The Vanishing: Part Two

Lynne Sue Moon’s filmography is brief, though interesting. Asian actors at the time usually had short careers, and all too rarely played lead roles. There was the occasional breakthrough to a moment in the limelight, such as when Nancy Kwan starred in The World of Susie Wong. However for the most part, opportunities were pretty scarce. In the 1960’s, major asian roles were still being given to western actors, and with horrible results. (Mickey Rooney giving an unspeakably xenophobic performance as the Japanese Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.)

Though Lynne made a bare handful of appearances, they were all in films that were at the very least, interesting. Moreover her roles in them were supporting ones, and so it’s to her credit that she made such an impression given the limited opportunities she had.

To Sir With Love (1967) is the film that has best survived the tests of time, and everyone remembers the closing moments of it, when Lynne emerges shyly from the crowd to offer Sidney Poitier’s teacher the pupils’ farewell gift to him.

To Sir With Love

Marco the Magnificent (1965) starring the darkly handsome Horst Buchholtz, has a cast that includes a token blink-and-you’ll-miss-him appearance by Orson Welles. There’s also Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn and Akim Tamiroff to beef things up on the poster, though don’t be taken in by their presences, because the film is a mess. Lynne appears as Princess Gogatine, though bewilderingly her name when the credits roll has been changed to Lee Sue Moon.

Lynne Sue Moon with Horst Buchholtz in Marco the Magniificent

55 Days in Peking, inflated epic though it is, has to be my favourite of Lynne’s  films. That tender scene with Charlton Heston breaks my heart, every time.

Lynne Sue Moon and Charlton Heston

Below: in this photograph taken in Madrid, Heston is in costume, though Lynne is wearing her own clothes and so clearly isn’t about to go before the cameras.

Below: a publicity image for the film taken on set.

13 Frightened Girls is notable mainly for the fact that it was directed by schlockmeister William Castle, better known for his horror films, though he’s in a restrained mood in this weird ‘espionage/girls’ finishing-school’ mash-up.

13 Frightened Girls

Lynne Sue Moon Filmography

To Sir, with Love: 1967. Miss Wong

Marco the Magnificent: 1965. Princess Gogatine (credited as Lee Sue Moon)

55 Days at Peking: 1963. Teresa

13 Frightened Girls!: 1963. Mai-Ling

So, two ‘epics’, a romp by a cult-director and a film with the great Poitier featuring a title-song and Lynne’s scene with the gift, that can make strong men weep. (This grown-man, at any rate!) Just four films, and in all of them, Lynne Sue Moon is memorable. Is it because she was a great actress? Well, no, probably not. But then a lot of great film-stars have been not so much great actors, as individuals who we feel compelled to watch. Lynne had a look that drew attention, and there was something about her that the camera loved. An intensity, a stillness and receptivity that made her mesmerising when the right ingredients came together, as they did in 55 Days in Peking. In the face of all that is less than perfect, or even downright bad in the film, Lynne Sue Moon’s Teresa is its beating heart. Her screen-time is brief, and yet she was what I carried from the film before ever I knew her, and one can’t help but wonder what else she may have been capable of, had the opportunities come her way.

As far as can be told at this distance from events, Lynne Sue Moon disappeared from public life shortly after what seems to have been her last film, To Sir With Love. I’ve never been able to trace her through people we mutually knew at school, neither have I found anything of her on the internet, save the references to that small handful of films. There could be any number of reasons why she appeared to effectively vanish. She may have married and changed her name. She may actively have sought to leave her past life behind, or given that today she would be in her sixties, there is the undeniable possibility that she is no longer with us.

Whatever the answers, it’s quite difficult to vanish in today’s world unless you want to, and moreover are determined not to leave any internet pathway that could trace your work as an actor active in films in the 1960s, to your present whereabouts. Nevertheless, that seems to be what Lynne has managed, whether by intention, or because of accidental circumstances. If she is out there, she remains silent in the face of those film-goers who are curious as to what became of her. I can understand that. I’m quite familiar with the feeling of wanting to set the past aside in a room that is closed and locked. …

There’s one last, small mysterious reference I found on the web. This photograph with a caption suggesting that it’s a portrait bust of Lynne Sue Moon by an artist called Drago Djurovic. The link led nowhere, and so I haven’t been able to verify anything. But it looks like her. It looks a lot like her.

