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YMMV / The World of Suzie Wong

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  • Adaptation Displacement: The story was first a novel and then a play. The film is more remembered than either. People might be surprised to discover that book Robert was a young twentysomething, and English as opposed to American.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Suzie obviously has an attraction to Robert, but what if her asking to be his girlfriend in the early part of the film was out of a desire for financial security more than anything else? She does have a young baby to think of so maybe she mistook Robert for a rich artist at first?
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  • 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.
  • Arc Fatigue: In the book, pretty much any sequence with Rodney the American follows the same pattern: a) Rodney is nice and ends up in public with Robert and Suzie together, b) he shows his true colours and makes things turn sour, c) he goes passive aggressive, trying to apologise and the other two swear not to see him again, d) rinse and repeat. This happens at least four times.
  • 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.
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  • 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, even turning down a role in The Joy Luck Club because it had a line with a Take That! to the film.
  • Critic-Proof:
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  • 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, 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • Moment of Awesome:
    • Robert tells Suzie that what she does for a living is preventing them from being together. Suzie fires back that she's a poor uneducated Wan Chai girl and she has to make money somehow — then rhetorically asking if Robert would be happier seeing her begging on the streets.
    • Robert's Heel Realization where he finally appreciates just what a horrible life Suzie had and why she was driven to do whatever she had to survive.
      Robert: I could have changed all that. That's what I didn't understand.
  • More Popular Replacement: The original Suzie on the stage France Nuyen was cast only for her name recognition and had limited English — so critics weren't kind to her performance. Nancy Kwan meanwhile became a bigger star, and even those who don't like the film feel her performance is the strongest thing about it.
  • Most Wonderful Sound: Whenever Suzie says "for goodness sake", it's usually in that same adorably precocious way.
  • Narm: Much laughter has been made from Kay's dramatic line, delivered without any irony.
    Kay: He's the only man I've ever wanted. And if I have to get him the way she did, I'll do it. [cue Dramatic Thunder]
  • Never Live It Down: Suzie's low moment as far as viewers go is apparently being turned on by a man hitting her. This is taking things out of context; Suzie was assaulted by a client she tried to turn down, and to save face she makes up the story that Robert hit her in a fit of passionate jealousy. Pretty much every other character except Suzie thinks this is Insane Troll Logic, and it's a character flaw she ends up growing out of (this happening relatively early in the story).
  • 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.
  • Tear Dryer: The show has one hell of a Downer Ending in sight where Suzie only forgives Robert because she needs help rescuing her baby during a storm. Then the storm turns into an earthquake, and the baby dies! The final scene is a funeral for Young Winston, with Suzie and Robert in attendance. At the end of the funeral, Robert proposes, confirming that this Will They Wont They couple will be alright.
    Suzie: Robert, I'll be with you until you say "Suzie, go away"...
    Robert: That long?
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Vindicated by History: Although the film was a hit at the time, it was mainly seen as a So Bad It's Good bit of pulp — and it developed a huge backlash from the Asian-American community over the controversial portrayal of Suzie. The hate has levelled off over time, and it's nostalgically seen as a better film than it was given credit for — with the portrayal of Suzie hovering between Fair for Its Day and containing a lot of Values Resonance. It's also given some respect for being Nancy Kwan's Star-Making Role.
  • 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.

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