Cast & Crew
Anna May Wong
J. Carrol Naish
Lan Ying Lin's father, an importer of Oriental antiques, is murdered by smugglers after he refuses to help them smuggle illegal aliens into San Francisco. Detective Kim Lee is assigned to the case and meets with Lan Ying and family friend Mrs. Mary Hunt the night of the murder. Lan Ying is distrustful of the policeman's ability to solve the case and decides to crack the smuggling ring herself. Because her father thought that a man named Otto Hartman living in the Central American town of Port O'Juan, is the head of the smugglers, Lan Ying travels there. After some investigation, Lan Ying locates Hartman and hires on at his nightclub as a dancer. She finds his business ledger and discovers that he is not the chief of the smugglers after all. Kim Lee also comes to Port O'Juan after working undercover for the captain of the smugglers' ship Jenny Hawk . He meets Hartman through the captain and recognizes Lan Ying in the club, where they manage to speak privately. She reveals the location of Hartman's ledger and agrees to sneak aboard the ship dressed as a man. Hartman finds Kim Lee with the book and they struggle, until one of the refugees shoots Hartman, which allows Kim Lee to board the ship with no problems. After they set sail, one of the immigrants discovers Lan Ying is a woman, and they all attack her. Kim Lee comes to her aid, but he is knocked unconscious and drops the ledger. The captain finds it and suspects Kim Lee and Lan Ying of being spies. When the smugglers' seaplane meets the ship, they tie up the couple and put them over the plane's bomb doors. The smugglers open the doors as they are flying over the ocean, but Kim Lee and Lan Ying cling to the inside, and they swim ashore when the plane eventually lands. Kim Lee and Lan Ying stumble upon Mrs. Hunt's estate and discover that she is the head of the smuggling ring. She holds them captive, but Kim Lee is able to phone the Federal police, and he escapes with the help of Kelly, Mrs. Hunt's honest chauffeur. After a gunfight between the smugglers and the police, Mrs. Hunt and her cohorts are arrested. Kim Lee proposes marriage to Lan Ying, and she accepts.
Anna May Wong
J. Carrol Naish
Guy Bates Post
Ching Wah Lee
Mrs. Wong Wing
Layne Tom Jr.
Carmen La Roux
Andre P. Marsaudon
Paula De Cardo
A. E. Freudeman
Edward T. Lowe
Daughter of Shanghai
The smuggling of foreigners is on the rise and when Quan Lin (Lee Ching-Wah), a shop owner, refuses to cooperate with area thugs in this 'business venture,' he and his daughter Lan Ying (Wong) suffer the consequences. Father does not survive the resulting gunfire, but his daughter does and vows to avenge his death. Kim Lee (Philip Ahn), a federal agent, is also trying to discover the identity of the smuggling operation's head honcho. Lee and Lan Ying initially pursue leads separately: he goes undercover as a cargo handler on a ship, and she heads to a night club in Central America. As the sixty-three minute film builds to a climax, the protagonists realize that the den of corruption is closer to home than they could have imagined.
The filming of Daughter of Shanghai started in the fall of 1937 and was released in theatres by the end of the year. Wong biographer Graham Russell Gao Hodges notes in his book Anna May Wong: From Laundryman to Hollywood Legend that Daughter of Shanghai "did well at the box office and a few months later, Paramount released Dangerous to Know, the second 'B' movie directed by Robert Florey and starring Anna May and Gail Patrick."
As a Paramount B-movie, Daughter of Shanghai is quite well executed. While the editing and acting (from minor actors) are somewhat underwhelming, the production values are very good. The film is overall an improvement in its less exoticized portrayal of Asian characters. Daughter of Shanghai was touted as a positive depiction of Chinese people. If "positive" refers to screentime and speaking parts (and close-ups for that matter), then Florey's film delivers with respect to shot composition and plot. On the other hand, being in the foreground is only part of a broader issue.
The struggle to be seen is the struggle to be heard, which then becomes a desire to be understood and, ultimately, accepted. Visibility and empowerment are inherently tied to the representation of minorities in pop cultural texts. Daughter of Shanghai reiterates the tendency for visibility to arrive first and accurate representation later - never mind the issue of gender. Despite the nascent loosening of negative images of Asians, each substantial step forward was undercut by a tug backward.
For instance, Lan Ying might be a woman of 'action' in that she does what she decides to do, but her tasks are rarely completed without help from another character, usually male and in the form of Agent Lee. Yet, Lee's agency diminishes when he is trying to save Lan Ying-there's always a third character to facilitate the process by which the two Asian main characters are able to retreat from harm. The ideological implications are problematic, but Daughter of Shanghai was nonetheless significant in expanding the range of possibilities for Asian images on screen.
Producer: Harold Hurley, Edward T. Lowe Jr.
Director: Robert Florey
Screenplay: Gladys Unger, Garnett Weston
Cinematography: Charles Edgar Schoenbaum
Art Direction: Hans Dreier, Robert Odell
Music: Boris Morros
Film Editing: Ellsworth Hoagland
Cast: Anna May Wong (Lan Ying Lin), Philip Ahn (Kim Lee), Charles Bickford (Otto Hartman), Buster Crabbe (Andrew Sleete), Cecil Cunningham (Mrs. Mary Hurt), J. Carrol Naish (Frank Barden), Evelyn Brent (Olga Derey), Anthony Quinn (Harry Morgan).
by Stina Chyn
Daughter of Shanghai
The Release Dialogue Script in the Paramount story files at the AMPAS Library provided some opening credits which were missing from the viewed print. A pre-release title of the film was Across the River. Included in the Paramount story files is the story "Honor Bright" by Garnett Weston, and a script by William Hurlbut, however, the authors' contribution to the final film has not been determined.
Shown at Asian American International Film Festival July 18-27 & August 1-7 & August 9-10, 1997.