The Toll of the Sea

A young Chinese woman rescues a visiting American from drowning and they begin a love affair. But Allen Carver ends up leaving Lotus Blossom to return to the USA, where he marries his childhood sweetheart. It is not until visiting China years later that he learns he has fathered a son. With his wife consenting, the American couple agree to adopt young Allen, and Lotus Blossom makes the ultimate sacrifice for her son’s future … A riot of flora in red and green, the film was shot almost entirely under the California sun on a set dressed as a Chinese garden and was the first feature to be produced using the Technicolor two-colour process No. II. The plot, a variation of the “Madame Butterfly” story, set in China instead of Japan, is surprisingly believable. Not only the vegetation, but also the parasols and clothing in gradients of green, and the gleaming red of the chinoiserie interiors, appear as “natural” as the brown cliffs of the shoreline and the fiery sunset of the final scene. – The original negative of the final sequence has been lost; the scene was re-shot using an original two-colour camera for the 1985 restoration.
by Chester M. Franklin
with Anna May Wong, Kenneth Harlan, Beatrice Bentley
USA 1922 54’