On August 7, 2005, in the midst of China's centennial celebration of its motion pictures, the last surviving star of China's silent film era, Li Lili, died at her home in Beijing. Almost exactly one year earlier, on the morning of August 21, 2004, China Central Television (CCTV) recorded for later broadcast an interview with Ms. Li, who was also a major Chinese star of sound movies in the 1930s and '40s. A full transcription of the interview was for a time posted at the CCTV website. The English translation which follows was done exclusively for The Chinese Mirror. In the transcript, LI refers to Li Lili, and CHEN to the interviewer, Chen Luyu. Sections in italics were narrative voice-overs in the documentary, and notes in parens ( ) are from the transcript. [Bracketed items in regular type, like this sentence, are the editor's comments, for clarification or when it was felt further explanation was needed.] A further note: there are several points in Ms. Li's recollections which conflict with other sources; these will be noted and commented on at the end.
CHEN: You still appear to be in excellent health; is that basically the result of training you had in your youth?
LI: That basically had a lot to do with it, my training, as well as dancing and exercise.
LI: And horseback riding.
CHEN: Do you still ride?
LI: Yes, and play ball. I can still do all that.
Li Lili was born in 1915 to an uncommon family. Her birth father was Qian Zhuangfei, who would in the future become an important figure in the Communist Party of China (CPC), with a colorful legend. When she was born he named his daughter Zhenzhen, which translated means "abundant and luxurious foliage."
By 1926, Qian Zhuangfei had become an underground operative for the CPC, with his open identity that of a screenwriter and director for the Guanghua Film Company of Beijing. At the age of 11, the little girl who would come to be Li Lili made her film debut in a juvenile role in "Yan Shan Xia Yin" [The Hidden Hero of Mount Yan].
CHEN: Did you know by that time what your father was involved in?
LI: I knew, but it was covert, and we had to be careful about what we said.
CHEN: You knew this in childhood?
LI: I knew it in very early childhood. Often I would look at the front gate and see strangers coming in, people like Pan Hannian and Li Kenong [underground Communist operatives], usually coming for meetings.
CHEN: During those meetings, did you stand by the doorway and keep watch?
LI: Yes, I would.
CHEN: And if you saw something you would run in and notify the family?
LI: Uh-huh. They'd hold their meetings upstairs, and I'd keep watch downstairs.
CHEN: So that was a pretty dangerous time?
LI: Of course. No one was ever referred to by their real name. Everyone had a cover name, for instance Li Kenong was called "Blind Man," or "Blind Man Li", and Pan Hannian was called "Little Sister's Big Brother." Everyone had a cover name.
[Editor's note: by early 1927, the CPC had become the left wing of the ruling Nationalist Party. But on April 12 of that year, Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek staged a coup in Shanghai, during which many Communists were slaughtered. Particularly targeted were labor leaders, political organizers, students and intellectuals.]
Following the April 12th incident the survivors of the Shanghai coup began the process of rebuilding their organization, and Qian Zhuangfei was transferred from Beijing to Shanghai to engage in covert intelligence work. During this time of upheaval in their lives, a father who had previously had little time for his daughter happened upon a newspaper advertisement which prompted him to take actions which would change the life of the future Li Lili.
The advertisement stated that a famous musician named Li Jinhui was recruiting new students to staff a song and dance troupe to tour Southeast Asia giving performances there. Qian Zhuangfei and his wife decided that their financial situation gave them little chance of providing a meaningful future for their daughter, and that this might be an opportunity for her.
CHEN: How old were you when you joined Li Jinhui's song and dance troupe? About 13, 14?
CHEN: Only 12 years old?
CHEN: Were you especially talented at singing and dancing?
LI: Yes I was, and I still remember the songs and dances I did.
CHEN: Really? What songs and dances did you do then?
LI: I sang "Yǘweng Yue Taoran" [The Old Fisherman Sings Happily].
CHEN: Can you still sing it, do you remember it?
LI: I can't sing it, but I still remember the words.
CHEN: How does it go?
LI: The old fisherman sings happily as he rows his little boat.
