Cast & Crew
Way Kim Fong
In San Francisco's Chinatown, a talented young singer, Fan, embarks on a bright career. One day, her friend, Mr. Wong, offers to take her to the local aviation school to meet some of the young Chinese-American men who are training to fight for their ancestors' country. Jung, Fan's manager, is angry that she is taking time off from her art, but the independent young woman tells him that her private life is her own business. At the aviation field, Fan is introduced to Chan and some other students who are all big fans of her singing. As they talk, they notice Lee, the most talented and ambitious of the school's students, doing a series of loop-de-loops in his plane. After his daring flight, Lee, who is very shy, meets Fan, and sometime later, Chan and a hesitant Lee go to see Fan perform. The two friends love the show, and Lee, emboldened, offers to take Fan on a ride in Golden Gate Park. As the pair gazes at the unfinished bridge in the moonlight, they declare their love for each other. After Jung orders Fan to end her relationship with Lee, another friend whom she trusts, Ming, also advises her to break off her relationship, stating that she and Lee will risk ruining their careers for romantic love, something that never lasts. Fan is too distraught to end things with Lee face-to-face, and so, in Lee's presence, she and Ming pretend to be lovers. As hoped, Lee drops her, then wanders like a dead man toward the home that he shares with his hard-working uncle, Lee Tai, a jeweler. Upon arriving home, he sees an ambulance in the street and discovers that Lee Tai has had a heart attack and died. Later, a lawyer tells Lee that although his uncle worked hard to put him through aviation school, he has died leaving nothing but debts. Lee goes to the director of the aviation school, Mr. Chang, and says that he must quit school. Chang responds by urging him to fight back and be like Charles Lindbergh, adding that the money will be found. Chang then calls Chan and tells him that he has convinced Lee to stay at the school, whereupon Chan reveals that the money for Lee's continuing education will come from Fan. Sometime later, Fan reads a newspaper article announcing Lee and Chan's departure for China, where they will fight in the Shanghai War. Before their ship sails, Chan goes to see Fan and thanks her, and she reminds him not to tell Lee that she has been his benefactress since his uncle's death. In China, Lee leads a squadron into battle and then rescues Chan when his plane crashes. Then one day, Fan, as she prepares for a benefit concert to aid the Shanghai War effort, receives a letter informing her that Lee will return to the United States with his new wife. Fan cancels the concert so that she can meet Lee's ship, but conceals herself in the crowd. Having accompanied Lee and his wife to San Francisco, Chan goes to see Fan and discovers her sick and distraught over Lee's marriage. He insists on telling Lee about her generosity, but Fan implores him to keep her secret. Later, at a banquet given by the Chinese Chamber of Congress to celebrate Lee's heroism, Chan receives a note from a doctor, who has found his address in Fan's handbag. After he discovers that Fan is dying, Chan brings Lee to her deathbed, and the reunited couple embraces. Fan then smiles as if to God and dies as her former lover weeps.
The NYSA lists the film's translated title as Heartaches. A December 17, 1935 Hollywood Reporter news item states that Sum Hun was the first Chinese picture to be made in Hollywood. No exact release date was found, although a January 1, 1936 release in San Francisco's Chinatown district was announced in Hollywood Reporter. The film was submitted to the NYSA on May 4, 1936 by Walter Kofitt. Two reels of the film were shot in color, according to unidentified, contemporary news items and publicity materials found in the papers of cinematographer Paul Ivano at the AMPAS Library.