I think about Lynne a great deal, and I don’t even really know why. She had an effect on me, and to this day it troubles me that I can’t account for what happened to her. I regularly dream about her, and always have. I remember the conversations we had, and I can hear her quiet voice in my head. I have moments of what almost feel like grief for something I valued and lost. I don’t expect ever to have an answer to the mystery of why the girl I once knew as Lynne Sue Moon disappeared not just from my life, but from public life, too. But if she’s out there still, I hope with all my heart that she found happiness.

UPDATE: I thank the correspondent in Germany who contacted me to suggest that the portrait bust by Djurovic was almost certainly produced at the time Marco the Great was being filmed in Yugoslavia.

37 thoughts on “The Vanishing: Part Two

  1. I watched 55 Days At Peking about a month ago. I have been really curious about Lynne too and it leads me to your blog. It’s 2021 and I think I would be very pleased if you have got any info about her whereabouts.

  2. After reading the Wikipedia article on the film and then the individual Wikipedia articles on actors, curiosity got the better on how abruptly this young woman’s career ended at around 18yrs of age – Rather strange, as that’s the age many try to get into the industry!
    Googling by chance I came across this interesting (old) blog.
    I don’t think it would have been being ‘Asian’ or the lack of career advancement in the film industry, despite being cast in only 3 films. Getting new roles is greatly helped by who you know and who you have worked with. Having worked with Charlton Heston and Sidney Poitier should have opened future doors not just to feature films but to be cast in part roles in the UK TV series industry (Space 1999, Dr Who etc etc) during the late 1960’s & 1970’s. I’m pretty sure both of these actors would have given written references to her should she had of asked and casting agents would have been aware of her at the time.
    I suspect another reason, leaving school at 17-18 and going on to tertiary study in a career field she enjoyed which not related to acting? Possible and very likely, but that still does not explain everything as I would imagine at around 18yrs its hard to turn your back on the potential limelight, and one would want to still pick up the odd role.
    Another reason could possibly be the nature of some within the industry, when she became a young woman. Presumably as a child actress would have been wrapped up in cotton wool and protected. She may have decided at the age of 17-18 the ethics of a few was not to her liking. It was simply not worth the trouble to continue in the industry any further.

    • I forgot to add, from my googling there was a Film Professor at UCLA asking the same question for a book he was co authoring back in 2015. Maybe you should get in touch with him. I’m a Wikpedia editor, and her article seems to end rather abruptly to me, rather leaves you wondering like Jimmy Hoffa style mystery. Needs to say something a little more such as “retired and went into another career field” – but what career? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynne_Sue_Moon

      • Chris, the girl I once knew as a schoolfriend has left no tracks as an actor beyond the cut-off point of her career post-‘To Sir With Love’. To me that implies not so much an accident, as a decision not to be tracked down and questioned, no matter the affection her performances are still held in. So I’ll be making no more enquiries. I think that if she’s still with us and has not chosen to show herself, then that reticence, unusual and in fact refreshing in a world of faux-celebrity, should be respected.

        • I tend to agree, but its a real shame it has not been closed off. It seems from google searches its not just you who has been wondering.
          My sudden interest in solving the mystery as I saw 55 Days at Peking the other day which I had not seen for at least 40yrs, then started reading about it online, dysfunctional producers and directors where main actors had to write their own lines. Then you click on links to the actors.
          For what its worth should you decide to privately follow up, try contacting Professor Paul Nagle at UCLA (a former film executive in the USA) to see if he knows as he was co-authoring a book, as someone sent him a private message (presumably confidential) in response to his query about her on the NitrateVille vintage movie forum a couple of years ago.
          https://www.nitrateville.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=17772&p=132906&hilit=Lynne+Sue+moon#p132906
          He’s also on Linkedin as a alternative contact point
          https://www.linkedin.com/in/paul-nagle-62421733/
          http://www.tft.ucla.edu/2011/09/faculty-paul-nagle/
          Regards

        • Clive,
          -Not for publication-.

