Reviewed by DAN STUMPF:         

LIMEHOUSE BLUES. Paramount, 1934. Re-released as East End Chant. George Raft, Anna May Wong, Jean Parker, Kent Taylor, Montagu Love, Billy Bevan, Eric Blore and (don’t blink or you’ll miss her) Ann Sheridan. Written by Cyril Hume and a bunch of others, including Philip MacDonald. Directed by Alexander Hall.

   Sheer unmitigated bosh, done up in the lavish Paramount style, and a lot of fun, though you may not respect yourself in the morning.

   George Raft stars as a Chinese-American gangster (!?) transplanted to London , where he and Anna May Wong run Paramount’s version of a Waterfront Dive, filled with fog, smoke, and smoggy folk, with musical numbers to rival a Cher concert.

   But this tawdry pleasure dome is just a cover for his smuggling activities, which have roused the ire of the constabulary and a loutish rival (Montagu Love) with a cute guttersnipe step-daughter (Jean Parker.) When George saves her from the law she returns the favor, and when he murders her step-father (unbeknownst to her) he offers her a job in his club and starts making her over into his ideal English gentlewoman.

   All is not My Fair Lady, however; it ain’t even Vertigo. This Galatea has no love for her Pygmalion (The writers hint that the White Woman in her naturally recoils from the racially-mixed Raft.) but Anna May Wong is murderously jealous of their non-relationship. When Jean meets Kent Taylor (in a scene that just about defines “meeting cute” — they’re caught in a puppy stampede) and falls for him, George gets lethally jealous himself. And the law is closing in on just about everybody.

   I should warn potential viewers that the ending is a sappy, badly-motivated thing that will please no one, and there’s plenty of subtle racism about the place, but this is done with that elegant Paramount polish, the look that took Lubitsch and Von Sternberg to the heights, and it’s awfully easy to watch. George Raft’s constipated thesping could almost be mistaken for Oriental inscrutability, and it’s just too bad he’s paired off with Anna May Wong’s genuine article — those wonderfully expressive eyes in her beautiful mask-like face show him up rather badly.

   The rest of the cast is typical Hollywood perfection, though: a regiment of solid supporting players effortlessly underpinning a movie that can’t be taken seriously but rewards an indulgent critical wink.