Island of Lost Men

Island of Lost Men is a 1939 American film directed by Kurt Neumann and starring Anna May Wong and J. Carrol Naish. It tells the story of the daughter of a general who goes to look for her father after he disappears. The film received mixed reviews and was the last that Wong made for Paramount Pictures.

Island of Lost Men
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKurt Neumann
StarringAnna May Wong
J. Carrol Naish
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • August 16, 1939 (1939-08-16)
Running time
63 minutes
CountryUnited States


Kim Ling (Anna May Wong), the daughter of a general accused of embezzling $300,000 of government money, investigates his disappearance. She eventually discovers a labor camp run by Gregory Prin (J. Carrol Naish) north of Singapore. There she meets Chang Tai (Anthony Quinn), who is undercover investigating Prin's activities. Together they manage to discover Ling's father and the money, as well as identify several known fugitives. After the arrival of Tex Ballister (Broderick Crawford), who reveals Tai's true identity and attempts to blackmail Prin, a local rebellion ignites. This allows Ling, her father, and Tai to escape.



Island of Lost Men was filmed in early 1939.[2] Production was delayed by cost overruns of approximately $25,000. Among the most expensive scenes were those involving the jungle and the river scene. Wong's salary was $6000 with another $1000 paid for overtime, while Quinn only earned $750.[1]

The original title for the film was Guns for China. However, the U.S. State Department implored studios to avoid referencing or alluding to the then-ongoing Second Sino-Japanese War. After discussion with its sales manager in Japan, Paramount Pictures changed the title to Island of Lost Men.[3]

Wong sang "Music on the Shore", composed by Friedrich Hollaender and Frank Loesser. The song was written especially for her.[4]


Island of Lost Men received its American release on August 16, 1939.[5] Critical reception was mixed. Variety praised the general production, acting (especially Wong's), and sets; however, it considered the plot to be "trite". The Daily Variety noted that Wong's singing was "pleasing". The English magazine Kinetographic Weekly was dismissive of the film, but appreciative of Wong's acting.[4] Frank S. Nugent of The New York Times wrote that the "kindliest" thing one could say about the movie is that Naish is in it, "only this time with a slant to Mr. Naish's villainous eyes", and that the jungle setting was so unbelievable that it implied that "if the camera were swung no more than a frame or so to either side it would reveal a filling station, or a roadside food dispensary in the shape of a hot dog".[6]

Island of Lost Men proved to be Wong's last film with Paramount.[2] The studio did not renew her contract afterwards, possibly because of the budget overruns in Island.[1]

See also


  • Chung, Hye Seung (2005). "Between Yellowphilia and Yellowphobia: Ethnic Stardom and (Dis)Orientalized Romantic Couple in Daughter of Shanghai and King of China Town". In Davé, Shilpa; Nishime, LeiLani; Oren, Tasha (eds.). East Main Street : Asian American popular culture. New York: New York University Press. pp. 154–182. ISBN 978-0-8147-1963-3.
  • Hodges, Graham Russell (2004). Anna May Wong : from Laundryman's Daughter to Hollywood Legend. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 154–182. ISBN 978-0-312-29319-2.
  • "Island of Lost Men". International Movie Database. Retrieved September 25, 2011.
  • Nugent, Frank S. (August 17, 1939). "THE SCREEN IN REVIEW; Romance Item: 'When Tomorrow Comes,' With Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne, Shown at the Rivoli--'Island of Lost Men' Offered at Loew's Criterion". The New York Times. Retrieved September 25, 2011.
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