Piccadilly

One of the pinnacles of British silent cinema, Piccadilly is a sumptuous showbiz melodrama seething with sexual and racial tension.

The Chinese-American screen goddess Anna May Wong stars as Shosho, a scullery maid in a fashionable London nightclub whose sensuous tabletop dance catches the eye of suave club owner Valentine Wilmot. She rises to become the toast of London and the object of his erotic obsession – to the bitter jealousy of Mabel, his former lover and star dancer (played by Ziegfeld Follies star Gilda Gray).

Piccadilly has been beautifully restored by the BFI National Film & Television Archive, complete with amber and blue tinting copied from an original 1929 silent release print.

This stylish evocation of Jazz Age London, directed by the German émigré EA Dupont, boasts the dazzling cinematography of Werner Brandes and atmospheric sets by Alfred Junge – ranging from the opulent West End nightclub (actually filmed in Piccadilly’s Caf de Paris) to seedy Limehouse. Charles Laughton has a cameo role, making one of his first screen appearances as a greedy nightclub diner.

Piccadilly was a star vehicle for Anna May Wong, the first Asian-American star and one of the first non-white actors to gain international celebrity. Best known for her role as Marlene Dietrich’s sultry sidekick in Shanghai Express, Wong’s career was stymied by racial stereotyping. Until recently all but forgotten, she now seems poised for rediscovery.

Special features

  • Neil Brand on composing the new score.
  • Prologue from the sound version of the film.
  • Biographies of EA Dupont and Anna May Wong.

Product information

    • Certificate

      PG

    • Colour

      Black/white and tinted

    • Sound

      Silent with music

    • Running time

      108mins

    • Original aspect ratio

      1.33:1

    • DVD region

      • 2 Europe (except Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus), Middle East, Egypt, Japan, South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Greenland, French Overseas departments and territories

    • Catalogue number

      BFIVD579

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