Soldier of Fortune (1955)

Soldier of Fortune starring Clark Gable and Susan Hayward is a story about a woman (Hayward) who comes to Hong Kong to look for her missing husband. She ends up reluctantly accepting the help of a local businessman-cum-crook (Gable) to rescue her husband from the clutches of the Communist Chinese on the Mainland.

The film was released the same year as "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" - 1955 - and contains a lot of footage of Hong Kong at that time including some of the Peak Tram. I mention the peak tram specifically because Martin Booth makes a mention of these scenes in his memoir "Golden Boy" (aka Gwei Lo).

Incidentally, Susan hayward filmed all of her scenes back in the studio in California due to an ongoing custody battle with her former husband. She couldn't risk leaving the country and so a stand in was employed for any HK-based scene involving her.

Comments

The film starts with a rather basic map of what is supposed to be HK in the 50's (it's seems to be set in the same time period it was filmed - i.e. post Communist Revolution and possibly post Korean War). I'm assuming the bit on the right hand side is supposed to be the Clearwater Bay peninsula, but according to this map its still part of commie China in the 50's.

Soldier of Fortune - map

Moving on, we next get a street scene:

Soldier of Fortune - intro street scene

I have no idea where this was but perhaps someone will know something about the advert on the wall on the right hand side. Following on we have a trackiung shot down what looks to be Connaught Road West. I've included a couple of shots because more detail is revealed as the camera moves down the road - such as the police platform. Connaught Road is directly referred to in the film as the HQ of Hank Lee - the character played by Gable.

Soldier of Fortune - intro street scene

Soldier of Fortune - intro street scene

Next we have a great shot of the Central Harbour front with a good shot of the pier in front of Queens Building. With BOC and HSBC in full view.

Soldier of Fortune - intro harbour scene

The next the film cuts away to a more peacful side of HK with what looks like Stanley Bay and peninsula stretching out at the back. Are those the military huts at bottom left?

Soldier of Fortune - intro harbour scene

Another shot to show the other side of HK life, this time of Aberdeen Harbour and the Holy Spirit seminary roof is just discernable top left.

Soldier of Fortune - intro harbour scene

Finally we finish with a view over Tsim Sha Tsui with the old KCR terminus in full view as well as Salisbury Road and the bus terminus. The single storied Star House can be seen bottom right as can the old signal tower at the Marine Police HQ.

Soldier of Fortune - intro harbour scene

The introduction ends with some shots of the Peak Tram and the view from the front of the tram coming down the hill, but there are screen credits at this point obscuring the view. A second Peak Tram scene is at the end of the film which I will include in a later post.

After arriving in HK, Hayward's character goes to the Marine Police HQ to retrieve some personal items (cameras) of her husbands. This scene involves some footage of the HQ.

Marine Police HQ - Soldier of Fortune

Marine Police HQ - Soldier of Fortune

Obviously, now that Li Ka Shing has ripped out the grounds in front, the value of this scene has increased somewhat.

Hayward decides to contact Hank Lee (Gable) to see if he can help in the search  for her husband. This sequence is basically a car trip over to Gable's house (king Yin Lei) which starts at the Peninsula. This shot below shows the courtyard and front steps of the Peninsula. At some point in the past the hotel raised the level of its driveway and the front steps have now disappeared.

The Peninsula Hotel - Soldier of Fortune

Departing in Hank's car, the next scene looks to be a vehicular ferry pier somewhere. Can any one identify so I can update the tags?

Central Vehicular Ferry Pier - Soldier of Fortune

Next we see a street, assuming it is on HK side. Some adverts can be seen so perhaps someone can identify the street from these?

Queens Road East - Soldier of Fortune

Queens Road East - Soldier of Fortune

Next up we see the car driving eastwards on what looks like Bowen Road. Then we see it further along on what is definitely Bowen Road as we can see King Yin Lei peaking out from the top of the trees above.

Bowen Road - Soldier of Fortune

Bowen Road - Soldier of Fortune

And then the car turns off a very secluded and undeveloped Stubbs Road into the famous driveway.

Stubbs Road - Soldier of Fortune

Past the gateway - although this looks to be a previous version. I believe the house was given its "King Yin Lei" moniker by Stephen Yow (the owner from 70's - 2007), and perhaps this is when the gateway was also changed?

King Yin Lei gateway - Soldier of Fortune

This sequence ends with some footage inside the house grounds.

King Yin Lei - Soldier of Fortune

King Yin Lei - Soldier of Fortune

that's a wonderful piece of work you've put together there! Thanks

the next scene with local footage involves Hayward's character running all over town in a rickshaw in a desperate search for her husband.

What we have is a long sequence with lots of edits, but all look to have been filmed in and around the same area. The tramlines help to narrow it down, but is this De Voeux Road or was it shot further east?

