Daughter of Shanghai, 1937, Robert Florey (Foto: Cinémathèque Suisse)

Double Feature

Phantom of Chinatown (1941)

Studio: Monogram; Regie: Phil Rosen; Drehbuch: George Waggner, Ralph Gilbert Bettison, Hugh Wiley; Kamera: Fred Jackman Jr.; Musik: Edward J. Kay; Darsteller: Keye Luke, Lotus Long, Grant Withers, Charles Miller, Huntley Gordon, Virginia Carpenter, John Dilson. 16mm (von 35mm), sw, 61 min*

Daughter of Shanghai (1937)

Studio: Paramount; Regie: Robert Florey; Drehbuch: Gladys Unger, Garnett Weston, William Hurlbut; Kamera: Charles Edgar Schoenbaum; Darsteller: Anna May Wong, Charles Bickford, Buster Crabbe, Cecil Cunningham, J. Carrol Naish, Anthony Quinn, John Patterson. 35mm, sw, 63 min**
 
Als Antwort auf die Charlie Chan-Filme von Centfox erfand Monogram den chinesischen Meisterdetektiv Mr. Wong, der fünfmal von Boris Karloff gespielt wurde. Im letzten Wong-Film Phantom of Chinatown übernahm der talentierte chinesisch-amerikanische Schauspieler Keye Luke die Rolle: Das progressivste Werk der asiatischen Detektivfilme beginnt mit offener Kritik am ethnographischen Blick eines Expeditionsfilms, den ein Professor kurz vor seinem Tod präsentiert. Daughter of Shanghai zählt zu den faszinierendsten Hollywoodfilmen der chinesisch-amerikanischen Aktrice Anna May Wong und zeigt das Potenzial des B-Films als Alternativraum auf, der die herrschenden Studioregeln umgehen kann. In diesem Fall etwa Casting-Konventionen durch die Paarung von Wong mit dem koreanisch-amerikanischen Schauspieler Philip Ahn: Ein Schmugglerring soll enttarnt werden, der chinesische Immigrant/innen schikaniert. Dass solche rassistischen Übergriffe auch abseits der Kriminalität vorkommen, schwingt dabei als Subtext mit. (H. G.)
 
*Print courtesy of Harvard Film Archive
**Preserved by Library of Congress


Aus dem Katalog zur Retrospektive:

In response to 20th-Century Fox's eminently popular Charlie Chan, Monogram invented the depreciatory Chinese master sleuth Mr. Wong, played for five films by the versatile Boris Karloff. The last of the Mr. Wong series broke radically from the formula by replacing Karloff with the talented Keye Luke, the Chinese-American actor locked into the role of Chan's "Number Two" son but now freed to solve an enigmatic crime of his own – the murder of his college mentor, a prominent archaeologist killed while lecturing about his controversial discovery of a legendary ancient Chinese tomb. Arguably the most progressive of the many Asian detective films popular throughout the B-era, Phantom of Chinatown begins with a remarkable critique of the ethnographic gaze shown in the expedition footage presented by the professor just before his death, as if to underscore the film's refreshing casting of Asian-American actors as protagonists. Joining forces with Luke is Japanese-American actress Lotus Long as a patriotic secret Chinese agent assigned to recover the precious scroll pillaged from the sacred tomb. Eccentric comic accents liven the pace and sharpen the film's sly parody of racial stereotyping, best expressed in the ludicrous fortune cookie dialogue deadpanned by Luke as he weaves his way through the Chinatown underworld. (Haden Guest)

Among the most fascinating and exciting Hollywood films starring path-breaking Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong is Daughter of Shanghai, a revelation of the B-film's potential to challenge dominant rules of studio-era Hollywood. In this case we find casting conventions overturned with Wong as a vengeful daughter paired with Korean-American actor Philip Ahn as a federal agent and joined together in a mission to uncover a vicious human smuggling ring victimizing Chinese immigrants. French émigré filmmaker Robert Florey was good friends with both Wong and Ahn, and worked hard to secure them sympathetic and more fully dimensional roles for non-white stars than was typical in the 1930s. Although shot on an accelerated schedule with a minimal budget, Florey's signature stylistic flair and outspokenness is everywhere apparent in Daughter of Shanghai most especially in its pointed critique of the injustices regularly suffered by Asian-Americans, including the racist stereotypes the film so clearly rejects. (Haden Guest)

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