The British Film Institute has released a greatly restored print of Piccadilly, complete with blue and amber tinting, on DVD. This 1929 silent melodrama, with its newly commissioned dramatic score by Neil Brand performed by some of the UKs leading Jazz players, will please any fan of this genre and still, after all these years, comes across as a very stylish piece of work. E A Dupont born in Germany in 1891 directs it, going on to pioneer the use of multi-language sound films creating English, French and German versions at the same time. He died in Los Angeles in 1995.
The film starred the Chinese/American actress Anna May Wong in what was her most memorable role as Shosho. Wong was the first Asian American ever to receive acclaim not only in Hollywood but also internationally, quite an achievement in the light of racial prejudice, disapproval from her own community and the fact that interracial relationships between Chinese and Caucasians was against the law in the 1920s and therefore could not be shown on the screen. It involves a scullery maid, Shosho, working under stairs in a fashionable London nightclub whose tabletop dance catches the eye of the suave club owner Valentine Wilmot (James Thomas). With her ever more exotic dance routines she rises to become the toast of London and the object of Wilmot’s erotic obsession prompting the bitter jealousy of Mabel (Gilda Grey) his former lover and star dancer.
|The beautiful Chinese/American actress Anna May Wong.|
It’s worth mentioning the brilliant sets by the films art director Alfred Junge. Junge was responsible for ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’ set in the Jessie Matthews 1934 musical Evergreen, but it’s generally agreed that his best work was with Powell and Pressburger.