Release Year: 2010
Studio: Virgil Films
Format: Colour/B&W; NTSC; Widescreen
Rated: Not Rated
# of Discs: 1
Running Time: 106 minutes
DVD Release Date: 2012
Creators: Brian Jamieson
Actors: Nancy Kwan
DVD Features: SDH subtitles
E:Top Picks Rating: 8.5/10
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: KA SHEN’S JOURNEY is the definitive and true life story of Nancy Kwan who as a young Eurasian girl from Hong Kong captured the hearts and minds of moviegoers around the world in her star-making motion picture debut role in “The World Of Suzie Wong” (1960) and the unforgettable follow up, Rodgers & Hammerstein Hollywood hit musical, “Flower Drum Song” (1961). With just two pictures in two years, this stunning beauty would become one of Hollywood’s first Asian “It” girls. But, the motion pictures that followed would never again mirror that initial success. This feature docu-drama explores “what happened” to such a promising career as it takes its audience on a personal journey, which is both fairy-tale and poignant. Featuring Joan Chen, France Nuyen, Vivian Wu, Sandra Allen, and a host of Nancy’s family and friends and filmed in High Definition on various locations including Hong Kong, Cambodia, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Kansas City, Nancy Kwan’s story is as equally compelling, as it is inspiring.
• Photo Gallery
• Watercolor Art Gallery (created for the film by Jin G. Kam)
Jon Ted Wynne Review:
The beautiful, enigmatic Asian film star Nancy Kwan burst upon the Hollywood scene in 1960 playing the title role in “The World of Suzie Wong,” a colourful tale of forbidden love in Hong Kong starring William Holden. This was followed not long after with the featured role of Linda Lo in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Flower Drum Song”, in which Kwan drew upon her considerable skills as a dancer (she originally wanted to be a ballerina).
After those two breakthrough films – and they truly were breakthrough films at a time when Asian characters were often played by Caucasians in heavy makeup – Kwan’s career coasted for awhile as she attempted to maintain her new-found stardom as well as marry her first husband and raise their beloved son, Bernie.
Unsurprisingly, Kwan’s early successes were not repeated, though she still managed to appear opposite some big stars such as Glenn Ford and Rod Taylor in “Fate Is The Hunter” and later Jack Lord in the pilot movie of “Hawaii 5-0”. There was still a long way to go for Asian actors before they would be accepted in the mainstream, and as Kwan was content to focus on her family as much as pursue her career, it was inevitable that her main happiness would be found in her private life, with her career often a second priority.
As a documentary, TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN is a little short on drama, though the subsequent death of Nancy’s only child is a major tragedy. The occasion of a ballet premiere of “The World of Suzie Wong” in Hong Kong serves as the bookend of the film, with Kwan in attendance. A somewhat self-conscious Kwan watches the performance with an intrusive camera recording her every reaction. Nonetheless the use of this event as the framework of the film is very effective. Nancy Kwan was brilliant in the film version, which was her screen debut. She held her own with the masterful William Holden, and that is really saying something. The fact that the film inspired a ballet so many years later is proof of the lasting value of Kwan’s first film, and is a fitting metaphor for the importance of her contribution to the movies.
It’s a shame her cinematic opportunities never unfolded the way they should have. But given the priority she placed on her family, Kwan’s limited film career doesn’t register as a great disappointment but rather more of a “too bad but oh well” reaction. In other words, her stunted career appears to have been the result of personal choices as much as resistance from Hollywood to test her range as an actress.
Though her first two marriages were to end in divorce, since 1976 Nancy Kwan has been happily partnered with Norbert Meisel, an Austrian actor with a limited resume, though he did have some supporting roles in some reasonably high profile ’60s classic television programs like “The Rat Patrol”. Her son Bernie was the product of her first marriage and he was clearly a talented and outstanding young man who died tragically at a young age. Bernie Pock was a successful stunt man whose creative compulsions included writing, directing and painting. He was fiercely protective of his mother and his passing has cast a pall over Kwan’s life.
There is very little suspense in Kwan’s life story. True, the marriage of her Chinese father and Scottish mother was considered very unusual in the 1930s, but this doesn’t provide any drama. Many of the interviews with family and friends are interesting but not particularly enlightening.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN comes across more as a straight-forward account of Nancy’s life and film career. The film does have some very good moments, especially for film fans, such as Kwan’s screen tests for the role of Suzie Wong. Her charisma and intelligence shine through along with her natural beauty. She definitely had star quality right from the beginning.
Fans of Nancy Kwan will appreciate TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN for what it is, a highly respectful, loving tribute to an actress who truly made a difference.[Top]