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The Vermilion Pencil

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Vermilion Pencil
Lobby card
Directed byNorman Dawn
Written byEdwin Warren Juyol
Alice Catlin
Based onThe Vermilion Pencil: a Romance of China (novel)
by Homer Lea[1]
StarringSessue Hayakawa
Ann May
Misao Seki
Bessie Love
Sidney Franklin
CinematographyJoseph A. Du Bray
Distributed byRobertson–Cole
Release date
  • March 19, 1922 (1922-03-19) (U.S.)
Running time
5 reels;[2] 4,900 feet[3][4]
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent (English intertitles)

The Vermilion Pencil is a 1922 American silent drama film directed by Norman Dawn, and produced and distributed by Robertson–Cole. It is based on the eponymous 1908 novel by Homer Lea. The film stars Japanese actor Sessue Hayakawa in multiple roles, and white actors Ann May, Bessie Love, and Sidney Franklin, all in Asian roles. It is now a lost film.[2][5]

After completing this film, Hayakawa learned that members of the studio who made the film were active in the anti-Japanese movement, and he left Hollywood for over a decade.[6][7]

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Extras were cast from Chinatown, Los Angeles, and the value of the costumes worn by the principals cost $20,000[8] (equivalent to $350,000 in 2022). To darken her hair for the film, Bessie Love used mascara.[9] Despite this, Love called the film "thoughtfully produced".[10]

Exteriors were filmed in the Sierra Nevada mountains.[11] Some scenes were filmed at the Hollywood home of Adolph and Eugene Bernheimer,[9] now the Japanese restaurant Yamashiro.


Omar Whitehead (seated) as Ma Shue, with Sessue Hayakawa as Li Chan

In China, Tse Chan (Hayakawa) flees to the mountains after his wife (May) is executed under the command of the unscrupulous Ling Chee.

His son Li Chan (also Hayakawa), who has grown up in America, returns to China many years later as a successful civil engineer. Li falls in love with the beautiful Hyacinth (Love), who is betrothed to the viceroy Fu Wong (Franklin). Li takes a position as Hyacinth's private tutor, and the pair escape to the mountains.

They hide in the crater of a volcano and are captured when they nearly suffocate from the fumes. The viceroy is about to have them executed when The Unknown (also Hayakawa) helps them escape by sacrificing himself in the volcano, causing it to erupt.[4][12][13][14]


Sessue Hayakawa as Li Chan with Bessie Love as Hyacinth


Thomas Jefferson as Ho Ling

The film received generally positive reviews,[3][4][15][16][17][18][19][20][21] and was commercially successful.[19][20][21][22] The visuals were consistently acclaimed.[3][4] Hayakawa's performance received positive reviews.[3][18] Bessie Love's performance and star power were noted as a box office draw.[4][18]

See also


  1. ^ Lea, Homer (1908). The Vermilion Pencil: a Romance of China. New York: McClure. OCLC 908003890.
  2. ^ a b c Munden, Kenneth W., ed. (1971). The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States: Feature Films 1921–1930. New York: R.R. Bowker Company. p. 857. OCLC 664500075.
  3. ^ a b c d "Consensus of Published Reviews". Moving Picture World. April 1, 1922. p. 544.
  4. ^ a b c d e Kelly, Mary (March 18, 1922). "Newest Reviews and Comments". Moving Picture World. p. 299.
  5. ^ "The Vermilion Pencil / Norman Dawn [motion picture]". Library of Congress.
  6. ^ Kim, Hyung-Chan; Cordova, Dorothy; Fugita, Stephen S.; Ng, Franklin; Singh, Jane, eds. (1999). Distinguished Asian Americans: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-313-28902-6.
  7. ^ Hayakawa, Sessue (1961). Zen Showed Me the Way. London: Allen & Unwin. pp. 155–6. OCLC 475643804.
  8. ^ a b McNamara, Sue (February 11, 1922). "Bringing the Orient to the U.S.A." Pantomime. p. 14.
  9. ^ a b Love, Bessie (June 13, 1967). "Celestial: Class A—1". The Christian Science Monitor. p. 8.
  10. ^ Love, Bessie (December 5, 1969). "Grease Paint and the Rent". The Christian Science Monitor. p. 12.
  11. ^ "Jessen's Studio News by Wire". Motion Picture News. November 12, 1921. p. 2576.
  12. ^ "Reviews: Vermilion Pencil". Exhibitors Herald. Vol. 14, no. 13. New York City: Exhibitors Herald Company. March 25, 1922. p. 59.
  13. ^ Motion Picture News Booking Guide. New York: Motion Picture News. October 1922. p. 75.
  14. ^ Andrews, Peter. "The Vermilion Pencil". Motion Picture Magazine. pp. 49–53, 102.
  15. ^ Packwood, P.E. (August 5, 1922). "What the Picture Did for Me". Exhibitors Herald. p. 65.
  16. ^ Hickey, Jack Jr. (August 12, 1922). "What the Picture Did for Me". Exhibitors Herald. p. 88.
  17. ^ "The Voice of the Box Office". Exhibitors Trade Review. July 8, 1922. p. 483.
  18. ^ a b c "Contemporary Criticisms". Camera!. Vol. 4, no. 51. April 1, 1922. pp. 14–5.
  19. ^ a b "The Voice of the Box Office". Exhibitors Trade Review. Vol. 12, no. 7. July 15, 1922. p. 548.
  20. ^ a b "The Voice of the Box Office". Exhibitors Trade Review. Vol. 12, no. 2. June 10, 1922. p. 116.
  21. ^ a b "The Voice of the Box Office". Exhibitors Trade Review. Vol. 12, no. 9. July 29, 1922. p. 662.
  22. ^ "U.B.O. Books R–C Picture 'Vermilion Pencil' for 80 Days". Moving Picture World. April 1, 1922. p. 466.

External links

This page was last edited on 16 October 2023, at 22:35
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