Follow TV Tropes


YMMV / The World of Suzie Wong

Go To

  • Adaptation Displacement: The story was first a novel and then a play. The film is more remembered than either.
  • Angst? What Angst?: In the book Suzie gets over the death of her son rather quickly. The film changes this so that it features as the climax and finale.
  • Awesome Music: "Love Declared" - the soft, beautiful piece that plays as Robert and Suzie finally admit their feelings for each other.
  • Base-Breaking Character: Suzie herself is seen either as an Ethnic Scrappy for reinforcing the stereotype of Asian women being submissive or needing to be rescued by white men, or else a Fair for Its Day portrayal who has lots more character depth than normal. And there's the camp that don't like the character but feel Nancy Kwan's performance saves her.
  • Advertisement:
  • Best Known for the Fanservice: The film is remembered for Nancy Kwan wearing form-fitting cheongsams for a good portion of the running time. It turned her into a sex symbol, despite the dresses still being fairly modest by today's standards.
  • "Common Knowledge": A lot of Asians know the film as a story of an Asian Hooker Stereotype who needs to be rescued by a white man - not knowing that the story is much more nuanced than that. Nancy Kwan has even defended the film throughout her career.
  • Critic-Proof:
  • Advertisement:
  • Fair for Its Day: Look at how prominent a character Suzie is for an Asian woman in a 1960s Hollywood film. Despite being an Asian Hooker Stereotype who needs to be rescued by a white man, she's a rounded character and also gave a leading role to an Asian actress. Take note of how many times Anna May Wong had to make do with Dragon Lady roles while white actresses in Yellowface played Asian leads. Nancy Kwan even won a Golden Globe for her performance.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Robert failing to rescue Suzie's baby from a fall during an earthquake, resulting in the baby's death is even sadder after William Holden died in a fall in real life.
    • Similarly is the death of the baby itself when Nancy Kwan ended up losing her own son to AIDS.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Suzie's initial lies that she's a rich daddy's girl are amusing if one is familiar with Nancy Kwan's role as Gold Digger Linda in Flower Drum Song. Suzie also talks about a new musical opening down the street.
    • Advertisement:
    • One in which the "hilarious" part may lean into cringe comedy way, but Suzie Wong is fully Chinese, while her actress Nancy Kwan is actually half-Chinese, half-Caucasian, due to having a Chinese father and a Caucasian mother (in fact, she was given mild Yellowface to look more Chinese). This the exact opposite of what happened in a previous film featuring William Holden in a interracial relationship with a woman of Chinese ancestry set in Hong Kong, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, where his love interest was described as "Eurasian", seemingly to cover the fact that she was played by the very much Caucasian Jennifer Jones in very obvious yellowface.
    • Nancy Kwan replacing the original actress set to play Suzie is amusing considering the opposite would happen with The Joy Luck Club — where Kwan would turn down a part because the script had a Take That! to this film. Specifically, there's a scene with a wealthy mother who doesn't want her son marrying an Asian and behaving much like O'Neill — and Rose in voiceover snaps "It was right out of some awful, racist movie like The World of Suzie Wong," overlooking the fact that Suzie Wong is an anti-racism picture.
    • Jacqueline Chan plays Gwennie Lee, the Token Wholesome of Suzie's prostitute friends. Fast forward to The Crown where Jacqueline is featured as a character (due to her real life affair with Lord Snowden) in a memorably raunchy scene involving stairs sex. What did the real woman have to say?
      Chan: I never would have chosen the stairs. Far too uncomfortable. The kitchen table maybe.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: Some watch the film just for the on-location shots of Hong Kong in the 60s.
  • Mexicans Love Speedy Gonzales:
    • The film is liked in a few circles for being a time capsule of 1960s Hong Kong, and it's also recognised as what made Nancy Kwan a star - making her one of the most prominent Asian celebrities in Hollywood for a time. Nancy Kwan was proud of the film too, and turned down a role in The Joy Luck Club because it had a line with a Take That! to Suzie.
    • There's also the fact that Suzie breaks the submissive Asian woman stereotype - rebuffing anyone coming onto her she doesn't like, supporting Robert financially and challenging the racism of the white Hong Kong expats. And of course she's able to be funny without being a punch line, and is presented as an equal match for Robert (as opposed to a trophy).
  • Misaimed Fandom: Hong Kong natives were worried that the film's focus on Suzie's life as a prostitute would encourage "the wrong type of tourism".
  • Moe: Gwennie Lee is so nice and cute that she's adorable whenever she's shown. She even jokes that she doesn't have sex appeal because of her cuteness.
  • Most Wonderful Sound: Whenever Suzie says "for goodness sake", it's usually in that same adorably precocious way.
  • Nightmare Fuel: In a fit of jealousy, Robert snaps and pulls the dress that Ben bought Suzie off her. For a previously soft-spoken character, it's a terrifying moment. It also looks like he's going to rape her, and Suzie is left a sobbing mess at the end of the ordeal.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • Bernard Cribbins is a sailor Otis who picks up Gwennie in her first scene.
    • An odd example. Gwennie is played by an actress called Jacqueline Chan, who was the girlfriend of Anthony Armstrong-Jones and is featured as a character in Season 2 of The Crown and in Princess Margaret: The Rebel Royal.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: Robert's line "go back to being a prostitute" was a real Wham Line in the 60s when depictions of sex work had historically been downplayed or softened. These days the film just looks coy for dancing around what Suzie does until that line.
  • Testosterone Brigade: Nancy Kwan in flattering cheongasms? And playing an artist's model, allowing her to spend a couple of scenes posed nicely? The original play was sold on the 'exotic' Fanservice angle.
  • Unbuilt Trope: This codified the Asian Hooker Stereotype. The titular Suzie Wong however has a complicated backstory - including a son that she has to provide for and is treated as a character rather than a stereotype.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • Robert first meets Suzie when he sketches her from afar - which would be seen as creepy and stalkerish today. He at least asks her permission before he paints her - and pays her to be his model however.
    • Robert refuses to let either Kay or Suzie support him financially because he's the man and he's supposed to be a provider dammit! With Suzie it's a little understandable - as she intended to go back to prostitution to make the money - but Kay is wealthy and works at her father's bank too.
    • The scene where Robert strips Suzie out of the dress Ben bought for her would be impossible to keep today and still have Robert look sympathetic. He does admittedly apologise for it, but it makes him look abusive to a modern audience.
    • Speaking of abuse, after being slapped by another customer, Susie brags to her girlfriends that Robert hit her, even saying "Too bad you don't have a man who cares about you enough to hit you!" Even though she and Robert view the other guy hitting her as reprehensible, the idea that Robert doing the same thing is indicative of how much he loves her is thoroughly disturbing.
    • Also the scene where Suzie has her girlfriends play with Robert's things in his room. What was seen as a playful comedic moment in the 60s would be seen as creepy and stalkerish today - not to mention a gross violation of Robert's privacy.
  • The Woobie: Although she hides it beneath layers of sass and sarcasm, Suzie is quite the Woobie. She's quite sad when you realise that the main reason for her not being up front about her feelings is that Robert will mock and and reject her when he discovers she has a child. And then the child dies. The book reveals she was repeatedly raped by her uncle, one lover died and another was going to marry her but inexplicably shunned her afterwards.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: The original author felt William Holden was far too old at 42 to play Robert. On the stage he had been played by William Shatner at age 27.

Example of: