Forbidden City, U.S.A. Movie Review

You know Frank Sinatra and Ginger Rogers, but how about the "Chinese Sintra" and the "Chinese Ginger." Back in the 1940s the first Chinese lounge opened near San Francisco's Chinatown, called the Forbidden City.

This documentary (produced in 1989) takes us back to the day, replete with interviews with the Asian song and dance men and women of the era, pioneers of their culture who exposed much of America to Eastern culture for the first time. The common bond among them all is of course the Forbidden City.

From the $1 dinners to the nudie revues, we're taken back to a long-gone era that few of us knew existed. Unfortunately, I wonder how much worse off for it we are... the story of these pioneering showmen and showwomen is curious, but it's not all that compelling. They don't necessarily encounter racism -- just jaw-dropping inquisitiveness from the people who see them perform, especially when they take their talents on the road to the (segregated) south.

Their tales of comeuppance in show business aren't terribly inspired either. You'll hear the same story from white performers and black performers. In fact, you'll hear the same thing in Gypsy.

Sixty minutes in length, it's good enough for an hour's education. It's not light entertainment -- it's barely entertainment at all -- but it's worth a look by history buffs.

You'll find a few extras on the DVD (if you can find it at all) -- notably digital recreations of some of the souvenirs of the actual Forbidden City. Cute.


Comments

Forbidden City, U.S.A. Rating

" OK "

Rating: NR, 1989

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