          (Chris, thank you for your interest in this and for your reply. However, as this is a public platform, I’ve edited out some of the material so as to not be intrusive. I hope you understand. Best, Clive)

          My research is done, I still think there is a story there, but its a job for a journalist or film historian.
          Regards
          Chris

  3. What a great piece on Ms. Moon! Public Broadcasting here in L.A, showed To Sir this evening. Though I had seen it once or twice before, I couldn’t help but notice her role this time. How interesting that she disappeared right after a successful movie, but I suppose that at least one of the reasons that you mentioned are likely why she had slipped out of her acting career. I hope that she reaches out to you—how cool would it be if you reestablished an old friendship!

  4. Hello Clive,
    Tonight I watched To Sir With Love for the first time in years – I think I last viewed the film on VHS in ’94.
    And tonight, after feeling an impulse to search online for Lynne Sue Moon, I realise I’m not the only person curious as to what became of her.

    Having read your 2nd post and the comments, and your replies, I kind of accept the outcome of my search and think, well, LSM’s acting career may have ceased all too abruptly, but perhaps the enigma that remains in its wake is something worth admiring as well – especially if we trust that she has lived, does live, the life she has chosen, entirely on her own terms.

    Thank you.

    • Hi Steve

      The number of responses to these two posts in the couple of years since they were made has come as a surprise to me. So many people catching To Sir With Love when shown on TV, come away with an indelible impression of LSM that leads them to further investigate her, and the paths for quite a few lead here. Two years on still she remains enigmatically unavailable, which must be accepted as what she wants – or wanted.

      While she had the rare ability, evident in her few film appearances, to connect beyond the camera to the viewers, that alone doesn’t make her public property. I sometimes wonder whether she was conscious of how her performances worked on viewers. I suspect not, and I certainly hope not. And I’m glad, in a way that things are the way they are, because at this remove she doesn’t have to explain anything, or be picked over and questioned. She doesn’t have to answer, or by so doing, disappoint. (The best mysteries are always the ones that go unsolved.) She was what she was and we must be content with what remains. The rest is intriguing speculation.

      Being looked at isn’t for everyone, and despite the current willingness of many to live life under scrutiny, I’ve known many a shy actor who has been challenged by the professional requirement to be constantly on show. LSM was an actor, but the evidence seems to suggest that early on she changed her mind about that, which given her young age when she started is entirely understandable. I hope that if it’s come to her attention that people are still asking questions about her over fifty years after the films were made, then she’ll recognise it as evidence of her extraordinary ability to reach beyond the camera and into their hearts. A rare phenomenon, but one she was under no obligation to continue with.

  5. What a marvellously written blog about a lovely and fascinating actress. This year is the 50th anniversary of ‘To Sir, With Love’ and a celebratory and reunion programme similar to the one done for ‘The Sound of Music’ some years ago would make excellent TV. At least twenty of the cast are still alive, according to IMDB, including the band. Maybe you know someone with the connections to put something like this together and maybe a message may come from somewhere to let you know what happened to your friend.

  6. You’ve played the part of a traveller, haven’t you? I hope your hauntingly beautiful memory of Lynne is not only because of European exoticism or fascination to another world Asia or its people…
    I’m sure Lynne read your LETTER.
    -an Asian

    • Hello Michiyo Y. Thank you for leaving a message for me.

      I don’t like to think I ever thought of Lynne as ‘exotic’, or even ‘other’, though there’s no way of being sure at this distance. We’re talking about fifty years ago. All I know is that I had an exceptional affection for her. I do remember an incident when one of the dance teachers at school had a real hissy-fit, shouting at Lynne when she arrived late one day for class. Lynne was incredibly gentle and softly spoken – not the kind of person you would shout at at all – and I saw her wince at his onslaught of aggression. We were all shocked, but the moment passed and we continued with class. Afterwards I was so angry with him that I never attended another class of his. I hate bullies.

      I don’t know and probably never will know whether Lynne ever read what I’ve written about her. If she shuns attention as much as her disappearance suggests, then I fear she wouldn’t be happy to find herself here. When I wrote Part 1 of the piece, I did harbour a hope that she might see it and get in touch. But then as I thought more about it, I realised that my curiosity was as nothing in this matter. It would be presumptuous to imagine that she remembers me as clearly and affectionately as I remember her. It was all a brief moment in time many years ago. We were children. My only wish now, is that she’s happy.

