Daughter of the Dragon (1931)

Anna May Wong, Warner Oland, Sessue Hayakawa, Bramwell Fletcher,
Princess Ling Moy, a young and beautiful Chinese aristocrat lives next door, unbeknownst to her, to Dr. Fu Manchu, a brilliant but twisted genius who is out to rule the world. She is involved with Ah Kee, a handsome young man, who...
  • 5.8 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Monte M. Katterjohn, Sax Rohmer, Sidney Buchman, Jane Storm, Writer:
  • Lloyd Corrigan, Director:
  • Producer:


7 / 10

A Good Afternoon Film

This film continues the saga of Fu Manchu, whose wife and son were killed by a member of the Petrie family. After killing two of the four males in the family, he was not seen or heard of for 20 years and presumed dead. He returns, kills Sir John Petrie, but is shot before he could kill the last one. Anna May Wong plays exotic dancer Ling Moy who finds out Fu Manchu is her father and vows to kill the last member of the Petrie family. The film goes from there, as you see whether the revenge will be carried out. This film is a bit campy and very dramatic but it boasts the talents of two major Asian actors in the early years of cinema. Sessue Hayakawa plays officer Ah Kee, and you may remember him for his Oscar winning work in "The Bridge On The River Kwai" decades later. He was a star before this film also. Anna May Wong was an accomplished actress and later stage performer in China and Europe, even though she was born in the United States. An uncommonly beautiful lady, every film I've seen her in is worth watching. So is this one, its a good drama. It is actually not 79 minutes, the version I watched is 69 minutes. Its a good afternoon film, moving along at a good pace. The cable television station TCM recently did a tribute to Asian actors and featured Mr. Hayakawa and Ms. Wong. If they decide to repeat any of their films, they are all good. You can enjoy this one also.

4 / 10

reasonably diverting exotica

This Grade B film offers a rare opportunity to see the underused Anna May Wong in a lead role as a noted Chinese dancer on tour in London who also happens to be the daughter of the sinister Fu Manchu. Playing a Chinese detective is the Japanese actor Sessue Hayakawa no less. One can see why Hayakawa would have been a successful silent film actor with his elegant physical presence and one can simultaneously hear why he didn't cut the mustard in talkies - the accent is so thick that one must strain to understand him. He never improved. Even in late films such as THREE CAME HOME and THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI the accent blunted the power of his performances to some extent. Warner Oland, the Swedish actor best known for playing Charlie Chan, is Fu Manchu. Finally, we also get a chance to see the fine actor Bramwell Fletcher in a rather substantial role as one of Fu Manchu's intended victims. He is probably best known as the archaeologist who screams so memorably well in THE MUMMY when the monster approaches him in a tomb. Otherwise, this film is just a passable crime melodrama with some colorful exotic touches of costuming and decor. Editing and continuity are noticeably clumsy. Wong makes a spectacular entrance dressed in a sparkling Chinese goddess gown with a huge Ziegfeld-style headdress. If this were a silent it would be worth watching just to look at her in an array of flattering outfits from scene to scene. Her emoting is as good as one could expect from the comic book-level material she is given. She had a beautiful, somewhat deep speaking voice similar to that of Claudette Colbert with just the slightest trace of an accent, making it all the more enchanting to the ear. Judged on its own terms, DAUGHTER OF THE DRAGON is a reasonably diverting suspense offering with some real excitement in the final reel as the bad guys fight it out with the heroes as well as a beautiful and romantic closing shot which I won't give away.

6 / 10

Early talkie, primitive but sometimes effective.

Early talkie bears no resemblance to the book on which it is supposedly based. Wong is lovely, rest of cast wooden in tale of Fu Manchu's daughter carrying out her father's vengeance. Early Hayakawa is interesting. Several scenes, especially last ten minutes, still pack a punch, such as Hayakawa's sacrificing himself to warn others. Oland, as Fu, shows opposite of later casting as Charlie Chan.

7 / 10

The Best of Paramount's Fu Manchu series

The third and final (and arguably the best) Paramount talkie with Warner Oland as Fu Manchu. Featuring Anna May Wong as the titular daughter (of Fu), an incredibly young Sessue Hayakawa as an investigator and Bramwell Fletcher as the type of effete, useless "hero" so popular in early 30's films. Fletcher may be best remembered as the young Egyptian explorer who inadvertently brought Boris Karloff back to life in "The Mummy" and was driven mad for his efforts. Anna May Wong is beautiful and gives a fine performance in this somewhat stagey film which has her seeking vengeance on Fu's mortal enemies, the Petrie family. Oland is killed off in the first reel and Wong pretty much carries the film. My "B" movie meter: 7* out of 10

3 / 10

It's a long way to Piccadilly, a long way to go

Recently I saw Anna May Wong in Piccadilly, a stylish silent melodrama made in England in 1929. It has its flaws, but over all it struck me as quite interesting and unusual, and it did provide its fascinating star with a role she could sink her teeth into. Anna May Wong was virtually the only Chinese-American leading lady of her era, gorgeous in an unconventional way, with a magnetism rivaling that of Louise Brooks. I was eager to see more of her work, and knew that she'd made several silent films in Hollywood during the '20s and a number of talkies there in the '30s, after she'd returned from Europe.

One of Anna May's first vehicles upon her return to the U.S. was Daughter of the Dragon, which was also one of the first screen adaptations of a Fu Manchu story from Sax Rohmer's long-running series of books. Unfortunately, while Piccadilly exhibited the best technical qualities of the late silent era, including first-rate cinematography, fluid camera movement, and smooth editing, this film exhibits some of the weakest traits of early talkies: the dialog is awkward, the editing rhythm is lethargic, and the acting (with a couple of exceptions) is theatrical in the worst sense of the word. There are sporadic attempts by the director to infuse the movie with striking visuals, such as silhouettes cast on screens or quirky camera angles, but for the most part the presentation is as flat and dull as a school play. Aside from rare bursts of action we find ourselves staring at actors who strike attitudes and declaim purple prose against the harsh crackle of the soundtrack, with no background music to help smooth over the rough spots.

Anna May Wong's charisma is intact, but the material she was given to deliver in Daughter of the Dragon puts her dignity to a severe test. I never expected Political Correctness from a Fu Manchu movie, but it was nonetheless disheartening to observe the Yellow Peril stereotypes on parade here. Sinister Orientals spy on enemies through panels in the wall, and gongs are struck at key moments as Dr. Fu Manchu intones such lines as: "My flower daughter, the knife would wither your petal fingers." Fans of the Charlie Chan series might be surprised to find Warner Oland playing Fu, very much the opposite of his more benign Asian portrayals. Legendary Japanese actor Sessue Hayakawa is on hand as a Chinese detective working for Scotland Yard, thus providing a positive Asian role model to balance the villainy of the others, but even in his case it's made clear in an early scene that he's a "special worker," not an official member of the force.

Hayakawa manages to retain his dignity in the midst of this hokum, and so does Anna May Wong, but the waste of these two extraordinary actors is frustrating to witness. This movie is as silly as the toy dragon breathing fire under the opening credits, and perhaps it can be enjoyed as such, but if you care about these actors as human beings it leaves a depressing aftertaste. One last thought: what's the deal with sinister Asians spying on people through sliding panels in the wall? What's up with that? I mean, did you ever see an old movie where sinister Lithuanians, Greeks or Eskimos spy on people through sliding panels? Oh well, I guess it's just one of those inscrutable mysteries of the Hollywood Orient.