Published on Mar 25, 2014
East Is West (USA, 1922) 70 min. (1,436 meters @ 18fps)
35mm, silent, b&w and tinted (reproduction through the Desmet color process)
Directed by Sidney A. Franklin
Produced by Joseph M. Schenck (for Constance Talmadge Film Company).
Script by Frances Marion. Based on the play East Is West by Samuel Shipman and John B. Hymer (1918).
Art Director: Stephen Goosson
Camera: Tony Gaudio
Cast: Constance Talmadge (Ming Toy), Edward Burns (Billy Benson), E.A. Warren (Lo Sang Kee), Warner Oland (Charly Yong), Frank Lanning, Nick de Ruiz, Nigel Barrie, Winter Hall, James Wang
Restored 35mm print with English (and some Chinese) intertitles.
Plot (adapted from the AFI Catalog):
Ming Toy, the eldest of Hop Toy's many children, is rescued from the auction block by Billy Benson and sent to the United States in the care of Lo Sang Kee. There she continues her interest in western ways and attracts the attention of a powerful Chinatown figure, Charley Yong. When Charley Yong demands the hand of Ming Toy, she declines, causing disgrace to everyone involved.
Print source: EYE
Despite its A-list Hollywood star, producer, director, screenwriter, and cinematographer, East Is West was considered a lost film until a nitrate print from a private collection came to the Nederlands Filmmuseum in 2005. The initial inspection revealed that the first reel was in extremely bad condition, much of it crumbling into powdery chips. Nevertheless, a multi-year restoration was painstakingly undertaken.
Approximately 400 feet (six minutes) of the decaying first reel were salvaged by step printing the delicate pieces. After duplication, none of the original film strip from reel one could be said to survive. The rest of the print was in relatively good physical condition and initially looked to be complete. However, further inspection revealed many narrative gaps, particularly towards the end of the film. Dutch release prints of East Is West were documented as being 2,364 meters long, meaning the surviving copy was missing more than 900 meters (some thirteen minutes of screen time). Access to the original shooting script helped fill the gaps in the story. The restoration, therefore, includes some explanatory title cards to provide a more complete narrative.
Another restoration challenge was the print's Dutch intertitles. The English-language release prints included pidgin English in many of the dialogue titles written for Ming Toy and others. The Dutch title cards have her speaking "broken Dutch" and her initial problems with the language are fundamental to the comedy plot. Rather than translating the Dutch back into pidgin English, this restoration used Frances Marion's original script when possible. Where no original intertitles existed, the Dutch cards were translated in keeping with the style of the original American production.
The result testifies to the great comedic talents of its stars, Constance Talmadge and the Swedish-born Warner Oland, who became famous as Charlie Chan in sixteen films before his death in 1938. Constance was a celebrated movie star, part of the Talmadge Sisters, alongside Norma and Natalie. By 1919, she had her own production outfit, Constance Talmadge Film Company, producer of East Is West and fifteen other silent features in which she starred until her retirement at the end of the silent era. The independently produced movie was distributed in the U.S. by Associated First National Pictures.
EYE Filmmuseum completed this restoration in 2011, but the 2014 Orphan Film Symposium screening marks the world premiere of the restored East Is West.