He wears a straw rain cape and holds his fishing pole.
He stands at the bow and puts his catch in a bamboo basket.
Everything is an excuse for him to sing.
I would sing this for everyone in the evening. We had just gotten electric lights, and lots of people would come over to relax and enjoy the evening cool, and I would sing and dance for whoever was there. My papa saw that I had this talent, so he sent me to the song and dance troupe.
CHEN: Did you like going, and were very happy?
LI: I was indifferent. When he took me ... at first I thought he was putting me in an orphanage and I didn't want to go. But after watching the troupe singing and dancing, and he had accompanied me there, I saw Wang Renmei [another future film star] and others dancing there. And later, when Li Jinhui came down and asked me to stay I immediately dropped all thought of returning home, and stayed.
CHEN: How did he audition you? Did he have you sing and dance?
LI: No, I didn't do anything.
CHEN: He could tell by just looking that this child had talent that could be nurtured?
LI: He was looking down at me from above, and even when I was small I was becoming pretty.
CHEN: Right, I see from your childhood photographs that you were really cute.
LI: He didn't audition me or anything, just told me to stay, and he just said "Thank you, thank you," as my papa was heading out the door. I still didn't know how I felt about leaving home, whether it was pain, whether I felt sad, the outcome was he was gone.
With her resonant child's voice and pure Mandarin, Li Lili quickly stood out in the troupe, and Li Jinhui came even more to appreciate how special she was. In 1927, 12-year-old Qian Zhenzhen became Li Jinhui's adopted daughter, her name changed to Li Mingli. Li Lili, as the public would come to know her by, was a name she would give herself later on. In 1931, four years after joining the song and dance troupe, she joined the Lianhua [United China] Film Studio.
CHEN: Your first appearance in a Lianhua musical: how did the director choose you? What was it, and was it Lianhua's first of this type?
LI: It was the first, and it was called "Huo Shan Qing Xue" [Loving Blood of the Volcano].
CHEN: But that was a silent film.
LI: "Huo Shan Qing Xue" was nearly all dancing, with a South Seas setting. They had no one else who could dance, but I could. Yes, I could dance, I could sing, I could ride a horse, I could do all these things. It was like a brilliant scholar who stands out and pushes everyone else aside.
CHEN: So this new figure suddenly emerged, an especially healthy figure.
CHEN: So was it strange for you when you started, descending from the musical stage to acting?
LI: No, it wasn't. At that time, it was like I could do anything, dance or anything else. I was full of confidence, afraid of nothing, and I just wanted to move ahead, get onto the road of acting, just change costumes and act.
After displaying her talent in "Huo Shan Qing Xue," Li Lili gave a succession of outstanding performances in such films as "Tian Ming" [Daybreak] and "Xiao Wanyi" [Little Toys]. During that time, she worked with some of the most celebrated names in Chinese motion pictures. One of these during this period was Ruan Lingyu, Li Lili's senior by five years.
LI: She was a huge star. By that time, I realized that I had some shortcomings, so I was a bit scared. After we had rehearsed, I felt that as an individual she was a very nice person.. It's not a good example, but in the picture someone had injured me [my character], and I just wanted to die. She [playing my mother] told me, only a little fool cries, so I put everything I had into portraying that. Ruan Lingyu told me that my performance was not right, that I should bear my pain stoically, bearing it to comfort my mother and ease her sorrow. She was very profound, and my relationship with her was excellent. She didn't speak Mandarin, and I taught her some.
[Right, from right to left: Ruan Lingyu, Li Lili, Liu Jiqun, in "Little Toys"]
CHEN: What was Ruan Lingyu's dialect?
LI: Cantonese. She was a Cantonese.
CHEN: Was it very thickly accented?
LI: Uh-huh. She was Cantonese.
CHEN: Acting on the silent screen might not matter, but acting on stage she had a slight Cantonese accent.
LI: She had a Cantonese accent. (Sighs)
CHEN: You're having a hard time keeping from laughing.
