The clash of East and West, of tolerance and bigotry, of man and woman play out in this vivid early Talkie. Richard Barthelmess portrays Sam Lee, a Chinese-American who, stung by racial slurs, leaves his wealthy father's New York home to make his own way in Europe. There he falls for a beauty (Constance Bennett) who proves beauty is only skin deep when she discovers Sam's heritage and vents her fury in a shocking, not-to-be-missed scene of pure racial hatred. A bold look at intolerance that helped secure Warner Bros. studio's reputation for social-conscience filmmaking, Son of the Gods was also a reprise of sorts for Barthelmess: He played a Chinese opposite Lillian Gish in D.W. Griffith's famed Broken Blossoms.
Adapted from a story by Rex Beach, SON OF THE GODS stars Richard Barthelmess as Sam Lee, a young Chinese-American, anxious to distance himself from his oriental heredity. While travelling throughout the world, Sam falls in love with wealthy white girl Allana (Constance Bennett). He chooses not to tell her about his Chinese ancestors -- a wise decision, as it turns out, since she mercilessly lambastes him with a stream of hateful racist epithets when she does learn the truth. Only after she walks out on him does Sam discover that he hasn't a drop of Chinese blood after all. Even so, he now despises the entire white race and vows revenge against the woman who so viciously spurned him. But when Allana finds out that he's a racially "acceptable" sweetheart, the two fall in love all over again! Modern-day viewers who may find the denouement of SON OF THE GODS both offensive and unbelievable can take comfort in the fact that reviewers in 1930 experienced a similar reaction.
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