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.