The first still shows a distinctive curved building on the left and in the far background, on the distant curve of the road, a large single building with a blue sign hanging on the front. I'm sure you guys will spot where this is straight away. BTW, that's Hayward's double, not her.

De Voeux Road - Soldier of Fortune

Next shot shows her further up the road by the big building with the blue sign. Continuity being as is it, perhaps the next shot should have come first, but I guess they figured no one would notice.

De Voeux Road - Soldier of Fortune

Finally a back projection shot back in the studio, but there is that same building again. This time we see it from the reverse angle. Is it Wing On?

back projection of street - Soldier of Fortune

Hank Lee's offices are on the corner of Connaught Road West where it turns in towards Wing Lok Street and Bonham Strand West.

The first shot is a view over the harbour from here.

Connaught Road - Soldier of Fortune

Followed by a shot of the 'office'.Does anyone know if the Pedder Industrial Co was a real business, or is the sign there for the benefit of the film?

Connaught Road - Soldier of Fortune

And another view, later in the day, looking in the opposite direction.

Connaught Road - Soldier of Fortune

Next we see Hank take a visit one of his contacts at what looks to be the Yau Ma Tei Tin Hau Temple. Interestingly, this location was also used 5 years later for Suzie Wong, but by then a large wall had been built in front of teh temple. Here it still looks pretty ramshackle.

Looking at one of HKMan's photos on Flickr, I believe the building (located on the left at the start of Temple St) is still standing.

Yau Ma Tei Temple - Soldier of Fortune

Yau Ma Tei Temple - Soldier of Fortune

After getting information about Hayward's husband, Hank Lee starts to rally the troops and takes a trip here to coerce some manpower into helping him.

Was this at Jordan Road?

Jordan Vehicular Ferry Pier - Soldier of Fortune

The subsequent scenes shop various shots taken off the coast as Hank's junk sails (supposedly) first to Macau and then into the Mainland for the rescue. Not much to see so I'll skip that and head right to the end...

The film ends with HAyward's husband being rescued and them both boarding a PAA bus outside the Peninsula - offering a great close up of the place as it was in 1955.

The Peninsula Hotel - Soldier of Fortune

The Peninsula Hotel - Soldier of Fortune

They are watched from Salisbury Road by Hank Lee and we get a great look of the whole area including the train terminus and Shell garage opposite.

Salisbury Road - Soldier of Fortune

And finally the film ends as it started on the peak tram.

Peak Tram - Soldier of Fortune

And finally a shot down the line itself. We can just about discern BOC, HK club, the cricket ground, HSBC etc

Peak Tram - Soldier of Fortune

Peak Tram - Soldier of Fortune

A couple of scenes in this film are shot in an imaginary bar run by a westerner. In one of the scenes, a drunken fight breaks out, and the bar is trashed.

When I saw it I remember wondering if that's what Gingle's bar would have ever have been like. Now IDJ points out that the author of Soldier of Fortune had met Gingle, so just maybe there was a connection after all.

When I was researching this and other Hollywood films set in HK for an aborted Tourist Authority book project about ten years ago, I suggested that Jennifer Jones (of Love is a Many Splendored Thing) may have been the stand-in for Susan Hayward in this film. The fact that both films were shot around the same time and that a Jennifer Jones is listed as Susan Hayward's stand-in in the last cast & crew entry here was my fairly flimsy evidence.  

Dear Philik,

I am submitting a manuscript, Hollywood’s Hong Kong: Cold War Imagery and Urban Transformation in Edward Dmytryk’s Soldier of Fortune (1955) for publication, and would like to use some of the pics in Soldier of Fortune you posted above for illustrations. Please advise if it is alright to have copyright clearance for my undertaking. The Pics in question are 1. the map of Hong Kong, 2. HSBC, 3 Aberdeen Harbour, 4. Back projection shot of Susan Hayward ,5. Salisbury Road with Hank Lee and 6 The Peak Tram, etc.

Much obliged to hear from you.

Thomas

 

 

 

Hi Thomas - i believe the copyright ultimately remains in the hands of 20th Century Fox, but feel free to use what you need (at your own risk).

I understand there is a case for 'fair use' if the pictures are incorporated into a larger article where they are used to illustrate part of the text.

Regards

Phil

Dear Phil

Thanks, will contact 20th Century Fox ultimately, as the printer is very careful not to get involved in unnecessary litigations.

 

Thomas

This is the HK Yau Ma Tei vehicular ferry terminal at Jordan Road on Kowloon side.

The first shot of Hank's car leaving the ferry terminal is in fact the HK Yau Ma Tei terminal which used to be west of the Star Ferry on HK side.  The Macau ferry now sits where the HKYF used to be. Back in those days, it was the ONLY way to get across the harbour with your vehicle; no tunnels - and no MTR.