“The garden knew she loved him, for her laughter stirred the rose leaves.”
Toll of the Sea is a variation of Madame Butterfly. Instead of taking place in Japan this version takes place in China.
Lotus Flower (Anna May Wong) was working in her garden when she heard a faint cry from the sea. She finds a young man named Allan floating along the shore. Lotus Flower calls to the fishermen to help her get Allan out of the water. One of the older fishermen warns Lotus Flower about foreigners.
She goes to the sea every day asking for anything to come to her. Allan falls in love with her and marries her. He wants her to come to America with him. He really does love her but his friends do not think it would be a good idea and talk him out of bringing Lotus Flower to America. Allen’s parents are demanding he return home. He tells Lotus Flower he has to go home but he cannot take her with him but he will return.
A few years pass and Allen never returns. In that time Lotus Flower has their son. She writes letters pretending to be Allen for their son. For the years he has been away Lotus Flower has been waiting for Allen to return. He finally does return but with his new American wife Elsie. Lotus Flower is beyond joyful when she hears her husband has finally returned. Of course she is devastated when she hears he has an American wife. When he comes over she does tell Allen about their son. When the boy comes over she tells Allen that he is the son of her American neighbors.
Lotus Flower’s guilt and grief become too much. The following day she reveals all to Elsie. She asks Elsie if she could raise her son as her own and Elsie agrees. To ease the hurt of separation Lotus Flower tells her son that she is not really his mother that Elsie is and that she was just watching him until Elsie returned.
In the end Lotus Flower pays her debt to the sea.
One piece of trivia you will read about Toll of the Sea that it was the second Technicolor film to be made and the first to not require a special projector. Toll of the Sea is a good silent film. I have seen Madame Butterfly with Mary Pickford and that was good but I liked Toll of the Sea better. Anna May Wong did a fantastic job with her acting she did not over act at all. The color completely added to the story it made the story a bit more moving, if that makes any sense. Toll of the Sea is a silent film worth watching. You can watch Toll of the Sea on full on YouTube.