GOLDEN GATE GIRL (TEARS)/(JINMEN NU)
(director: Esther Eng; screenwriter: Moon Quan; cinematographer: Joseph Sunn; editor: Moon Quan; cast: Tso Yee Man (Chain-Ying Ho / Lulu, also known as Loy Lo, the Girl), Wong Hok Sing (Fay-Tien Wong, also known as Sing Kuo. the Boy), Moon Quan (Jien-Sien Ho, the Father), Nom Liu (The Salesman), Far Sui Yung (Sia-Lien Ho), Lee Po (Doctor), Fee Luk Won (The Cook, Duck Sook), Chu Yut Hun (Lulu, child), Chan Ligh Shun (Midwife), Bruce Lee (Infant, uncredited); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Charlie Low; Grandview Film Company; 1941-b/w-Hong Kong/USA-in Cantonese with English subtitles-b/w)
“The dated soap opera tale is of interest mainly because Eng is such an imp”ortant but little known figure in the history of films.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A Hong Kong drama, filmed in San Francisco and in Chinese, directed by the pioneering woman filmmaker, restaurant owner and lesbian, the Chinese-American Esther Eng (“Ten Thousand Lovers “/”It’s A Woman’s World”). Eng is the first female Chinese-American director that worked in Hollywood and Hong Kong, making her first film National Heroine (1937) in Hong Kong. Eng was born and raised in San Francisco, but went to Hong Kong when she was 23 years old to become a filmmaker. In 1941 she returned to S.F. to direct Golden Gate Girl. In 1949, Eng quit the film industry and moved to New York to open three restaurants, which she ran until her death in 1970, at age 55.
It’s written in a melodramatic way by Moon Quan, who also co-stars.
The San Francisco shopkeeper widower Jien-Sien Ho (Moon Quan), known in the area as the Gin Man, finds he’s losing control of his rebellious sixteen-year-old daughter Chain-Ying (Tso Yee Man). Against her dad’s wishes, the shop salesman, Duck Sook (Nom Liu), takes his daughter to the opera house to see the Chinese singer/actor WongFay-Tien (Wong Hok Sing) perform. After the show, backstage, the performer invites the girl to the Golden Gate Music Club for a party. It leads to more meetings between them, as he gives her singing lessons as she requests.
Chain’s friend Sia-Lien Ho (Far Sui Yung) tells her dad about these meetings, and that she’s a school truant. When the daughter is confronted by her dad, she tells him in America dad’s can’t tell their teenage children what to do. For not obeying him, he kicks her out and blames Duck Sook for the problem. Her lover Wong tries to tell her where her dad is coming from. When she refuses to listen, he asks her to marry him. This ploy by Wong to get the dad to relent backfires, as dad says he will never forgive them.
Dad gets the theater owner to cancel the actor’s contract. Wong soon returns to Hong Kong alone, even though his bride is pregnant.
Abandoned and without money, Mao Lee, Jien-Sien’s cook, gives her money and attends the birth of her baby girl. As a result dad fires the cook, who then partners with the also dismissed Duck Sook to open a laundry. Meanwhile Chain dies. The laundry partners thereby raise the infant and name her Lulu or Loy Lo (the Chinese name). She’s encouraged by them to be a dancer in the theater.
Many years later at a benefit concert for Chinese war refugees, Lulu is given a small part in the show, whose Chinese star is Sing Kuo. During the benefit it’s revealed that Sing Kuo is Wong, Lulu’s father. A happy ending results when Lulu’s aging estranged grandfather, Jien-Sien, donates three-thousand dollars to the cause and all parties concerned return to his shop to kiss and makeup.
The dated soap opera tale is of interest mainly because Eng is such an important but little known figure in the history of films. It’s also the film Bruce Lee made his acting debut as a three-month infant.
REVIEWED ON 4/19/2020 GRADE: B-