Immediately upon the filming of the final scenes of “Merely Players,” Director Oscar Apfel of World Pictures began the direction of Kitty Gordon in “Mandarin’s Gold,” an original story from the pen of Philip Lonergan, and adapted to the screen by Lucien Hubbard of the World staff. Miss Gordon is supported by Irving Cummings, George MacQuarrie, and others. The picture deals with life in Chinatown, New York. …Pre-production work was reported in Dramatic Mirror, June 1 1918.
Oscar Apfel has been searching the various shops and haunts of Chinatown for local color. He is soon to begin directing Kitty Gordon in “The Mandarin’s Gold.” In this picture several scenes occur in a Chinese home, and in order to get the correct atmosphere Mr. Apfel has secured introductions to some of the better class families and has been dining on chop suey with them and observing their habits and customs of home life.Filming of “Mandarin’s Gold” was reported in Motography, June 8, 1918.
Starts “Mandarin’s Gold”So far, the earliest mention of Alice Lee was found in the Cincinnati Post (Ohio), June 6, 1918.
After several weeks’ preliminary work Director Oscar Apfel has “Mandarin’s Gold” under way at the World studio. Kitty Gordon is the star and Irving Cummings is her leading man. The other members of the cast include George MacQuarrie, Warner Oland, Anthony Merlo, Marguerite Gale, Veronica Lee, Joseph Lee, Marion Barney, Charles Fang and Alice Lee.
The picture has an oriental locale and requires a large number of Chinese. Because of this fact an interpreter had to be engaged. Mr. Apfel located as many scenes as possible in New York’s Chinatown.
Many newspapers published the same photograph. The amount of text varied due to space limitations. Here are links to the Washington Herald (DC), June 7, 1918, Evening Public Ledger, (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), June 8, 1918, Albuquerque Morning Journal (New Mexico), June 9, 1918, Ogden Standard (Utah), June 11, 1918, Chattanooga News (Tennessee), June 13, 1918, Bismarck Tribune (North Dakota), July 16, 1918, and Pensacola Journal (Florida), August 25, 1918.
An article about Alice was published June 15, 1918 in Motography.
Plans to Uplift China Through Films
Young Oriental Girl Who Has Part in World Picture Sees Way to Make Countrymen Respect Her Sex
Asking a million questions a minute and carefully storing away in her keen mind all the information she absorbs for future use in the elevating of womankind in her native country, Alice Lee, a bright young Chinese girl, is the busiest person about the World studio in West Fort Lee these days.A nearly identical version appeared in Moving Picture World, June 15, 1918, which was reprinted in the book Fort Lee: The Film Town (1904-2004).
Miss Lee realizes that motion pictures are the greatest propaganda force in the world today and it is for that reason that she has chosen the movies as the mode of bringing her countrymen to higher things.
Miss Lee is appearing as one of the leading characters in a new World Picture, “Mandarin’s Gold,” in which Kitty Gordon is starred, and she is utilizing every moment she has at the studio in studying the making of pictures, from the staging of the plays to the developing of the negatives and the making of the prints.
“Everyone knows,” said Miss Lee, “how the Chinese father considers a son a blessing, and a daughter a curse. Everyone knows how different things are here—how American women are looked up to and respected and what an important place they take in the daily life, especially in these war times.
“There is no reason why the Chinese women should not also be looked up to and respected by the Chinese men and with the aid of the knowledge I have gained in the World studio I hope to be successful in bringing this change about or at least starting the change.
“I am going back to China soon and with me I will take several thousands of feet of film showing the way that American men treat American women—with the utmost respect. Then, when I am in China, I will take pictures showing the way that Chinese men treat our womenfolk. After this I will show both pictures, one after the other, and in this way forcibly bring home to my countrymen the difference in the standing of women in America and China.
“It is so that I may be able to have success in taking the pictures back home in China that I am studying so hard here and asking so many questions which the World people so kindly answer for me.”
Alice was on the cover of The World Magazine, June 30, 1918.
