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A Hong Kong streetwalker tries modeling and falls for the artist who''s painting her.
When American Robert Lomax boards the ferry to Hong Kong, where he is going to start a new life as an artist, he sketches a striking Chinese woman. At first the young woman spurns his advances but she soon warms to him, telling him that her name is Mee Ling and that her father is wealthy. When the ferry lands, Robert attempts to follow Mee Ling but loses her in the crowd. He then proceeds to the Wanchai district, despite a policeman's warning that it is impoverished and disreputable. Robert is charmed by the bustling street life, however, and soon sees Mee Ling exiting the Nam Kok Hotel. When he inquires inside, the hotel owner, Ah Tong, replies that he does not know any Mee Ling, but responds excitedly to Robert's request to rent a room. Unknown to Robert, the hotel is the working quarters for prostitutes, known as "Wanchai girls," who solicit sailors and businessmen in the adjoining bar. Robert then wanders into the bar, where he sees Mee Ling, now dressed in a revealing dress, and Gwenny Lee, a Wanchai girl with whom Robert is chatting, reveals that the woman is actually Suzie Wong, the bar's most popular girl. When Robert approaches Suzie, she declares that she has never met him, even when he shows her the sketch he drew of her. Suzie finally admits that he is right, however, telling Robert that she likes to pretend that she is someone else. Suzie asks Robert if he wants her to be his "permanent girl friend," but Robert responds that he cannot afford her, despite his attraction to her. The next day, Robert calls on British banker O'Neill, to whom he explains that he grew tired of working as an architect and decided to fulfill his dream of being an artist. Robert has saved enough money to last for one year, and concedes that if he cannot achieve success, he will resign himself to architecture. While dictating letters of introduction for him, O'Neill introduces Robert to his daughter Kay, who is impressed by Robert's determination. Soon after, at the bar, Suzie propositions Ben Marlowe, an English businessman drinking to forget his marital woes. Robert admires Suzie's exuberant dancing, and later, unable to stop thinking about her, sends for her. Suzie tells her friends, Gwenny Lee, Minnie Ho and Wednesday Lu, that she will be Robert's girl, but learns that he wants her to model for him instead. Suzie is outraged and tells him that she will "lose face" with her friends because she is not attractive enough to seduce him. Robert insists, however, and after an evening of painting, escorts Suzie to a fancy restaurant. There, Suzie reveals that she is illiterate and that she became a prostitute after being abandoned at the age of ten. When they return to the hotel, Suzie confesses that she has feelings for him, but as Robert is about to kiss her, a sailor, looking for another girl, knocks on the door. Reminded of who Suzie is, Robert tells her to leave, but as the days pass, continues to use her as his muse. One evening, while a jealous Suzie insists on remaining in his room, Robert attends a dinner hosted by the O'Neills. Several of the racist guests deride Robert's enthusiasm for Chinese culture, but Robert refuses to accept their snobbery. Robert then takes Kay to his room to see his paintings and is embarrassed to find Suzie on the bed. After Kay departs, Robert orders Suzie out, but as she descends the staircase, she is beaten by a sailor whom she had spurned. Enraged, Robert trounces the sailor. Later, Robert takes Suzie to a floating restaurant, where they run into Ben and Kay. Upset when Robert agrees to show Kay his paintings again, Suzie talks Ben into taking her home. At the hotel, Kay is moved by Robert's work and volunteers to sponsor it in London. Robert agrees, but his mood sours when Suzie does not come to model the following day. When Suzie does show up, she provokes another argument with Robert about their relationship. Ben interrupts them to ask Suzie to become his mistress, and because she and Robert are still quarreling, Suzie accepts. As time passes, Suzie boasts about Ben's devotion, even claiming that he intends to divorce his wife and marry her. One afternoon, when Suzie arrives wearing westernized clothes, Robert tears them off, telling her that she looks like a "cheap European streetwalker." Ben summons Robert to his club soon after to tell him that he is returning to his wife, and persuades him to break the news to Suzie. Although Robert tells her gently, Suzie sobs, repeating her tale that she has a wealthy father and is not "a dirty street girl." Unable to stop himself, Robert takes Suzie in his arms and asks her to stay with him. Soon the couple is living together in the hotel, with Robert painting more enthusiastically than ever. He begins to grow curious, however, about Suzie's daily absences, and one morning, follows her up a hillside path to a small house, where he finds her holding a baby who she declares is hers. Explaining that the baby, named Winston after Winston Churchill, was fathered by a government official who did not want him, Suzie begs Robert not to send her away, and Robert embraces the child. His new family depletes his savings, however, and after both Kay and Suzie offer him money, he decides to give up painting and asks O'Neill to find him a job. When he informs Suzie, she offers to return to work, telling him that it is only like holding someone to dance. Horrified, Robert throws her out, although he quickly regrets his actions and spends days searching for her. One night, when he returns to his room, Kay is waiting to tell him that one of his paintings sold in London. Robert reveals that he has lost Suzie, but Kay, misunderstanding, assures him he can find another model. When Robert proclaims his love for Suzie, Kay counsels him to seek advice from her father, but she instead pressures O'Neill to help her win Robert for herself. Although O'Neill protests that association with Suzie would ruin him, Robert asserts that he would gladly marry her. After he leaves Kay's, Robert finds Suzie waiting for him outside the Nam Kok. Relieved when Robert embraces her, Suzie pleads with him to help her find Winston and explains that due to the heavy rains, many hillside houses have been demolished. Robert and Suzie force their way up the hill, only to discover that Winston has been killed in a landslide. Later, in a temple ceremony, Suzie's friends help her burn paper symbols, such as books and a toy rickshaw, enabling them to reach Winston in the afterlife and enrich his existence there. Suzie asks Robert to participate by writing a letter of introduction recommending Winston for a good job when he grows up. After he burns the letter, Robert asks Suzie to marry him, and they then leave the temple together.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||World premiere in New York: 10 Nov 1960; Great Britian opening: 14 Dec 1960; Los Angeles opening: 16 Dec 1960|
|Release Date:||1961||Production Date:||
[VistaVision Motion Picture High-Fidelity]
A Ray Stark Production
EB; AFI*; AFI-DVD
|Color/B&W:||Color (Technicolor)||Distributions Co:||Paramount Pictures Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||World Enterprises, Inc., Worldfilm, Ltd., Paramount British Pictures, Ltd.|
|Duration(mins):||126 or 129-130||Country:||Great Britain and United States|
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