The World of Suzie Wong (1960)

Filmed in 1960 and starring William Holden and Nancy Kwan, the story (based on the 1957 book by Richard Mason) tells us about Robert Lomax, an American Architect, who has thrown it all in and moved to HK to pursue a living as a painter. He falls in love with a local prostitute who frequents the hotel he has dossed down in.

According to reports, the HK locations had to be shot twice. Originally filmed with France Nuyen in the title role, off-screen drama saw her replaced by Kwan well into shooting. As a result the production team had to return to HK and re-film all the scenes with Kwan.

Been sitting on this one for a while so figured I would make a start. More to follow...

Comments

The film starts with Lomax arriving at the docks (Ocean Terminal) and walking from the dock towards the Star Ferry terminal in TST.

Suzie Wong TST

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suzie Wong TST

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way he passes a loading derrick and you can see the train track on the ground which was the extension of the railway from the KCR terminus at TST.

Suzie Wong - Cruise Terminal

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the photo above we can see the metal gates through which the track ran. To the right of the gate is the small building with a sign saying "Customs Office" and to the right of that the gateway to the Hongkong Ferry.

Suzie Wong - Cruise Terminal

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once through the gateway we see Lomax walking towards the ferry terminal

with the (soon to be turned into a plaza) Bus terminus in the background as well as the single-storied Star House.

Suzie Wong TST Bus Terminus

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next we enter the ferry terminal. I'm not sure if the following shot is in a studio or actually in the terminal, so am hoping someone can confirm one way or another.

Suzie Wong - Star Ferry

 

 

 

 

 

 

And we have a panning shot of a girl looking through the window as the ferry comes into dock.

Suzie Wong - Star Ferry

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final shot involves some dialog between Lomax and Wong. Like other films of this era, this would have been a studio scene with the background projected onto a screen behind the actors. However, you still get a nice view of the Island in the background.

Suzie Wong - Star Ferry

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next HK side...

The film continues with the Star ferry ("Radiant Star" in case you were wondering - I believe this ferry along with the other 50/60's era boats were replaced by the current floating stock in 1966) arriving at the Central star ferry pier.

Star Ferry - Central

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then get a nice shot of the pier building from the front.

Star Ferry - Central

 

 

 

 

 

 

Followed by another shot a bit further along.

Star Ferry - Central

After disembarking from the Star Ferry on the Island, our intrepid hero wanders across Connaught Road and heads to a policeman to ask directions to Wanchai.

On the way we see several sights including a 1960 view of the harbour front.

Suzie Wong - Connaught Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please feel free to start naming any buildings in the background and I can add them as a place on the main article above.

We also see the front facade of Queens Buildings with the famous Cooks sign, as well as some interesting 1960s road lights.

Suzie Wong - Connaught Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then Lomax walks past some rickshaws parked on what appears to be the central reservation (it looks as though that is where the camera was put for the filming) and we get some snippets of Princes Building, The Chartered Bank (as it was back then) and the HSBC HQ.

Suzie Wong - Connaught Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suzie Wong - Statue Square

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suzie Wong - Statue Square

After finding out how to get to Wanchai, Lomax heads there and finds the Nam Kok Hotel (I believe it was supposedly based on the Luk Kwok Hotel in the book?). Coincidentally it is also the hotel at which Suzie Wong plies her trade.

Of course, film being film and the illusion of Wanchai was created using two very separate locations. The first being the area around Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Rd and Ladder Street which served as the location of the hotel. Secondly, the film crew upped sticks and also filmed over in Yau Ma Tei next to temple street to recreate another part of the area.

Suzie Wong - "Wanchai"

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above shot is just prior to the scene moving to Hollywood Rd. Actually I have no idea if this was in the vicinity. [edit: Thomas has been able to confirm this was in fact Centre St in Sai Ying Pun, and in fact HKMan provides us with a modern comparison here: http://gwulo.com/node/5391 ]

Next we see the hotel. Actually even today the location is very similar despite the original building being replaced. Personally I've never seen it so busy.

Suzie Wong - Nam Kok Hotel

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a link to HKMan's take on the scene: http://gwulo.com/node/5300

At this point in the film, Lomax sees Wong step onto a rickshaw and get pulled away. The scene cuts to Yau Ma Tei where he sees the rickshaw disappearing into the crowds.

Suzie Wong - "Wanchai"

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, HKMan provides us with a modern day comparison: http://gwulo.com/node/5299

Once settled into the Hotel, Lomax heads to the roof and takes in the view and unpolluted air.

Sorry about the quality but you can still spot some details in these pictures.