Above: Green Book Magazine, July 1918
Photoplay, August 1918, published a photograph of Alice with Warner Oland and Oscar Apfel, the film’s director.
“Mandarin’s Gold” was reviewed in Variety, January 31, 1919.
Betty Cardon…..Kitty GordonMoving Picture World, February 1, 1919, said the film was scheduled for release on February 10 but it opened earlier.
Blair Cardon…..Irving Cummings
Geoffrey North…..George MacQuarrie
Susan Pettigrew…..Marguerite Gale
Cherry Blossom…..Veronica Lee
Li Hsun…..Warner Oland
Wu Sing…..Joseph Lee
Mrs. Stone…..Marion Barney
Bertie Standish…..Tony Merlo
Kitty Gordon is starred in this new World five-reel feature written by Philip Lonergan and directed by Oscar Apfel. It is of the melodrama type and has been built around the star. There is nothing particularly new about the theme, but the production is featured by handsome Oriental settings and the types representing the characters are unusually good.
Miss Gordon as Betty Cardon is addicted to bridge and as a result is always hard up. Her husband becomes tired of paying her I. O. U.’s and forbids her to play, but she continues and gets further into debt, and in her efforts to meet her obligations gets into a number of compromising situations. Getting into the clutches of a Mandarin is one of them.
Irving Cummings is Miss Gordon’s leading man, and he makes the most of a difficult part. There are many Chinese in the picture. Of these Alice Lee is the best. Miss Lee seems to enter into the spirit of the picture and acts with earnestness. Warner Oland as the Mandarin is wonderfully and gorgeously attired and gives a splendid characterization of the exalted Chinese, who comes to an untimely and, being shot in a raid upon his apartment in which he had a number of Chinese girls. Betty Cardon was caught in the raid, and she has to make lengthy explanations to her husband before he will believe that she was there in the interests of a little Chinese girl whom they had adopted and whom the Mandarin wanted to make one of his many wives.
“Mandarin’s Gold” is nothing more than an ordinary feature.
The Billboard, February 8, 1919, reviewed “Mandarin’s Gold”.
Scenario by Lucien Hubbard, directed by Oscar Apfel, starring Kitty Gordon, a World PictureThe Dramatic Mirror, February 8, 1919, published music cues for “Mandarin’s Gold”.
Reviewed by Marion Russell
Chinese atmosphere galore, but of the higher class, contrasting, strongly with American society.
Leading Parts: Kitty Gordon, Irving Cummmings, George MacQuarrie, Warner Oland, Marion Barney, Veronica Lee.
The Story in Skeleton Form
Betty Cardon, extravagant society wife of a
hard working lawyer, loses huge sums of money at bridge and accepts assistance from an ardent admirer. Her recklessness involves her good name and she is hounded by a rich Mandarin from whose clutches she has rescued a Chinese girl. Murder, police raids and other horrors pursue her until she awakes from the unpleasant dream of a happy reality.
The Critical X-Ray
Departing somewhat from the old hackneyed material this story takes one into new fields with interest holding t» the final scene, and then the shock of the trick perpetrated angers by the disclosure that after all originality is lacking, for tbe story is only a dream.
But the embellishments are so realistic and many deft touches, such as the Mandarin’s long finger nails, the many curios in the apartment and paraphernalia, correct replicas of such an establishment, are cleverly pictured.
The opening scenes following artistic subtitles are splendidly conveyed and the contrast offered by the lighthearted woman of social standing pitted against the sly, subtle demeanor of the Celestial is graphically shown. There is a charm, too, offered by the unique characterization of a real Chinese girl playing under the name af Veronica Lee. Her delineation of the persecuted daughter of the curio merchant was a fine achievement. It is her appeaance [sic] which injects a new angle to the story. Kitty Gordon was at her best in this picture. She has tbe poise and beauty to represent the frivilous society woman, wearer of attractive gowns, whose love of luxury was seized upon by the crafty Mandarin, ably played by Warner Oland. This actor has made a careful study of the Oriental’s manner and bearing, his cruel cunning and ability to read character. His makeup in the role could not have been improved upon. Irving Cummings and George McQuarrie [sic] were thoroly [sic] competent in leading parts.