LI: It's just that ... It's not that she scolded me, but once when we were acting together she told me "There's no future for you in this," and when she said that I laughed. Later she told the director that "You should tell her to experiment, and not be afraid of the script." Well, later on he listened to her, and told me to experiment a bit. So I did, and that got me to thinking that maybe I would have a future after all.
CHEN: Was Ruan Lingyu beautiful in real life?
LI: Very beautiful, and not just on the outside. She had a beautiful personality.
CHEN: Her disposition was especially good.
LI: Her personality, well you think about it: if I was in a play and doing something wrong, she would tell me how to do it right. That is a good disposition, very good.
The opportunity to work with the Lianhua Studio gave young Li Lili invaluable experience as she grew to maturity. She steadily moved into her glory years.
The 1930s were the first golden age of Chinese motion pictures. Before then, whether presented on the theatrical stage or the movie screen, the great majority of productions were stories about very delicate characters, usually brilliant scholars and beautiful women. While Li Lili's emergence changed this situation, her energetic yet graceful appearance and her living and working methods glittered before the eyes of those within her studio and countless members of the public.
CHEN: Which of your movies do you feel was the first particularly influential one?
LI: That would be "Da Lu" [The Big Road].
CHEN: "Da Lu."
LI: At that time, "Da Lu" was to be entered into a film competition in the Soviet Union, but then the Japanese occupied Northeast China, so it could not be sent in directly and had to be transferred from the intermediate point of Harbin, which got it in too late. So "Yu Guang Qu" [Song of the Fishermen] won an award and "Da Lu" did not, but both dramas created the same sort of sensation at the time.
CHEN: The final ending of "Da Lu" was of profound significance, and its overall tone was especially progressive.
LI: Yes, it was progressive.
CHEN: In what ways?
LI: Well, in the way that for these people, building a road for China was equivalent to striking back at the enemy, and then when they were bombed, in the eyes of Chen Yanyan they were all still alive, and continuing to advance.
In 1934, the year in which their work in "Da Lu" made the reputations of both Li Lili and Chen Yanyan, another film in which Li Lili played the lead blazed the trail for films with Chinese sports as their theme; this was "Tiyu Huanghou" [The Empress of Sports]. It was this movie that gained for her the nickname by which countless movie followers would know her for the rest of her life -- The Empress of Sports!
In the 1930s, there was another actress active along with Li Lili in Shanghai art and literature circles, an actress called Lan Ping. Many years later, even more of her fellow Chinese would come to know her by another name -- Jiang Qing.
CHEN: There was another movie, "Lang Shan Diexue Ji" [Bloodshed on Wolf Mountain], in which Jiang Qing played a role.
[Left, Jiang Qing, when she was still known as the actress Lan Ping]
LI: Ah, Jiang Qing.
CHEN: Was Jiang Qing a Red at that time?
LI: No, and she had a quarrel with [writer-director] Fei Mu. She demanded that he alter the script and give her more lines, and Fei Mu told her that he had three months to deliver the film, and if he didn't make that deadline nobody would get paid, so he couldn't change anything.. The outcome was that she was furious and slammed the door so hard it broke, and shouted "You can't keep me, which shows what an incapable director you are!" Then she stormed out.
CHEN: At that time, when Jiang Qing was still known as Lan Ping, how could she be so volatile? She was a minor actress, how could she speak so sharply to a director?
[Right, director Fei Mu]
CHEN: That's very interesting.
LI: She was very scary.
CHEN: The posters for "Lang Shan Diexue Ji." were also very well-done.
LI: And Jiang Qing hated me for that. The newspaper ad included a photo of me, while she just had the two characters for her name, which made her jealous.
CHEN: There was nothing you could do about that. You were a major actor, so you couldn't have had a less significant role in the advertising. The picture of you in the playbill was especially attractive. I looked at the playbill for "Lang Shan Diexue Ji" yesterday, and had to look for quite a while before I found any mention of Lan Ping. No wonder she was upset.
CHEN: At that time, there must have been a lot of men chasing you?
LI: I, ah, my manner was rather aloof, so they gave me the nickname "frosty face."
