him very much. He was a genius – and married to one of my favourite actresses: Elsa Lanchester.

There is also a scene which shows a black man who is thrown out of a pub just because he danced with a white girl – who (of course) gets into trouble, too– and I love how she is revolting and shouting at the people.

I can not imagine anyone with finger nails like Anna May Wong working in a scullery.. they look dangerous! And yes, there are some scenes which will made you think of Bela Lugosi as DRACULA hiding behind his cape.. ;”) Scenes like that made me think as a child: “Did people really behave like that? The early 20ies century must have been very dramatic!!” ;”)

Actually this is why I love silent films: because of the (sometimes ridiculous) drama of the acting– and I think it is very hard for a real actor not to work with his voice and at the same time to not ham it up and made a comedy of something which is supposed to be a drama. And this is why I think that Jameson Thomas is such a great actor. He is subtle. :”)

“Life goes on.”

The End? Wait and watch!

Yours (very well) and truly,
Frl. Irene


  1. I told you I was going to go back and read all these posts!!

    I've got to admit that in the recent classic actress tournament, when I saw the name Anna May Wong, I had NO IDEA who she was. I had never heard of her prior to the tournament...and now your post.

    I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that I have yet to cultivate a taste for silent films. You know I adore Gary Cooper, so I got WINGS for him alone. Imagine my surprise to put it on and discover it was a silent movie!! I turned it off after 20 minutes. Even the anticipation of my beloved Coop couldn't do it for me. Most classic film fans love the silents, so perhaps one day, I will develop an appreciation for them as well.

    In the meantime, thank you for opening my eyes as to who Anna May Wong is.

  2. Thank you very, very much, Patti, for doing as you told me.

    No problem that you're not into silent films (yet?) - most people I know have problems with them. Gary Cooper's scene in WINGS is really, really short.. But I love Roscoe Karns in that film (well.. I live him anyway..)

    And: You're welcome. Glad that you now know a bit more about her.

    Thanks again for reading this post - and showing that you did so via leaving a comment! I am very, very grateful for that, Patti!


I really appreciate your comments - I'll read them all and if I can think of an answer I'll post it. :")