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The Hatchet Man (1932)

Hatchet man is ordered to kill his close friend for the sake of Tong.

Director:

William A. Wellman

Writers:

Achmed Abdullah (play), David Belasco (play) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Edward G. Robinson ... Wong Low Get
Loretta Young ... Sun Toya San
Dudley Digges ... Nog Hong Fah
Leslie Fenton ... Harry En Hai
Edmund Breese ... Yu Chang
Tully Marshall ... Long Sen Yat
J. Carrol Naish ... Sun Yat Ming (as J. Carroll Naish)
Charles Middleton ... Lip Hop Fat
E. Alyn Warren ... Soo Lat, the Cobbler
Edward Peil Sr. ... Bing Foo (as Eddie Piel)
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Storyline

San Francisco Tong hatchet man Wong must execute his boyhood friend Sun. Sun knew his time was up and wrote out his will just prior to Wong showing up at his door. When Sun realizes Wong is there to kill me he tries to set his friend's mind at ease by telling him he is the beneficiary of all Sun's worldly possessions and convinces Wong to promise to take care of Sun's young daughter, Toya San who Sun has bequeathed to become his wife. Years later, when she becomes of age, she marries Wong, now a powerful figure, though she loves evil Harry. When Wong learns Toya will be happier with Harry he allows them to leave. Still later Wong learns that Harry has been deported and since Toya could not prove she was married to someone else she too was deported to China. When Wong learns of this, he goes after them. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

He kills!! She thrills! See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

6 February 1932 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Honorable Mr. Wong See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Edward G. Robinson's wife at the time, Gladys Lloyd, appears uncredited as "Fan Yi". They were married from 1927 to 1956 and she would appear in five films with him from 1931-32. See more »

Quotes

Sun Toya San: Oh, boy, is this keen!
Harry En Hai: You like it?
Sun Toya San: And how!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Slaying the Dragon (1988) See more »

Soundtracks

Alabamy Bound
(uncredited)
Music by Ray Henderson
Played at the dance hall
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The oddness and the dated politics aside, it remains a bit stiff and contrived
22 September 2014 | by secondtakeSee all my reviews

The Hatchet Man (1932)

So burdened with ethnic slandering—most of it "unintentional" at least—this movie is almost impossible to watch fairly. The basic story of inter-clan fighting and murder in the Chinese community (in San Francisco) is meant no doubt to have echoes in Italian mobster killings, and therefore have a wider appeal. But when the main characters are played by very non-Chinese talents (a product of the prejudice in Hollywood at the time), there is a constant woe and disbelief on many levels.

Of course, these problems are exactly why a "student' of early Hollywood should watch this. This is a way to get some sense of the problem these movies present. And there are additional reasons to see this—mainly the two really famous actors of the period doing their best to be Chinese. Edward G. Robinson is of course one of the greats of the era, an odd but searingly talented actor, and he plays well the head of one of the Chinese clans (or tongs). His wife has a smaller role but important —and so Loretta Young, a rising, fresh star, does what she can.

Nothing can redeem all this. The title refers to the violence of the subculture, where the solution for dishonor is death (by hatchet, literally).

There is the simplest of attempts to show how the Chinese were assimilating at the time. In a way the movie shows some shred of real life for the Chinatowns of America. The secondary theme here is love, and a kind of arranged marriage. This conflicts in different ways and Robinson, playing a Westernized immigrant, faces one aspect of this New World he can't quite understand. There are a couple of turns of plot to keep you alert, and a crazy ending worth seeing.

It's great to see Warner Archive put this out there in a clean copy, ready for all our various social biases. Maybe that's why it's worth it on some level. Never mind that it is often stiff and slow. Judge it as you can.


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