LI: Oh, somebody would come on to me, but when he'd smile I'd just pay him no attention.
CHEN: You were intentionally scaring them off, right?
CHEN: So how did Mr. Luo pursue you?
LI: He didn't. He was just very friendly to me, and I thought, this guy's OK.
CHEN: So you just got together naturally.
CHEN: So how did you and Mr. Luo meet? Was it at that time?
LI: It was this way. When we fled to Hankou [after the Japanese invasion of Shanghai] we couldn't take much with us, just toilet articles, toothbrushes, a quilt. It was even forbidden to bring mattresses, because the trains at that time were too crowded. As for Luo Jingyu...well, I had been sleeping on a bare wooden board, but one day I suddenly found I had a mattress and when I looked over at where Luo Jingyu was sleeping, I saw he was sleeping on the board, and had given his mattress to me. He was involved in technology, and his goal was to manufacture film here so it wouldn't have to be purchased from abroad. So he had studied chemical engineering, and English, and he was good at everything. He was very kind and honest, and never pandered to anyone. He slept on the wooden board, and gave me a quilt that he couldn't afford, so I thought that this guy was really all right.
Actually, as early as the start of construction on the China Film Studio, Luo Jingyu was a technical mainstay. And the favorable impression he made on Li Lili soon led to a closer acquaintance and a decision to go hand-in-hand into marriage. In 1938, the China Film Studio decided to set up in Hong Kong, and arranged to build the Dadi [Great Earth] Film Studio there. Luo Jingyu was its first studio head. It was in Hong Kong that Chief of Production Luo and his bride made their first film together -- "Gudao Tiantang" [Orphan Island Paradise]. This film, in which Li Lili portrayed an exiled singer, is still considered one of the classics of the Chinese screen.
Three years later, in 1941, a time when the War of Resistance was burning like a raging fire, and the chaotic situation allowed no time or room for filmmaking, Li Lili and her husband crossed the ocean and went to the United States.
CHEN: Did you have any chance to make movies during your five years in the US?
LI: I was asked to. It was a minor company owned by an individual, and they asked me to make a movie for them. They said they would pay me $800, and I would sing and act. So I said I wanted to see a script first, but they said it hadn't been written yet. I told them to come and see me when it was finished. Later, they indicated the script wasn't right for me, so I wouldn't be acting; they wanted someone else to do the acting, I would just sing. But I would still get $800 for it. I went to see it when it came out. It was called "Around the World in Eight Hours," and when they got to China, the words "Hong Kong" were up on the screen, then they had some Chinese people in historic dress walking around and chanting, and then they just milled around in circles and stopped chanting. Worst of all, besides wearing clothes from the Qing Dynasty, they were carrying opium pipes past images of demons. After it was over, I thought $800? $8000 couldn't get me to act in that; it would just be a loss of face.
CHEN: Right, at that time Chinese actors in the US didn't live as well as they do now. It was a very limited time, with few acting opportunities, and the roles were the sort that didn't portray China too well.
LI: Regarding China, if you think of the Qing Dynasty, and if someone pulls out an opium pipe on stage, this is really just an insult to China. So during those five years in America, in the end my livelihood came from teaching poetry to Overseas Chinese. When I was making movies, [director] Sun Yu was particularly interested in classical poetry, and he would recite poetry while he was making movies. So later on, I was able to teach poetry to Overseas Chinese. At first, it was pretty ordinary, $3 an hour, but teaching Overseas Chinese I could make $5 an hour, and would get quite a few hours a day. So overall, I was able to earn a living for myself in those five years.
After the war, the couple returned to their motherland after five years of separation. Tthere was still misery and suffering, and countless things to be done, but with the nation's conflict over at last, they still looked forward to a beautiful future.
