Errol Flynn in the Forbidden City, USA

18 Jan


Watching The Lady from Shanghai a couple of days back on TCM, I was intrigued by the scene where Rita Hayworth stops below a marquis-like sign saying Shanghai Low. It was clear that Welles was framing his shots to feature that sign and name. … As chance would have it, a story about Charlie Low linked below was published online the very next day or so. Charlie Low was a pivotal figure in the history of San Francisco, a Chinese American who transformed America’s oldest “Chinatown” into a tourist mecca in the days of Flynn. Perhaps this sign was for one of Charlie Low’s properties, I thought.

As recorded in this article, Errol, along with Orson & Rita, and many other Hollywood Stars, were renowned guests at Charlie Low’s world famous nightclub/cabaret, Forbidden City USA, which set off a hugely popular array of similar entertainment venues for Occidental tourists, including, perhaps most notably, Club Shanghai. Among great acts of all kinds – singing, dancing, magic, etc. – these clubs were known far and wide for ethnically exotic/erotic entertainment, including performances by dancers like Noel Toy, the subject of the YouTube video below. I imagine Errol would have surely seen some of these “China Doll” shows, likely even Noel Joy, who did know and work with Clark Gable, for example. I’m certain Errol wouldn’t let Gable top him.…

Forbidden City

Forbidden City Brochure

Club Shanghai…

— Tim


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  1. shangheinz

    January 19, 2015 at 8:57 pm


    It makes ones` chops lick,
    to think where
    Errol crossed his chopsticks,
    and with whom,
    he may have shaken the Chinese ballroom.

    • Gentleman Tim

      January 19, 2015 at 10:25 pm

      Yes, chinaheinz, Errol probably searched the Seven Seas for that TingLing feeling he had on his first adult-rated excursion to the Orient. He maybe even hoped to find thrilling Miss O’Connor in the Forbidden City, where so little was forbidden.

      I imagine, too, that, when in London, he strode the streets of Limehouse longing for the lovely ladies of Oriental London. I’d be surprised and disappointed if he did not!

      zai lian xi, shangheinz.


      • shangheinz

        January 20, 2015 at 4:17 pm

        Dear Tim-a-Ling, Errol was Mr. Mojo. He held East and West under his spell. Men wanted to mingle, the ladies a fling with him. He had it all, and still called it a night much too soon.…

  2. Maria

    July 7, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    By coincidence I started to read a book called “China Dolls” by Lisa See. The story is about the lives and friendships of 3 oriental women, using the Forbidden City as a backdrop. 3/4 of the way through up pops our hero! “…..together they made a beeline for the bar. Jack threw down a $100 bill and asked the bartender to pour as many drinks as he could for the customers around them, including Errol Flynn. One drink too many prompted the star to eat the orchids off women’s shoulders – one by one throughout the club”. This one is so outrageous it is probably true -haha!
    The author’s web site is… and this site mentions the research that was done for the book. An exotic place for sure!

  3. Gentleman Tim

    July 8, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    Thanks, Maria. Very cool. Wouldn’t be surprised a bit if it were true! Wouldn’t be surprised either if some of those Forbidden City women relocated their orchids as Errol made his way down the bar.

    This charming China Doll looks like Errol’s coming her way.