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The World of Suzie Wong(1960)

With Hong Kong as its glittering setting, this picture marked the film debuts for producer Ray Stark and leading lady Nancy Kwan. Stark, a former agent, had bought the rights to Richard Mason’s novel while it was still in galley form, then co-produced a Broadway adaptation of the story of a young artist who finds his muse in a Hong Kong prostitute. France Nuyen had starred in the stage version (opposite William Shatner) and was cast in the film, but after five weeks of location shooting in Hong Kong she developed health problems. That opened the door for the 20-year-old Kwan, who had played the role on tour. Stark then fired original director Jean Negulesco, replacing him with Richard Quine, and sent the company back to Hong Kong for another five weeks of location shooting. The film was met with mixed reviews, partly because 42-year-old William Holden, a former Stark client, seemed too old for the role of a struggling artist. Critics later complained about racial stereotyping and the romantic view of prostitution. Yet Kwan’s innocence and Geoffrey Unsworth’s location photography help turn the potentially sordid story into a fairy tale about the power of true love. (d. Richard Quine, 126m, Digital)

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