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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Son-Daughter (1932)

As the 1911 Xinhai Revolution rages in China, in San Francisco, patriotic Chinese immigrants raise money to smuggle arms into the Homeland. All this serves as a backdrop to the romance of a Chinese student (Ramon Novarro) and the daughter (Helen Hayes) of a revered Chinese doctor (Lewis Stone). Based on a 1919 play by George Scarborough and David Belasco that does very little to hide its proscenium roots. The director Clarence Brown (NATIONAL VELVET) does what he can with the material but even in 1932, it seems antiquated. The political stuff is interesting but the romantic elements are musty. It doesn't help that all the Chinese (except for the background actors) are played by Caucasian actors. None of them remotely believable as Asian. Novarro gets off the easiest because there's such a sweetness about him that he wins you over. Hayes' emoting is too artificial but in her last scenes, when she drops the Cio-Cio-san act and turns into a raging  fireball, she's quite good. With Warner Oland, Lewis Stone, Ralph Morgan, Louise Closser Hale and H.B. Warner.

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