The 1929 British film Piccadilly tells the story of the ill-fated relationship between Shosho, a Chinese nightclub performer (played by the Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong) and her white boss, Valentine.
Described by the British Film Institute as a simple tale of ambition, desire and jealousy marked out by its astonishing direction, Piccadilly is also notable for its direct approach to race. In addition to Shosho and Valentine’s relationship, the film also depicts black and white mixing. In one scene, Shosho and Valentine visit a Limehouse bar and though they attract little attention, the dancing of a white female and black male couple leads to an aggressive remonstration by the landlord, his surtitles reading ‘Yer know that’s not allowed in my place – dancing with a white girl. Get out!’ The woman is dejected but not for long - after taking all she can bear from the landlord, she suddenly rails against him and the crowd, tearing strips off those around her despite the jeers. Although we don’t hear or even see intertitles of her speech, her tone is all too clear. She’ll dance with who she likes.
The incident unsettles Shosho and Valentine and they leave but, in the following scene, they are shown embracing. However,as in her previous films, once again Wong was not permitted to kiss her white co-star. Much to her disappointment, Wong’s filmed kiss was cut before the film was released, mainly to appease the American censors as interracial marriage between Chinese and White Americans was illegal in the States.