Sorry, Wong number

Nancy Kwan turns 74 tomorrow, and had things gone just a little differently for her, she might have been hailed as one of the great dancers: she attended the Royal Ballet School in London, and upon her return to Hong Kong, she decided to teach.

Enter producer Ray Stark, who was working up a stage play (later a film) called The World of Suzie Wong. Kwan auditioned, and won one of the smaller roles, Stark having found her “alluringly leggy” with an “acceptable face.” I’m not quite sure what Stark meant by this, although it may have had something to do with the fact that Kwan was only half Chinese. You make the call:

Nancy Kwan in The World of Suzie Wong

And anyway, France Nuyen was going to play the lead in the film. Then Nuyen, whose love life had gone to hell — or to Marlon Brando, which might have been the same thing — was let go, and Kwan wound up with the role of Suzie and the crew wound up with a lot of reshoots. William Holden, the love interest, didn’t seem too perturbed. (Holden wasn’t in the stage play; that was, um, William Shatner.)

In 2007, Warner Bros. executive Brian Jamieson, then contemplating a release of a Nancy Kwan video package, was moved to make a documentary about Kwan’s sudden rise to fame and her subsequent near-disappearance. His film, To Whom It May Concern: Ka Shen’s Journey, screened at the Hawaii International Film Festival in 2010, drew this response:

Nancy Kwan with Roger and Chaz Ebert

The thumbs, of course, belong to Roger Ebert and his wife Chaz.



  1. Charles Pergiel »

    19 May 2013 · 6:51 pm

    From wikipedia: In the Life magazine cover story on (France) Nuyen, she is quoted as saying a proverb she also repeated in character as a spy in the I Spy episode “Magic Mirror”: “I am Chinese. … I am a stone. I go where I am kicked.”

    Gah! That is not a Western thought.

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