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Großstadtschmetterling 1929
Description: In this, her second silent movie with Eichberg, Wong plays Princess Butterfly, an exotic Parisian fanatic dancer whose “death leap through a circle of naked swords” act goes tragically wrong. Blamed for the impalement of a fellow performer, she runs away and takes shelter with a handsome but starving painter who she brings luck.
Released: 30 Apr 1930 Director: Richard Eichberg Writers: Hans Kyser (story), Adolf Lantz Actors: Anna May Wong, Alexander Granach, Nien Soen Ling, Elwood Fleet Bostwick Genres: Drama
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Großstadtschmetterling Reviews:

Like Josephine Baker and Louise Brooks, Anna May Wong was an American girl who had to go to Europe to search movies worthy of her talent. The Pavement Butterfly, a German-British production set in Paris, is by no means a nice film, but it provides a marvelous showcase for Anna May Wong, and ample evidence that she would have been one of the top stars of her era if not for the racial prejudice that limited her to "dragon lady" roles in America. Here she is absolutely stunning, going from carnival cooch-dancer to haute-couture-draped rich man's mistress, with a bohemian interlude in the garret of a starving painter. She proves herself a fine actress as well as a charismatic star, and looks throughout like the proverbial million bucks. The movie is powerful on atmosphere and low on plot. Settings contain a seedy carnival finished with female boxers, the bohemian garret mentioned previously (which looks exactly like the one in Seventh Heaven), Paris nightclubs, and the French Riviera. The cinematography is stylish, with flashy montages introducing the different settings. The leading boy (Louis Lerch) is a naturalistic actor and begins out likable enough before metamorphosing into a jerk; Anna May Wong's rival is a horse-faced, wealthy Daddy's woman rarely seen without at least one dead animal wrapped around her neck. S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall, looking uncharacteristically trim, appears as one of the hero's bohemian friends. The plot is driven largely by a singularly loathsome villain, who seems to be motivated by a combination of greed, frustrated lust for the heroine, and sheer monstrosity. The storyline suffers not only from improbability but from gratuitous sadism towards the heroine, who suffers unjust accusations of murder and robbery. (Maybe the fact that she's called "Butterfly" could have tipped me off that her fate wouldn't be happy.) Though tiny reference is made to her race, it's difficult not to attribute the pervasive suspicion and ill-usage of her to the fact that she is Chinese. And when she winds up alone at the end, I was reminded strongly of the Josephine Baker car Zouzou, in which likewise the superb heroine winds up losing her boy to a bland blonde. I was lucky enough to see The Pavement Butterfly in the Museum of the Moving Image's actual Anna May Wong retrospective (paired with a Josephine Baker retrospective, in which I recently viewed Zouzou), with a huge enthusiastic audience and live music. The print was flawless, and I hope this movie will be released as Piccadilly recently was, since it, and especially its star, deserves to be more widely seen.



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