Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Emmanu-Wednesday: "The Sand Pebbles" (1966)

Character Name: Maily
Actress: Marayat Andriane
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Character Nationality: Chinese
Character Age: Early 20s
Occupation: Bar girl
Religion: Catholic
Married: Frenchy Burgoyne in 1926
Locales: China
Release Date: December 20, 1966 (USA)
Director: Robert Wise
DVD: The Sand Pebbles (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Stats: Non-Emmanuelle related, though the actress is the basis for the character.

U.S. Navy sailors are in a Chinese bar in 1926, when Stawski (Simon Oakland) asks "Hey, Mama Chunk, where's the new stuff?" Chunk (Beulah Quo) ignores him at first, saying the same old sailors should like the same old girls. However, after she greets her friend Frenchy Burgoyne (Sir Richard Attenborough,) she's introduced to the San Pablos' new engineer, Jake Holman (Steve McQueen.) "Have got one piecee new girl topside. Brand-new. She just now makee pretty. I supposee she come see you?" Frenchy nonchalantly told Mama Chunk to send the girl over.

Stawski was headed upstairs with a couple girls, prompting a confederate to say his eyes were bigger than his... when Mailey appeared at the top of the stairs. The crowd went silent, which was curious, as there was nothing special about Maily. She was humbly dressed, her hair drawn back, and her face slightly distressed-- not the sort of thing to attract attention in a whorehouse. Stawski backed away in awe as Maily descended, forcing an awkward smile. Stawski tried to take Maily upstairs directly, but she explained she only drank with patrons for tips. "I keep books for Mr. Shu... and act as hostess." A crowd surrounded the couple, again for no apparent reason beyond novelty.

Maily caught sight of Frenchy, who was already clearly smitten, far more understandably than the horny drunks. She was uncomfortable with Stawski's pawing, and as hostess was meant to mingle broadly, so she tried to excuse herself. Stawski insisted she stick with him, and Maily replied, "I don't go upstairs. I'm only a hostess." Stawski started forcing his hand up her dress, and as she fought and cried, Frenchy demanded Ski leave her alone. A military policeman intervened, stating "This little girl's got duties, just like sailors." Mama Chunk then steps in, explaining that for this girl's first time, it'll cost $200.00. Ski was disbelieving, but from his corner, smoking aristocratically, Victor Shu (James Hong) reiterated "Two hundred dollars."

Well beyond Stawski's pay grade, Mama Chunk moved Maily along to the newly bashful Frenchy, who drug Jake Holman along for support to a table sitdown. Maily tried to entertain Holman with her exceptional English and knowledge of U.S. landmarks, but she clearly had eyes only for Frenchy. Jake knowingly excused himself, and Frenchy began delicately grilling the girl. Maily needed $200 to be free of Shu and move on to Shanghai, but was ashamed to discuss why. Frenchy then set about getting the two bills for her... not for sex mind, but for chivalry.

Later, Holman got into a fight aboard the San Pablo with Stawski over his friend Po-han. The coolie was ejected from the ship based on Stawski's false testimony, so Holman bet him tiny Po-han could beat him in a boxing match, with the prize being cash and Po-han's return to duties. The match took place at the bar, where Frenchy worried for Maily's virtue, while Maily felt she was Stawski's if God intended it. Maily confessed she had been found as a baby and educated by American missionaries, whom she later robbed when they pressed her into becoming one of them. Maily had hoped to escape to Shanghai, then earn back the money she took to send back to them. She made it no further than Changsha, where Mr. Shu advanced her the money she owed, and bought her in return. Maily felt that not only must Shu be paid, but also God, as punishment for her sin.

Frenchy argued, "You're bughouse, Maily. What kind of religion did they teach you?" He was vindicated when, after several losing rounds, Po-han knocked out Stawski. Then again, Po-han was later captured and tortured by Communists, only to be shot dead as mercy from Holman, so maybe God is that vengeful. Holman and his love interest Shirley Eckert (Candice Bergen) were separated for most of the picture, while all of China seemed to turn on the U.S.-- the San Pablo in particular. The crew were called back to the ship before Victor Shu could be paid, leaving Maily to continue hosting until Frenchy's return.

Frenchy found a room to rent for Maily, then met Holman at the bar, and gave him the dough to bail Maily out. She was sitting with a group of Americans at the time, who decided to start an auction for her. One stood Maily up on a table, as Shu encouraged a bidding war. "Ladies and gentlemen, now just look at this merchandise. What am I bid for this clean, delicious piece of girl flesh? ...Fresh new goods untouched by human hands." The white "auctioneer" kept stroking at Maily and tugging at her dress. Once the bidding hit 350, chants of "strip her" began. By this point, Maily was hyperventilating and holding back tears. At 400, the auctioneer ripped down the front of Maily's dress, exposing her bra and midsection. Holman threw the first punch, but more followed into a bar brawl. Frenchy carried Maily off the table and into the street. Jake followed, as they spirited the girl to the room Frenchy had set for her. A kindly old woman lay her to bed, though Maily initially protested out of her obligation to Shu. Frenchy visited Maily before returning to ship that night. He explained that he would pay Shu the $200 he was owed the next day, but he wasn't buying Maily. He wanted his time with Maily to "be something," but not "like that." Maily pleaded with Frenchy not to leave her, so he held the girl for a time before leaving with Jake. On the ride back to the San Pablo, Frenchy told Jake he wanted to marry Maily. Jake protested, saying it was illegal, and a world of trouble.

Unable to gain a proper marriage, Frenchy and Maily still made vows to one another in a church, with Holman and Eckert as witnesses:

"We're mixing our lives together, Maily. We'll never be able to unmix them again... and we'll never want to. I take you for what you are and all that you are... and mix you with all of me. And I don't hold back nothing. When you're cold and hungry and afraid, so am I. I'm gonna stay with you all I can... and take the best care of you I can. And love you... till I die... Now you say it."

"I will always love you... and honor you and serve you... and stay as near to you as I can... and do everything for you... and live for you. I won't have any life... except our life together. I will just love you, Frenchy. All of me loving you forever."

"Now we're married."

Luck is wished, but in no way received. Holman notes that they've got a block committee already trying to kick them out of their room. "Where are they gonna go? Just running from hole to hole."

Frenchy sneaks off ship at night to visit Maily, but the night swimming in winter waters catches up to him. Maily feels that she is nothing, neither American nor Chinese, and that their unborn child will also be nothing. "He'll be ours, like you're mine. That's all we need."

Frenchy turns up missing, and Jake Holman investigates while delivering a communique to the U.S. Consul. Frenchy had died in Maily's arms that night. Jake found her huddled next to him, swollen with child. Holman was all set to go AWOL, and hole up in China Light with the missionaries there. He wanted Maily to come with, but a mob burst into the room. While Holman was carried off into a hallway by the men, another murdered Maily. Holman was later accused of the murder by the Communists, heightening tension with the U.S., who refused to turn him over. In the end, Holman and most of the crew end up dead, with Shirley Eckert among the few probable survivors.

Notes: "Marayat Andriane" is the screen name of Marayat Bibidh, the wife of "Emmanuelle" author Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane and supposed basis for the character. For the geeks, Stawski was also Tony Vincenzo on "The Night Stalker" series, Frenchy was John Hammond in the "Jurassic Park" movies, Po-Han was the wizard in "Conan the Destroyer" and Victor Shu was Lo Pan in "Big Trouble in Little China."

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