AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Limehouse Blues
Alternate Title: East End Chant
Director: Alexander Hall (Dir)
Release Date:   9 Nov 1934
Duration (in mins):   63 or 65-66
Duration (in feet):   5,916
Duration (in reels):   7
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Cast:   George Raft (Harry Young)  
    Jean Parker (Toni [Talbot])  
    Anna May Wong (Tu Tuan)  
    Kent Taylor (Eric Benton)  
    Montagu Love (Pug Talbot)  
    Billy Bevan (Herb)  
    Robert Loraine (Inspector Sheridan)  
    John Rogers (Smokey)  
    E. Alyn Warren (Ching Lee)  
    Wyndham Standing (Commissioner Kenyon)  
    Louis Vincenot (Rhama)  
    Forrester Harvey (McDonald)  
    Robert Adair (Alfred)  
    Keith Kenneth (Policeman in Pug's house)  
    Colin Kenny (Davis)  
    Eric Blore (Slummer)  
    Desmond Roberts (Constable)  
    Tempe Pigott (Maggie)  
    Colin Tapley (Man fighting with wife)  
    Rita Carlisle (His wife)  
    Eily Malyon (Woman who finds Pug)  
    Elsie Prescott (Woman employment agent)  
    Joe May (Taxi driver)  
    Otto Yamaoka (Chinese waiter on boat)  
    Dora Mayfield (Flower woman)  
    Angelo Bianchi (Street organist)  
    Joe Glick    

Summary: On London's Limehouse Causeway, a riverfront slum, Chinese-American Harry Young runs a smuggling business out of his club, The Lily Gardens. In his short time on Limehouse, Harry has overtaken all of ruffian Pug Talbot's business. Pug takes his anger out on his beautiful daughter Toni, whom he has reared as a pickpocket. After Harry saves Toni from arrest, she develops a fondness for him. Pug tries to foil one of Harry's pick-ups by alerting the police, but Toni warns Harry and he evades the law. When Harry finds out later that Pug beat Toni for helping him, he vows revenge. Harry sends Herb, his right-hand man, to make an appointment to meet with Pug. Pug accepts the key to Harry's apartment, unaware that he is being set up. When Pug arrives for his meeting, he is stabbed to death, and his body is left in the alley. After her father's death, Toni agrees to be Harry's "watchdog," in exchange for room and board. Harry's jealous Chinese lover, Tu Tuan, knows that Harry is in love with Toni and warns him that the "white girl" cannot give him what he wants. To protect Toni from Tu Tuan, Harry fires her, but gives her an allowance. In Piccadilly, Toni meets Eric Benton, who owns a pet shop, and after spending many afternoons together, they fall in love. Toni does not want to accept Harry's charity, but he prevents her from getting a job so he will not lose her. Tu Tuan warns Harry that Toni is in love with someone else and, after deriding him for being in love with a white woman, leaves him. Toni finally confesses her sordid background to Eric and abandons him, but he finds the Lily Gardens and makes an appointment with Harry, who gives him the infamous key. That night, Harry takes Toni with him on his pick-up at Ching Lee's ship, unaware that Tu Tuan informed on him to the police and then killed herself. Harry realizes Toni's deep love for Eric when she becomes hysterical upon discovering his murder plans. Willing to sacrifice his own happiness for hers, Harry leaves Ching Lee's to try and stop the killing. He is chased by the police and shot, but arrives in time to save Eric. Harry clears Toni's name before he dies, leaving Toni and Eric to return to the West End to find happiness together. 

Production Company: Paramount Productions, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Paramount Productions, Inc.  
Director: Alexander Hall (Dir)
  William Shea (2d unit dir)
Producer: Adolph Zukor (Pres)
  Arthur Hornblow Jr. (Prod)
  Emanuel Cohen (Exec prod)
Writer: Cyril Hume (Scr)
  Arthur Phillips (Scr)
  Arthur Phillips (Orig story)
  Philip MacDonald (Contr to trmt)
  Idwal Jones (Contr to trmt)
  Grover Jones (Contr to scr const)
Photography: Harry Fischbeck (Photog)
Art Direction: Hans Dreier (Art dir)
  Robert Usher (Art dir)
Film Editor: William Shea (Ed)
Make Up: Wally Westmore (Makeup)
Stand In: Lillian Kilgannon (Stand-in for Jean Parker)
Country: United States

Songs: "Limehouse Nights," music and lyrics by Sam Coslow.
Composer: Sam Coslow

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Paramount Productions, Inc. 9/11/1934 dd/mm/yyyy LP5089 Yes

PCA NO: 300
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Noiseless Recording

 
Genre: Romance
Sub-Genre: Crime
 
Subjects (Major): Chinese Americans
  Cultural conflict
  London (England)
  Murder
  Self-sacrifice
  Smuggling
  Unrequited love
 
Subjects (Minor): Battered children
  Confession
  Dismissal (Employment)
  Fathers and daughters
  Gunshot wounds
  Informers
  Jealousy
  Nightclubs
  Pet shops
  Pickpockets
  Police inspectors
  Prayer
  Moral reformation
  Revenge
  Romance
  Sailors
  Salvation Army
  Slums
  Suicide

Note: The working title of the film was Limehouse Nights . According to a DV news item, Sylvia Sidney was originally cast to play "Toni," but upon her refusal, Heather Angel was tested for the role. M-G-M loaned Jean Parker for this film. DV news items also note that scenes filmed at San Pedro Harbor, CA, were directed by William Shea; and, that when retakes required the presence of Anna May Wong in Oct 1934, the studio recorded her speaking her lines over the telephone from New York. The pressbook for this film gives Grover Jones a screenplay credit. While most contemporary sources credit Hans Dreier and Robert Usher, one source credits Dreier and Roland Anderson with the art direction. The pressbook credits importer and actor Tom Gubbins as providing the Oriental artwork appearing in the film. An early script in the Paramount script files at the AMPAS Library dated 20 Aug 1934 lists James Wing playing the character of "Ching Lee." The film was later released as East End Chant

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   15 Aug 34   p. 1
Daily Variety   21 Aug 34   p. 2.
Daily Variety   15 Sep 34   p. 2.
Daily Variety   11 Oct 34   p. 1.
Film Daily   11 Dec 34   p. 6.
Motion Picture Herald   22 Dec 34   p. 35, 38
New York Times   12 Dec 34   p. 28.
Variety   18 Dec 34   p. 13.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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