Released 5/04/29 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; Director: Tod Browning; Producer: Hunt Stromberg; Screenplay: Waldemar Young, from a story by Tod Browning and Harry Sinclair Drago; Continuity: Richard Schayer; Titles: Joe Farnham; Cinematography: Henry Sharp; Film Editor: Harry Reynolds; Art Director: Cedric Gibbons; Wardrobe: David Cox; Assistant Director: William Ryan; 7 reels (6683'); Print Source: Warner Brothers Classics
CAST: Lon Chaney (Tiger Haynes), Lupe Velez (Toyo), Estelle Taylor (Madame de Sylva), Lloyd Hughes (Bobby Bailey), Louis Stern (Father Angelo), Mrs. Wong Wing (Ming), Duke Kahanamoku, Richard R. Neill
SYNOPSIS: Tiger Haynes makes his living trapping wild animals in French Indo- China, and his scarred face is evidence of the many tangles he has had with the fierce beasts. His half-Oriental daughter Toyo has fallen in love with an American, Bobby Bailey. Toyo introduces her father to Bobby, who turns out to be the son of an old friend. Tiger is suspicious of the boy at first, and fearful for Toyo's happiness, but he gains respect for the boy when he saves her life from an escaped tiger. Tiger takes Bobby with him to deliver animals to Singapore, and while loading the boat Bobby meets Madame de Sylva, an exotic Asian beauty who takes a liking to him. Bobby introduces her to Tiger, and it is obvious that they know each other. Madame learns that Bobby is to marry Tiger's daughter, and she soon begins to entrance him with her charms. Tiger tells her to leave the boy alone, but she intends to keep the boy for herself. Seeing no other solution, Tiger takes the boy off the boat and they travel through the jungle. Bobby accuses Tiger of wanting Madame for himself, then Tiger tells him that she is his former wife, and Toyo's mother. Tiger and Bobby return to Toyo, only to learn that Madame has arrived ahead of them. She notices that Tiger still keeps Rangho, a gorilla that Madame used to joy in tormenting. Again under Madame's spell, Bobby is unable to go through with his marriage to Toyo. Tiger learns that Madame plans to take Bobby away with her, and Toyo, learning the truth, gives Bobby her best wishes, even though her heart is breaking. Tiger, able to bear no more, releases the gorilla, who enters Madame's room. Toyo hears her mother's screams and rushes to the scene. Tiger, fearing for her life, enters the room with the gorilla. Tiger is next seen in a wheelchair, recovering from his battle with the gorilla. Toyo and Bobby are again together, and Tiger tells him to take Toyo far away. Tiger and the Padre wave goodbye as the ship sails off.
"Most of the Chaneys make money, some, of course, being better than others. WHERE EAST IS EAST, despite its trite title confusingly like many others from the Chaney factory, is one of the better efforts. But you must like Chaney to like his pictures. " ---Variety
"WHERE EAST IS EAST might have been all right if it talked but it doesn't. It is that deplorable thing I've begun to refer to as 'a stillie.'...I suppose WHERE EAST IS EAST is all right for a stillie. It packs a lot of atmosphere, elephants, and things like that, and it is supposed to have happened in Shanghai or some such place...But I went to sleep three times while Chaney, Lupe Velez, Lloyd Hughes and Estelle Taylor were grappling for strangle- holds upon each other's emotions and I wasn't particularly sleepy either." ---Exhibitors Herald-World
NOTES: WHERE EAST IS EAST holds up somewhat better today than when it was released. This was typical Browning...only more so...with hints of incest, lesbianism, and mutilations thrown in for good measure. Audiences today generally find it to be enjoyable schlock, while the 1929 viewers probably thought it was just too too much.
Some writers have referred to the abrupt continuity in parts of the picture, and have assumed that scenes are missing from the extant prints. In fact, the original cutting continuity indicates that essentially all of the original print exists, and the abrupt cutting was intentional. As an example, as indicated in the cutting continuity in the climactic sequence, Chaney rushes into the room with the crazed gorilla...fade to black...Chaney is now lying injured on a stretcher saying goodbye to his daughter. One wonders if Browning was running short of time or money and had to wrap up the picture in a hurry.
The film cost $295,000 and was shot in 33 days, a typical budget and production schedule for Chaney films of that era. It was one of the less profitable of Chaney's MGM efforts, earning only $283,000, the lowest profit margin on any of his films since THE ROAD TO MANDALAY three years earlier.
Also, check out lobby card #1 and lobby card #2 in my Poster Gallery.
© 2000,2008 Jon C. Mirsalis
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