Suzie Wong - Hotel rooftop

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing stands out on this first picture too much apart from the unmistakeable rooftops of shop houses and the blue funnel of the ship. I have no idea if this was filmed in the same location on Hollywood Rd, but perhaps the next shot will be assist in identifying it.

Suzie Wong - Hotel rooftop

 

 

 

 

 

 

On this shot we can see a dome to the left of Holden's legs, in fact it looks like a double dome as there seems to be another on the far left. I'm not too familar with these buildings but maybe this will be instantly recognisable by someone else. The roads in the distance, perpendicular to the harbour front could possibly be Cleverly St/Hillier St?.

We also see the scene behind the roof top. However, we mustn't assume it was filmed at the same location.

Suzie Wong - Hotel rooftop

 

 

 

 

 

 

Either way there is a rather modern looking (remember this was 1960) tower block in the background as well as an astounding lack of mountains. Perhaps this is a more westerly view? Also you should notice the church in the background - this to me looks like Hop Yat Church on Caine Rd. If it is then this confirms the westerly view as Hop Yat faces east. I suspect that this last shot is actually a studio based back projection with the reconstructed railings - this would be the only way (in 1960 at least) to recreate the scene so they could film Holden directly from the front.

Actually, if that is Hop Yat Church, then the angle seems correct for this background scene to have been shot in the vicinity of the Hollywood Rd/Ladder Street intersection.

Next, a trip to the bank...

Lomax isn't doing so well with his freelance painting, so he decides to make a trip to the bank to try and get a loan until he can start selling his artwork.

So he leaves the hotel and jumps on a rickshaw on Ladder St. Plenty of hustle and bustle including a retro 7-UP sign.

Suzie Wong - Ladder St

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rickshaw driver is obviously mixing his 7UP with some stronger stuff because he  turns left onto Hollywood Rd, which of course is the wrong direction for the bank. Maybe Lomax's Cantonese skills aren't quite up to the job? Once again the quality of the snap lets me down here because there are lots of local drink adverts which are too blurred to make out.

Suzie Wong - Hollywood Rd

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally we arrive at the bank, Lomax is no doubt a bit lighter in the pocket after being taken the long way. Here we see him on Queens Road right outside the Chartered Bank. A scene not too far from the current view today. In the background we can see the Law Courts as well as the previous HSBC building and just in the background, although too oblique a view to be of any use, is the Old Bank of China building. The steps to the right lead to the front doors of the Chartered Bank.

Suzie Wong - Queens Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final external shot shows the front doors in their full glory, complete with brass plaque on the wall.

Suzie Wong - Chartered Bank

 

I've posted this one before, but here it is again because the scene is just after the bank scene and I think was intended to add a bit of local colour - in this case...red :)

Lomax is relaxing in the hotel at night and looks down to the buskers on the steps of the temple.

Man Mo Temple Postbox

An international film set in HK wouldn't be worth the celluloid it was filmed on unless it featured Aberdeen Harbour at some point or another. Suzie Wong is no different and the harbour is featured as the two main parts spend some time together on a day off (such is the nature of their respective freelance occupations).

The following scenes are in sequential order and show off the harbour quite well. I'm not so familiar with the harbour but I suspect some artistic license has been used in terms of the actual locations as the characters journey around the place.

Suzie Wong - Aberdeen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suzie Wong - Aberdeen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suzie Wong - Aberdeen

 

 

 

 

 

 

It looks as though the shoot was split over more than one session because the shots move from misty and grey in one to bright and sunny in the next.

Suzie Wong - Aberdeen

 

 

 

 

 

 

The shot above looks as though it has just managed to capture the Aberdeen Seminary on the small hill to the right of William Holden?

Suzie Wong - Aberdeen

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sea palace. I believe Thomas has already mentioned that this was towed to Australia?

Their final destination is actually the Tai Pak. I believe it was also a favourite haunt of William Holden's in real life.

Finally they board the Tai Pak. Supposedly the same restaurant that still sits in the harbour today.

Suzie Wong - Aberdeen

 

 

 

 

 

Some more info here:

http://orientalsweetlips.wordpress.com/2009/09/10/tai-pak-floating-resta...

The next part of the film has Lomax being visited by the daughter of the bank manager (the one he went to ask for a loan from). She's interested in his artwork but also quite interested in him too. The scene shows her driving her rather flashy white two-seater down Square St and onto Ladder St.

On film we can see the old style road signs that identify the roads.

Suzie Wong - Square St

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lots of locals "breaking the fourth wall" in these scenes. Also look closely and you will see a couple of policeman on the corner. I wonder if they were there by chance or whether they were part of the crowd control.

Suzie Wong - Square St

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later on we see another shot on the hotel roof as Lomax paints Suzie's portrait. Lots more to see in the background this time as the angle is slightly different to the earlier rooftop scenes.

