This unrealistic soap opera has Holden playing an American architect who decides to spend a year in Hong Kong trying to become a painter. He meets Kwan, who tells Holden that she is a wealthy heiress, innocent in the ways of the world. Holden is naturally surprised when he walks into a bar
and finds Kwan drinking with sailors. She pretends not to recognize him, but eventually the truth comes out. Kwan is a prostitute, and offers to become Holden's "steady girl friend." Holden will have nothing to do with this offer, and instead uses Kwan as a model. Kwan then repeats her offer to
playboy Wilding, who accepts with alacrity. Holden meets Syms, the daughter of an English banker. She helps Holden sell his work and wants to marry him. However, Holden's relationship with Kwan is more than she can bear, so Syms breaks off with him. Kwan, in the meantime, has been dumped by
playboy Wilding and continues to walk the streets. Holden realizes his feelings for her, and becomes her lover. After she disappears for many hours, Holden learns that Kwan has a baby whom she has kept secret. With Holden's money running out, Kwan suggests to Holden that she go back to
prostitution. Holden throws her out, then later discovers her baby was killed in a landslide. Holden finds Kwan giving her dead child a traditional Chinese funeral and proposes marriage to her as the story ends.
THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG is rife with problems. Quine's direction is too slow, dragging out scenes well beyond their dramatic potency. The script is pockmarked with a variety of implausible situations and unbelievable circumstances. The portrait of Hong Kong's prostitutes is grossly sugar-coated,
showing none of the hardships, disease, and death that are everyday facts of life. On the plus side is Unsworth's fine photography, which captures Hong Kong's lively atmosphere. Holden is tolerable in the lead, though he looks too old for the part. Kwan, despite the simplicity of her character, is
surprisingly natural. Her role was to have been taken by France Nuyen, who originated the part on Broadway. Reportedly, Nuyen was distressed at reports from California that her lover, Marlon Brando, was carrying on with another woman, and drowning her sorrows in food, the actress gained so much
weight that she was fired from the part. Kwan, who had played the role in road companies of the play, was then hired as a replacement. Direction was begun by Jean Negulesco, who also was dismissed from production. Quine, who had known Holden at Columbia, and briefly worked with producer Stark on
an early version of FUNNY GIRL, was hired almost immediately to take over.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: This unrealistic soap opera has Holden playing an American architect who decides to spend a year in Hong Kong trying to become a painter. He meets Kwan, who tells Holden that she is a wealthy heiress, innocent in the ways of the world. Holden is naturally… (more)