Direction consistently good and photography clear.
The Woman’s Point of View
This is the type of parts suited to our statuesque screen star, and we admire the regal manner in which she walks thru her many scenes. Tho she never convinces us that she is really suffering, her work is that of a refined woman, not troubled with a surplus of emotion.
With such a title and attractive start the possibilities for publicity are numerous.
For all classes.
The February 8 Moving Picture World included a “Mandarin’s Gold” photograph.
The same issue had the cast list, synopsis and ways to promote the film. (Another synopsis appeared in Photoplay Plot Encyclopedia (1920).)
A week later, Moving Picture World printed the following advertisement.
The Columbia Record (South Carolina), February 9, 1919, published the following article and advertisement.
Below are “Mandarin Gold” advertisements from other cities.
|Chicago Tribune, February 18, 1919|
|Los Angeles Daily Herald, March 6, 1919|
|Duluth Herald, March 26, 1919|
|Utica Observer, May 2, 1919|
|Daily Argus, June 12, 1919|
|The Saratogian, November 11, 1919|
In the Dramatic Mirror, February 15, 1919, synopsis it mentioned one of the female characters, Tsai Mun. Veronica Lee was credited as Cherry Blossom, so, apparently, Alice Lee was Tsai Mun.
Betty Cardon has lost a considerable sum of money at bridge and is considering the offer of a wicked old Mandarin to sell Tsai Mun, her ward, to him for a large sum of money. “But a dream, in which she and the Chinese girl undergo much suffering, shows her the folly of such an act, so instead she confesses to her husband and receives the money from him. And Tsai Mun is free to marry the Chinese of her choice.Despite the publicity there was no mention of Alice’s age, birthplace, family, residence, education and date of her return home. Was she related to Veronica and Joseph Lee?
I believe an article in The New York Times, October 17, 1915, provided the first clues to Alice’s identity.
Chinese Girl Runs Hotel Lounge.While working at the Claridge, Alice was discovered by star actress Mary Pickford, whose trip with Alice to Chinatown was told in two nearly identical stories in The New York Times, March 5, 1916 and New York Dramatic Mirror, March 11, 1916. The articles had information about Alice’s age, parents and address.
The first Chinese woman to be employed in a New York hotel is in charge of the lounge at the Hotel Claridge. She is Miss Alice Lee, who, though of Oriental parentage, was born in Mott Street. Miss Lee attended the Washington Irving High School and speaks and reads Chinese as fluently as English.
The New York Times
Mary Pickford, who will soon be seen in a Chinese photoplay with scenes laid in New York, Jacksonville, and Savannah, has engaged Alice Lee, a little Chinese girl, to appear with her in some of the scenes. Alice Lee is an American-born girl of 16, living at 32 Mott Street. Her father is a laundryman in Baltimore, but her mother and younger sister live at the former address. Last Saturday Miss Pickford and Miss Lee spent the afternoon in Chinatown. The two motored there in Miss Pickford’s car, the actress desiring to make arrangements with Miss Lee’s mother, and at the same time to purchase several costumes and properties for the play.
The occasion proved a holiday for Chinatown, for one bright-eyes youngster recognized the film star and instantly the party was besieged by the entire population of the street. The children told Miss Pickford that she was prettier in real life than in the pictures, and others demanded to see Charlie Chaplin, whom they thought must be concealed somewhere in the car. Someone, doubtless a storekeeper, who was afraid of his windows being crushed in, sent for the police and a squad of six was sent to keep off the crowds. A restaurant keeper whose place adjoined the silk store in which the party took refuge offered to escort them through a passageway into his place and thus escape the crowd, but this actress refused.
After a call on Mrs. Lee, who Miss Pickford declares “lived on the ninth floor back of a four-story house,” she beat a hasty retreat from Chinatown.