Suzie Wong - Hotel rooftop

Suzie keeps disappearing off on her own and doesn't want to tell Lomax where she is going, so one day he does a sneaky beaky and follows her.

We see some great shots of the stairway on Ladder Street including the old balustrades.

Suzie Wong - Ladder St

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suzie Wong - Ladder St

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suzie Wong - Ladder St

 

 

 

 

 

 

But then the location seems to change to (and I am just making an uneductaed guess here) the area around Braemar Hill. The reason I say this is because in the second shot below you can see what looks to be the white pagoda of Tiger Balm Gardens.

Suzie Wong - Braemar Hill?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suzie Wong - Braemar Hill?

 

 

 

 

 

 

So it looks as though the shanty town that Suzie is heading into was on the northern slopes of Braemar Hill. Suzie's secret? She has a small baby but doesn't want Lomax to know.

Once Suzie's secret is out, and Lomax isn't put off by it, everything is wonderful and so they spend a day together with baby somewhere on the coast before returning to the hotel.

Actually, I have no idea where this was filmed but it looks as though it could be pretty much anywhere along the coast. My best guess would be somewhere in Port Shelter.

Suzie Wong - day out with the baby

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suzie Wong - day out with the baby

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day finishes back outside the Tin Hau Temple in Yau Ma Tei (remember the film makers want you to believe this is in the vicinity of the hotel)

Suzie Wong - day out with the baby

We see a bit more of the surrounding area in the next part of the film. Suzie has gone missing and Lomax tries to find her.

Here is another shot of the red pillar box next to man Mo Temple. In fear of sounding like a complete anorak (my reputation is already in tatters after the incident with the Aberdeen Harbour map), note the hexagonal top of the old fire hydrant. I've seen one of these along Nathan Road in Yau ma Tei quite recently. I guess they haven't quite managed to change them all yet.

Suzie Wong - Hollywood Rd

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some more shots of Square St/Ladder St as well. Here is another version of the shot below, provided by HKMan on FLICKR: http://gwulo.com/node/5390

Suzie Wong - Ladder St

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suzie Wong - Ladder St

Well, they have a bit of a bust up and Suzie disappers and Lomax spends a frantic few days searching high and low for her, looking increasingly dishevelled as the time wears on.

First we see him running across Johnston Rd in wanchai in the pouring rain.

Suzie Wong - Johnston Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suzie Wong - Johnston Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actually, our old friend HKMan on FLICKR did a fine jog identifying this location and has done his usual now/then comparison. Looks to me as though that electrical box is still in-situ: http://gwulo.com/node/5388

Next we see a wide shot of the harbour. Centre of screen looks like Statue Sq and surrounding buildings. Does anyone know what the red-coloured building on the left is?

Suzie Wong - Harbour

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we see Lomax wandering next to the waterfront with a "Far Eastern Motors Ltd" behind him. Does anyone know where this is. I think someone may have done a now/then shot of this particular scene, but I can't remember where I have seen it.

Suzie Wong - Far Eastern Motors

 

 

 

 

 

 

He also goes looking along the bar strips and in particular down the road shown below. Vanessa has confirmed that the Magpie Bar was at 65 Lockhart Road, Wanchai. So it was indeed a real place.

Suzie Wong - Tops Bar

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, all good things come to an end and we finish off with a shot of the 1960's version of Ferry Street in Yau Ma Tei. It does actually look as though there used to be a temple here.

Suzie Wong - Ferry Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

HKMan has provided us with another now/then so you can see for yourself how much it has changed: http://gwulo.com/node/5392

It looks as though it was filmed near where Ferry Street intersects with Kansu St.

Hi there,

I wonder if the island in the background is the Lamma Island.  If so, the location of the scene  migjt be somewhere around the then Telegraph Bay.

Best Regards,

T

I think you are right. That is Lamma Island in the background.

Thomas, does that mean the spit of land at the left is where Bel-Air on the Peak now sits? Phil

Hi there,

I believe so.  I remember seeing another photo of the same hill shot from another location in Pokfulam.

Best Regards,

T

Click onto the FCC Magazine:

http://www.fcchk.org/fccweb/news.html?id=F8AA6E56D8B211F092B4B73181FF091A

Wing Lee St is also given a mention.

I think Tops bar is still there - on Lockhardt road or somewhere there - between empire hotel and Luk kwok hotel

Hongkong looks so different in the film! reminds me of when I first visited it. If someone had told me at that time that it would become so modern and organised, I don't think I would have believed it!

Since then, I have returned almost every 4 months, to find something or the other changed.

The RTHK 'Hong Kong Heritage' program has an interview with Nancy Kwan. Click to listen.

The World of Suzy Wong