Released 3/26/27 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; Director: William Nigh; Screenplay: Lorna Moon, from the play by Henry Maurice Vernon and Harold Owen; Cinematography: John Arnold; Film Editor: Ben Lewis; Settings: Cedric Gibbons and Richard Day; Wardrobe: Lucia Coulter; Titles: Lotta Woods; 8 reels (7460', some sources say 7603'); Print Source: Warner Brothers Classics
CAST: Lon Chaney (Mr. Wu/Grandfather Wu), Louise Dresser (Mrs. Gregory), Renée Adorée (Nang Ping), Holmes Herbert (Mr. Gregory), Ralph Forbes (Basil Gregory), Gertrude Olmstead (Hilda Gregory), Mrs. Wong Wing (Ah Wong), Claude King (Mr. Muir), Sonny Loy (Little Wu), Anna May Wong (Loo Song)
SYNOPSIS: The Palace of Wu has stood for a thousand years, and now old Mandarin Wu is sending his grandson, the last of the clan, to Europe for his education under the care of James Muir. Little Wu grew into manhood, learning the ways of the West, while retaining the ancient traditions of his family. He is married to his arranged bride, but a year later, Wu's wife dies giving birth to a daughter. Wu became a Mandarin with great wealth and power, while his daughter, Nang Ping, grew into a beautiful woman. Nang Ping has been promised to the son of another Mandarin, but one day she meets Basil Gregory, son of a wealthy businessman. Months pass, and the young couple falls deeply in love. Basil and his family must return home, and Nang Ping tells Basil that she is carrying his child. Nang Ping entertains the Gregorys at her father's home in his absence, and Nang Ping realizes that she could never fit into Basil's life. She tells Basil that her story was a lie and that she is to marry a Mandarin's son. Wu learns that Nang Ping is pregnant, and his tradition says that he must kill her to save her from being forever cursed. Nang Ping understands that the honor of the house of Wu must be preserved, and she willing goes to the altar in their house, where her father stabs her to death. Wu swears vengeance on the man who defiled his daughter, and Mrs. Gregory is summoned to his house the next day. There Wu shows her that her son has been taken prisoner and is to be executed. Mrs. Gregory pleads for the life of her son, and Wu tells her that the only way to save him is to give up her daughter to take his place. Mrs. Gregory offers her own life to save her children, but Wu refuses, saying that the parents must live--and suffer. Wu goes to ring the gong that will signal Basil's death, but as he is about to strike the gong, he sees the image of Nang Ping preventing him from striking it. Defeated, Wu kneels on the floor, and drives a sword into his side. Muir enters, sees him dead on the floor and says, "So passeth the house of Wu."
"The story is forceful and dramatic and with Lon Chaney and Renée Adorée in the leading roles, certainly holds the attention despite its morbid theme...Without Chaney it is doubtful if the public would take to such an unpleasant story, but they have grown accustomed to him in such characterizations, and it will probably prove a good drawing card with his host of admirers...Never has Mr. Chaney displayed greater skill with make-up, and especially marvelous is his portrayal of the decrepit old grandfather with sunken cheeks and drawn face." ---Moving Picture World
"Mr. Chaney is excellent in his performance, but his make-up might have been more effective, by less perfect eyebrows and more perfect Oriental eyes. His cunning is cleverly portrayed, and this Mr. Wu is the personification of the man of culture who reverts to his kind." --- The New York Times
NOTES: As if there was any doubt, a title at the beginning of the film announces, "The characters of Grandfather Wu and Mandarin Wu are both played by Mr. Chaney."
The film took 41 days to make, at a cost of $267,000. The production was a bit above average in cost, but earned hefty profits of $439,000.
Also, check out this lobby card in my Poster Gallery.
© 2000,2008 Jon C. Mirsalis
Return to Filmography