War of the Tongs (1917)

Moving Picture Weekly cover, February 17, 1917

Moving Picture Weekly, February 17, 1917, cover

"The War of the Tongs" Red Feather Production


"The War of the Tongs"

Red Feather Production


Ching Ting, Wealthy Tong Leader

Tom Hing

Wong Wing, in the employ of the tea merchant

Lee Gow

Lee Hoy

Hoo Ching

Suey Lee

Lin Neong

RED FEATHER photoplay, written by a Chinaman, and produced in San Francisco by an all-Chinese cast, recruited from the Imperial Chinese Players.  The only film ever produced in this country by an entire dramatic personae of Celestial actors.  An intimate and enthralling study of the manners and customs of the yellow race in the American city.

THIS is the remarkable Red Feather production, about which the Weekly has had so much to say.  It is the only film ever produced in this country written by a Chinaman, with an entire cast of Chinese players.  It is a most interesting picture of the intimate manners and customs of the Orientals, besides being a splendid story by itself.  Here is the plot.

Ching Ting is a wealthy landlord and the leader of his Tong.  Sam Hop, a tea merchant, is his tenant, and Chin calls for the rent.  Sam Hop sends his clerk, Wong Wing, to Lee Hoy to collect a debt that he owes, in order to have the cash for his rent, Wong Wing goes to the home of Lee Hoy and meets his daughter, Suey Lee, with whom he promptly falls in love.  He returns with the money for his employer.

Suey Lee, wishing to see Wong Wing again, makes the excuse of purchasing some tea, and goes to Sam Hop's shop.  The lovers are having an interesting conversation, when Chin Ting enters, and see the girl.  He decides on the spot that she would make a fine wife.  He asks Sam Hop to talk to her father and try to arrange for a marriage.  Sam Hop goes to Lee Hoy and makes a proposal for the hand of his daughter for Chin Ting.  Lee is flattered that the wealthy landlord and the head of his Tong should wish to marry his daughter, and consents.  But Suey Lee herself makes strenuous objections.

Sam Hop returns to his store and report the favorable answer to the Tong leader, much to the distress of Wong Wing.  Chin goes himself to call on the girl's family and finds them eating.  Lee Hoy receives him with every mark of honor, but Suey Lee will have nothing to do with him.  Wong Wing is unable to resist the temptation to follow.  He enters in the midst of the negotiations, make the excuse of delivering a package.  He has listened at the door, and heard Chin Ting trying to present a pair of jade bracelets to Suey Lee, who will not accept them.  Wong enters and declares that he loves the girl.  Lee Hoy cunningly says that if he can raise the dowry of nine hundred dollars, he may have her.


Wong determines to try his luck at the lottery.  He purchases a ticket, but luck is against him and he wins nothing.  Then he decides to try gambling.  He visits the rooms of Chin Ting, and plays fan-tan.  He wins at first, then begins to lose heavily, and so decides to try pai-gow, or Chinese dominoes.

Chin Ting passes the table and sees that Wong is winning.  He then instructs the dealer to cheat Wong.  The dealer obeys and Wong loses all of his savings, which he has staked on one last throw.  He is furious and declares that he has been cheated.  He has a fierce quarrel with Chin, who finally has him thrown out.

Chin calls a meeting of his Tong, and tells the tale of the insults of Wong, who belongs to a rival brotherhood.  They decide that death must avenge their leader.  Two are chosen to put an end to Wong, although Lee Hoy speaks for him.  They chose knives with which to do the job.  However, Wong has been warned by the members of his own Tong, and the two men are disarmed and one of them killed.  The other reports the death to Chin, who calls another meeting.  Lot this time falls on Lee Hoy, who is forced to accept the task.

He lays his plans carefully, hiding confederates all about the door of Wong's lodging.  But Wong's Tong brothers have been beforehand.  They are hidden on the roof commanding the entrance to Wong's home.  When Lee Hoy steals up to kill the unsuspecting Wong, one of his brothers shoots from the roof of the opposite building and Lee is killed.

His body is carried back to the Tong, and Chin Ting determines to bury it with honors and then to proceed with the wedding.  Lee, before going on his mission of death, has locked his wife and daughter in an inner room of his house, for he fears an uprising of the Tongs.  So when Wong, after his escape, goes to tell Suey Lee of his safety, he cannot enter.  This makes him suspicious, and his still more disturbed when he see the rival Ting leader and several of his men, coming to the house.  He hides, and sees them vainly try to get in.  Then they set about breaking down the door.  He goes to the back of the house, and makes his way through a window.  He has a revolver, and is just in time to rescue Suey Lee from Chin Ting, who has broken through the front door, and seized her.  We are allowed to suppose that the course of true love runs smooth after the rescue.


An Unusual Red Feather Production


"A thrilling and sensational drama of Life among the warring Chinese Tongs in America.  Enacted by the famous Imperial Chinese Players.  The entire cast composed of Chinese actors only.  Scenario and continuity written by Chinese.  Props, sets and details all planned and executed by Chinese.


Nothing like it ever shown in America.  Book through any Universal Exchange.

with Tom Hing, Lee Gow, Hoo Ching, and Lin Neong.  Directed by H.O. Davis.  Universal/Red Feather.

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Public Domain Mark
This work (War of the Tongs (1917), by Universal), identified by Bruce Calvert, is free of known copyright restrictions.



Last Modified April 2, 2008.