The World of Suzie Wong Romantic Drama 1960
The World of Suzie Wong
Robert Lomax(William Holden) is a struggling American artist, who has moved to Hong Kong to learn if he can really paint. He meets Mee Ling(Nancy Kwan), a beautiful tycoon's daughter, in a fateful encounter onboard Hong Kong's Star Ferry. Departing and expecting never to find each other again, Robert checks into a local Wan Chai hotel. To his great surprise, he learns that the hotel is actually a brothel, and Mee Ling is actually Suzie Wong, the most popular prostitute in the place. What unfolds is the classic "East-meets-West" romance that made Nancy Kwan an international star. Refusing to accept Suzie because of her way of life, and surrounded by the prejudice of the local British colonials, he nonetheless takes her on his model. Meanwhile, he meets Kay O'Neil(Sylvia Syms), a respectable banker's daughter who begins to have feelings for him, and Ben(Michael Wilding), a besotted British businessman separated from his wife, who takes an interest in Suzie. Robert's relationship with Suzie begins as a purely artistic one, then becomes platonic friendship, then anger tinged with hidden jealousy and internal conflict, then passionate love, and finally an acceptance of her as a complete person. In the process Suzie both transforms him and is transformed by him. When the monsoon rains come to Hong Kong, they are finally united, but not without tragic consequences. The film captures the colorful teeming streets of a long-vanished Hong Kong, before it became the gleaming commercial capital it is today. The film also popularized the cheongsam, the high-collared form-fitting Chinese silk dress which afterwards became known as the Suzie Wong dress in America. William Holden is a charismatic leading man and shows a real chemistry with Nancy Kwan. The supporting cast turns in good performances. However, it is Nancy Kwan's wonderful portrayal of Suzie Wong, her very first screen role, that really makes this film. Combining genuine sex appeal with girlish innocence and courage in the face of adversity, her performance was widely acclaimed and she was awarded a Golden Globe.
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The Stars
William Holden as Robert Lomax
William Holden shot to fame for his performance as a violinist-turned-prizefighter opposite Barbara Stanwyck in Golden Boy. After serving in the Army Air Corps during WWII, he returned to Hollywood and established himself as a one of the top romantic leads and dramatic actors of the fifties. Nominated for an Oscar for his role in Sunset Blvd., he would win the coveted prize for his portrayal of a cynical POW in Stalag 17. He starred in box office and critical hits such as Executive Suite, Sabrina, Country Girl, Love is a Many-Splendored Thing, Picnic, and Bridge Over the River Kwai, prior to appearing in The World of Suzie Wong. His portrayal of Robert Lomax is strong yet understated, and he brings out the best in Nancy Kwan's performance.
Robert Lomax
William Holden
Nancy Kwan as Suzie Wong
A true Cinderella story, Nancy Kwan was "discovered" in Hong Kong by American producer Ray Stark. Although she was a dancer with the Royal Ballet in London, she had no prior acting experience. After extensive coaching in Hollywood and several screen tests, she won the title role of The World of Suzie Wong over many other aspiring Asian actresses. As Suzie Wong, Nancy Kwan skillfully plays three characters in one: the fantasy of the rich respectable girl, who honors her father and has kept her purity; the Wan Chai girl who plies her trade in a brothel and is very realistic about who she is; and the vulnerable real woman inside, who dreams of a better life and hides a secret that will warm even the coldest heart. She lights up every scene she is in.
Suzie Wong
Nancy Kwan
Sylvia Syms as Kay O'Neil
An attractive blonde, actress Sylvia Syms was born in London, and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She had a number of leading roles in local British films during the fifties, such as My Teenage Daughter, Ice-Cold in Alex, and Conspiracy of Hearts, as well as appearing in several stage productions. Coincidentally, she starred opposite Orson Welles in the movie Ferry to Hong Kong, shot on location, the year before The World of Suzie Wong was released. In Suzie Wong she plays Kay O'Neil, the upper class banker's daughter who leads the rather aimless life of a British ex-pat on the Peak in Hong Kong. She takes a romantic interest in Robert Lomax at first sight, and some of her best moments are when the sparks fly between her and Suzie as they vie for Robert's attention.
Kay O'Neill
Sylvia Syms
Michael Wilding as Ben Marlowe
Charming and urbane British film star Michael Wilding began his career as an artist, but switched to acting when he was 21. He had numerous popular leading roles in mostly British productions during the forties and fifties, such as In Which We Serve, the Hitchcock films Stage Fright and Under Capricorn, and Danger Within. He also received much publicity for being the second husband of actress Elizabeth Taylor. His portrayal of the likable British businessman Ben who competes with Robert for Suzie Wong's affections brings good comic relief. He also handles the tense scenes well, as later in the film his character becomes less sympathetic.
Ben Marlowe
Michael Wilding
photos © Paramount Pictures

Click on a picture to listen to music
Prolific film composer George Duning created the soundtrack to The World of Suzie Wong, a combination of original music and pop standards, using both Eastern and Western musical elements. The music effectively underscores and sets the mood for the drama unfolding on the screen. The Love Theme can be heard during the opening credits, and the motif is heard in variation throughout the film.
Love Theme
Love Theme
The Cloud Song, a graceful waltz with a pentatonic melody, was released on a single to promote The World of Suzie Wong. Performed by the Ames Brothers, the song was written by the legendary songwriting team of Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, who had a long history of collaboration with Frank Sinatra and multiple Oscars to their credit. In the film, the middle passage of the The Cloud Song is sung by Nancy Kwan in Chinese in the scene when Suzie poses for Robert Lomax the first time.
The Cloud Song
The Cloud Song

Click on a picture to watch the movie trailer
View The World of Suzie Wong Trailer
View theatrical trailer
© Paramount Pictures