Pavement Butterfly

Pavement Butterfly

A FILM BY: Richard Eichberg
WRITTEN BY: Hans Kyser (story), Adolf Lantz
STARRING: Anna May Wong, Alexander Granach, Nien Soen Ling
Live accompaniment by Music Box house organist Dennis Scott | Programmed and co-presented by the Chicago Film Society
 
Anna May Wong landed a starring role in the pioneering Technicolor production The Toll of the Sea (1922) at the age of seventeen, but found limited opportunities in Hollywood afterwards. Often cast in thinly-conceived supporting roles, Wong was both held back by Orientalist stereotypes and prevented from making a unique contribution by Hollywood’s dubious pan-ethnic casting practices. “There seems little for me in Hollywood,” Wong lamented, “because, rather than real Chinese [actors], producers prefer Hungarians, Mexicans, American Indians for Chinese roles.” So, it was hardly surprising when she jumped at the opportunity to work in Europe, signing a five-picture deal with German director Richard Eichberg, a commercially-minded filmmaker who had shepherded Lillian Harvey to stardom. Backed by British International Pictures and their German subsidiary Suedfilm but set on the French Riviera, Pavement Butterfly is an exemplar of the eclectic internationalism of the late silent era. Wong stars as a circus acrobat whose partner is murdered, setting off a roundelay of melodramatic incidents, including gambling, blackmail, and the faint promise of love. Released in the US under the title City Butterfly, this delicate and atmospheric film was scarcely noticed as the talkies’ market share marched on. Wong soon returned to Hollywood, co-starring in Shanghai Express and anchoring a series of low-budget thrillers at Paramount, but her British films continue to loom large as the apex of her screen stardom. Piccadilly was restored and rediscovered two decades ago, but the rest remain nearly impossible to see. We are proud to be presenting this extremely rare screening in an imported archival print.
 
35mm from BFI National Film Archive | Special Thanks to Kiva Reardon, Hyesung ii, and Sara Smith (Academy Museum) and Edo Choi (Museum of the Moving Image)
 
Preceded by: Koko the Clown in "Vaudeville" (Dave Fleischer, 1924) - 8 min - 16mm

Technical Information

Production Year: 1929
Country of Origin: Germany
Run Time: 90 mins
Format: 35mm