  7. Wow! I just discovered your great blog while searching for info on Lynne. Fantastic writing.
    I’ve only seen two of Lynne’s films: TO SIR WITH LOVE and 13 FRIGHTENED GIRLS. I absolutely adore “TO SIR…” but I haven’t seen the film in many years and I don’t remember Lynne in the movie. I recently saw 13 FRIGHTENED GIRLS after years of trying to track it down. It’s cheesy and dated but I still have affection for it. In my opinion, Lynne is the best part of the movie. I found her adorable and much more interesting than the lead actress. The film would have been much better if Lynne was the lead.
    I find it sad that she only made four films. She was talented, beautiful, and deserved a bigger career. Wherever she is, I hope she is happy and content.
    Thanks,
    K.

    • Thank you, Kerry. I agree with you, I wish there had been more films. But we must be satisfied with what there is. And I’m with you on the matter of your hopes for her happiness. I think it likely that Lynne knew what she wanted from life, and that didn’t include continuing to work as an actor. I’m impressed that she wasn’t afraid to turn her back on living in the public eye.

  8. Sir, I find your blog fascinating, but I must admit I discovered it because of Lynne Sue Moon. Did you ever hear anything from her or anyone who knows what she’s up to these days? And if you do, will you update us in some way? I’m only 26 years old, but I first watched To Sir, with Love nearly a decade ago and have always wondered what happened to her. Thanks in advance, and keep up the great (art)work!

    • Hello. Thank you for leaving a comment.

      When I wrote the two pieces about Lynne, posted here, I frankly hadn’t expected the responses that poured in. They demonstrated the compelling power of film to create a desire in the audience to see and know more of an actor, even if that interest spills over into private life. Clearly Lynne’s appearances in a handful of films captured those who saw her in them, just as I had been captured by the girl I once knew at school. I understand how that attention might be confusing and unwelcome for an actor, especially one who was as young as Lynne was when she made the films.

      I’d thought it was just me wondering what had happened to her, but I see now that I’m one of many. She touched audiences in ways that no-one seems quite able to explain.

      As I discovered the intensity of curiosity about what had become of Lynne, I began to see how unwelcome that scrutiny might be to someone shy by nature. Moreover, I’d become uneasy about my own desire to know. After the post had been up a while, and after following a lead from a person who e-mailed me, I quite unexpectedly traced a single image that made me intensely happy. I didn’t post the image here. It was clearly a private one. And there, I stopped.

      The clue to the disappearance of Lynne Sue Moon, lies in the fact that beyond a certain point, she may not be found anywhere. The trail goes cold. It went cold a long time ago. Not everyone wants to be looked at, pored over and speculated about. In a celebrity and image obsessed age, we tend to forget that some lives are lived quietly and privately. We should remember that, and respect it.

      • I’m now replying to this comment over a year later. It’s amazing how time flies, because now it’s already 2017 and so many famous people have left us. I’m glad that you – and hopefully Lynne – are still here! Neither of you is old, of course, but then neither were some of the others. All the best.

      • P.S. I just realized how morbid that sounded. I apologize, I meant it in the sense that none of us really knows when his or her time has come. I’m also glad you have some sense of closure to the Lynne mystery yourself.

        • Not morbid at all. It’s a fact that many of my generation have departed during the past year. I am happy to still be here, and hopefully for a while yet. Thank you for your good wishes. Tune in again, in a year’s time, to see whether I’m still around! (-;

  9. Hi Clive, I came across your blog by accident whilst looking for Lynn Sue Moon. I was at Italia Conti from 1961 -1965. I agree she was a lovely girl along with Olivia Hussey. Thank you for the memories of the attic classrooms and the canteen. lol

    • Hello Linda. I’m pleased you enjoyed the trip down Memory Lane. It was an extraordinary place at that time, Italia Conti. The close friends I made then, up in those dusty schoolrooms in the attic, are still my friends all these years later.

  10. Just watched, TO SIR WITH LOVE for the 34th time. Lynn Sue Moon was one that has always caught my eyes. Sweet girl
    I hope someday you will experience the peace, comfort and joy of knowing you found she is fine and lived well.
    Much love my brother

    • Texas Girl, thank you for your kind words. Yes, Lynne certainly had something that caught the eye.