New York Dramatic Mirror
Mary as Mongol
“Trip to Chinatown” Foreshadows Her Appearance in Another Character Creation
Miss Mary Pickford, who will soon be seen in a Chinese photoplay with scenes laid in New York, Jacksonville and Savannah, has engaged little Alice Lee, the Chinese girl at the Claridge hotel, to appear with her in some of the scenes. Alice Lee is an American born girl of 16, living at 32 Mott Street. Her father is a laundryman in Baltimore, but her mother and younger sister live at the former address. Last Saturday Miss Pickford, Miss Lee and Miss Anna Pelton of the Claridge, spent the afternoon in Chinatown. The three motored there in Miss Pickford’s car, the actress desiring to make arrangements with Miss Lee’s mother, and at the same time to purchase several costumes and “properties” for the play.
The occasion proved a holiday for Chinatown, for one bright-eyes youngster recognized the film star and instantly the party was besieged by the entire population of the street. The children told Miss Pickford that she was prettier in real life than in the pictures, and others demanded to see Charlie Chaplin, whom they thought must be concealed somewhere in the car. Someone, doubtless a storekeeper, who was afraid of his windows being crushed in, sent for the police and a squad of six was sent to keep off the crowds.
A restaurant keeper whose place adjoined the silk store in which the party took refuge offered to escort them through a passageway into his place and thus escape the crowd, but this actress refused. After a call on Mrs. Lee, who Miss Pickford declares “lives on the ninth floor back of a four-story house,” they made a hasty retreat from Chinatown. This probably foreshadows Mary Pickford in Chinese costume, to match her Japanese “Madame Butterfly” and Italian “Poor Little Peppina.”
Apparently Alice was born around 1900. Her father was a laundryman and she lived with her mother and younger sister in Chinatown at 32 Mott Street.
A Chinese woman named Alice Lee has not been found in the federal and state censuses at Ancestry.com. A number of Lee families were found near or at 32 Mott Street.
In the 1900 census a Lee family lived at 28 Mott Street. The father was Goon Lee, a laundryman, and the mother, Annie. The New York, New York, Extracted Marriage Index, at Ancestry.com, said Lee married Annie Baker on January 25, 1895 in Manhattan. They had five children: Maggie, Annie, Veronica, Joseph and George. (“Mandarin’s Gold” had two cast members named Veronica and Joseph Lee.) The census recorded Maggie’s birth as January 1890; Annie, February 1893; Veronica, July 1896; Joseph, April 1898; and George, December 1899. Maggie and Annie were born before their parents married.
The 1915 state census was on June 1. The two oldest daughters were not in the household. The five remaining family members continued to reside at 32 Mott Street.
New York, New York, Extracted Death Index, at Ancestry.com, said the mother, Annie Lee, passed away September 28, 1915.
In 1918 “Mandarin’s Gold” was shot, in part, in New York Chinatown, where director Oscar Apfel scouted locations and people for the film. I believe Apfel met and hired Veronica and Joseph Lee.
Up to this point it’s still not clear who Alice Lee was and what happened to her after the film. Was she one of the older sisters, Margaret or Annie?
So far, there are no records on Joseph after the 1915 state census.
In the 1920 census Veronica, a theater usher, lived with Annie’s family on Second Avenue in Manhattan. The 1925 state census said Veronica, her father and brother George operated a chop suey store. In the 1930 census Veronica was married and had an eleven-year-old daughter, Ruth. Her husband was not listed but the census said he was a British Columbia native. Veronica remarried to Don Tsao, a restaurant waiter, according to the 1940 census. The household included her 21-year-old daughter and 80-year-old father. They lived at 330 Third Avenue in Manhattan.
The Social Security Death Index has a woman named Veronica Wong who had the same birth date as Veronica Lee. Wong passed away in May 1970, a White Plains, New York resident.
Internet Movie Database
(Next post on Friday: Chinese at the 1869 Golden Spike Ceremony)