Daughter of the Dragon 1931 – starring Anna May Wong – was one of the best Fu Manchus, says DAVID SAUNDERSON
TITLE: Daughter of the Dragon
YEAR RELEASED: 1931
DIRECTOR: Lloyd Corrigan
CAST: Anna May Wong, Warner Oland, Sessue Hayakawa, Bramwell Fletcher
Review of Daughter of the Dragon 1931
Daughter of Dragon is the last Fu Manchu film made by Warner Oland – best known to horror fan for Universal’s Werewolf of London 1935.
I watched this film, in all its grainy, blurry glory on You Tube today, to break up the Christopher Lee Fu Manchus I am watching as part of my “Six-Fus in Six Days” Fu Manchu-athon – which will now be “Seven-Fus in Seven Days” Fu Manchu-athon.
Daughter of the Dragoon was made by Paramount in 1931 to capitalize on Sax Rohmer’s then current book, The Daughter of Fu Manchu, which Paramount did not own rights to adapt.
The film stars the sensational Ann May Wong as Princess Ling Moy, the long-lost daughter of the most evil crime lord, Dr Fu Manchu. Anna May Wong was the first Chinese American movie star and it is a delight to see her play the conflicted crime lord’s daughter.
The film begins with Ling Moy, an exotic aristocrat in London, discovering that her long lost father is no other than super villian Fu Manchu. Worst still, her boyfriend is Ah Kee (Sessue Hayakawa), who also unbeknownst to her is a secret agent and Fu Manchu’s greatest enemy.
Despite only knowing her dad for what seems like minutes, Ling Moy takes a oath on his deathbed to do the duty of a “son” and defeat his enemies. No longer is she is a “daughter”, she is a “son” – which is a very strange but fun part of the film.
Warner Oland is a very different Fu Manchu to Boris Karloff who succeeded him in 1932’s The Mask of Fu Manchu.
Whereas Karloff was also wonderfully fiendish, he was Boris Karloff in Chinese makeup. Warner Oland on the other hand actually looks Asian and does a lot more things. Oland also talks for a lot more than Christopher Lee ever did in his Fu Manchu films. (As much as I think Christopher Lee is great, I am thinking more and more, his characterisation of Sax Rohmer’s famous character is just Dracula with eye-putty.)
There are some wonderful scenes between Oland and Anna May Song. Unfortunately, the plot calls for Fu Manchu to die early in the film. The acting is over-the-top and there is some wonderful comic relief – intentional and otherwise.
The death scene of Fu Manchu, who is shot, is drawn out and quite hilarious. You could easily have eaten a bag of popcorn watching Fu Manchu die. He certainly could have gone to hospital to get himself fixed up!
The difference between this film and later Fu Manchu adaptations is that The Daughter of The Dragon is there are more real Asians playing Asians in major roles like Anna May Wong and Sessue Hayakawa (who went on to appear in Bridge Over The River Kwai).
I actually loved this film – it gets a bit monotonous in the middle of the film – but overall it has been a highlight of my Fu Manchu-athon this week. After I finish up watching the Christopher Lee films I will return to see Warner Oland’s other Fu Manchu flicks and possibly even go back further to watch some silent Fu Manchu movies.
Tomorrow I will return to the Christopher Lee films with The Vengeance of Fu Manchu.
Tell us what you think of Daughter of the Dragon 1931 in the comments!