      I am curious, though curiosity alone is no reason to intrude on a life lived privately, and I suspect that privacy would be key to her contentment. I cannot wish to find out about her, if that in itself would be an intrusion. My hope is that she is happy.

  11. Hi Clive,

    It seems like To Sir With Love has been on a Freesat movie channel every week for the last couple of months! I watched it a few weeks ago having seen it in the 1970s. It was good to see again but I had no memory of Lynne Sue Moon’s part in it. On this occasion, when I saw her in the background of one scene I thought “I’m sure that girl was in 55 days in Peking”. Intrigued, I waited for the credits so I had a name to go on and did a web search. I didnt find a great deal, plenty of photos but not much beyond her brief filmography.

    On one website I did read a comment from someone claiming she now owned a chain of Chinese take out restaurants somewhere in Washington State! Unfortunately I tried to find the website again tonight but I havent had any luck at all.

    Another actress, Chitra Neogy, who also had a minor role in the film, has her own website and blog:
    http://manoshigold.blogspot.co.uk
    It hasn’t been updated for a while, but perhaps you could try contacting her to see if she has any information?

    There is another person interested in Lynne’s whereabouts at the Nitrateville website.

    To Sir With Love was on again this afternoon and after another web search I found your blog with this moving story. I wish you the best of luck in your search.

    • Hello Chris.

      I looked at the link you provided to Chitra Neogy’s website. Doesn’t look very promising I fear. She set it up in 2005, made two brief posts and there has been nothing since. There are no comments or replies. This has all the hallmarks of a completely abandoned blog.

      I’d found and checked the reference at the Nitrateville website the day I posted my piece, and that was the source of the update I added to the foot of it.

      I will be making a short update to ‘The Vanishing’, and so you’ll forgive me if I don’t write anymore by way of a reply to you right now. But I thank you for your thoughts and suggestions. It was kind of you.

  12. That was lovely and poignant. Glad to think she still looks out of your dreams… Perhaps she is one of the muses, who comes to inflict longing on the heart and so gives rise to art.

    • I like that notion, Marly, of the muse who brings longing of the heart. And it is a kind of longing, I can see that. In the past it’s always felt bleak on waking from the dreams I’ve had of her, tainted with a sense of doom. But I think that next time I shall remember what you’ve suggested here, and go to my easel. There should be a sense of longing in art, and I can certainly attest to the longings in my own heart, and therefore in my work. I hadn’t ever thought of what my paintings would be without the longing, but I can see now, thanks to you, that they would not be anything I’d want to look at, or live with.

  13. I too am glad that I didn’t have to wait for ‘part two,’ especially as you had ‘held my hand’ and led me back in time, although you left out the ‘iced buns’ and ‘doughnuts’ that Myffy would consume without putting on an ounce of weight.

    Dear chum, I only truly remember Lynne as someone you would speak of with, not wishing to sound poesy, gentle affection and a sort of pride. Perhaps her innate grace and originality connected you with a different dimension from the rest of us, rugged individuals as we were, or thought we were.

    I echo your sentiments and trust that the ‘electronic river’ will deliver happy news of her.
    Your ever loving ‘Conti Kid.’
    B xxx xxx xxx

  14. Thank you for not keeping us waiting. It is a great story. I just hope Lynne Sue Moon has become an internet “aficionada”, and sees this tribute of yours to her, and writes from somewhere, telling her side of those memories of her and your early years, and explains that she also remembers, and has followed your career for all this time, not daring to say a word, as you are so famous and she is no longer so…

    • I couldn’t keep you waiting after what you wrote. It would have been cruel.

      I am not famous, Maria. I can’t imagine anyone being worried about contacting me. But I thank you for your thoughts. You’re very gentle and kind. And insightful.

  15. Thank you Clive, I too thought she was utterly magical in 55 Days in Peking.
    Flawed as it might be, I still really like that film. Without her it would not be as powerful or moving.

    I so wish you knew what had happened to her.

    • I don’t know why I regret this lost friendship above others. Every now and then memories of Lynne ambush me out of nowhere, and I feel inconsolable. It’s without rhyme or reason. We clearly didn’t know each other that well. Nevertheless when it hits, this sense of desolation, it hits hard. It usually starts when I dream about her, and I did, last night.

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