[Right, Li Lili's first husband, studio executive Luo Jingyu]
As the head of a film studio under the Nationalist government's banner, Luo Jingyu was presented with a series of production proposals he had to carry out. At that time, his supervisors asked him to make two propaganda films: "Gongfei Huo Guo Ji" [The Communists are a National Calamity] and "Gongfei Baoxing Shilu" [Factual Record of Communist Atrocities]. Luo Jingyu, who had always been anti-war and feared the nation would again fall into a disastrous civil war, ultimately chose not to cooperate on this. When Nationalist informants discovered his close relationship with progressive film companies, Luo Jingyu was jailed on the charge of "having Communist connections in violation of the law."
When Zhou Enlai heard this news, he wrote a personal letter to Guo Moruo asking him to do what he could to save him. With wide appeals from people in all walks of life, Luo Jingyu was finally set free.
In May of 1948, Luo resigned from the China Film Studio, claiming he needed time to recuperate from an illness. He and Li Lili then went to Western Europe to study film technology. More than a year later, just about the time that Socialist China was being established, the couple passed through Hong Kong on their return to Beijing. From October, 1949 until the eruption of the Cultural Revolution, they lived a quiet and substantial life. Luo Jingyu held a series of positions: Vice-director of the Technical Commission of the Motion Picture Department in the Ministry of Culture while also serving as Chief Engineer for the Beijing Film Studio and head of the China Film Equipment Company. Also, Li Lili joined the Beijing Film Studio as an actress, and had a supporting role in the 1954 movie "Zhiqu Huashan" [Taking Mount Hua by Strategy]. After this, she accepted a faculty position at the Beijing Film Academy. Li Lili was now nearing her fifth decade, and discussed the silver screen at that time.
CHEN: You were attacked rather severely during the Cultural Revolution.
LI: Yes, and I might have been attacked so severely during the Cultural Revolution because, if I can express it intelligently ... because Jiang Qing, I had been very familiar with her in the past, and I always avoided her, but she sought me out a great many times. Then there was Qian Jiang. [Li Lili's younger brother, a noted cinematographer] If there were eight takes, she'd complain about seven. Everyone knew his reputation, there was no problem with his photography, but she'd complain.
Why? Well, he'd also been at Yanan [Communist base in North China, 1937-45] and there she asked him once, "What is your sister's name?" And when he said Li Lili, and she realized the connection, it spoiled their relationship. The result was that Qian Jiang had to stop speaking to me, didn't dare to come over for dinner any more, didn't dare have anything to do with me. So I always tried to avoid her. I had students denounce me, saying "If I tell you to sit down, you sit down, and just stop what you're doing." Later, I went to a meeting, and sat down, I was just sitting there, behaving myself like I always did, but others who had never before had anything negative to say about me and never said anything offensive to me, would now have nothing to do with me.
[Right, cinematographer Qian Jiang]
If you just wanted to be like ordinary people, get to know her, make movies with her, get to know her well...It should have been like it was at Yanan: when I saw her there, she was very happy, very pleased with herself, and I wasn't like that. Even when they denounced me, and denounced the movies she and I made together, and I told them, I made so many movies, don't use those against me. But they wouldn't listen. They didn't know Jiang Qing was in them too.
CHEN: Was there a time during the Cultural Revolution when you were dealt with very severely, and your head was shaved?
LI: Yes, completely, like a white poplar. There were mass shavings, and she of course saw that all actors were tormented this way.
CHEN: Your attitude is very good, very optimistic and broad-minded in your approach to this subject. Were you at that time?
LI: I was.
As the Cultural Revolution upheaval continued, all of China was caught up in its fanaticism. Optimistic Li Lili endured the suffering, but her husband Luo Jingyu was not so fortunate.
CHEN: Was Mr. Luo severely denounced during that time?
LI: Yes, very severely. Every day.
CHEN: It was particularly severe?
LI: Yes, and it was at Jiang Qing's orders, so it was every day. Every day.
CHEN: So later on, before Mr. Luo was gone, did you have any premonition of this?
LI: I had earlier had a premonition when my mother died. She had been put at Babaoshan [Cemetery], and I took a bus to visit her. Before I left, I made some soup for Luo Jingyu. It was very windy that day. After I had finished my visit to my mother, when it came time to go home, I couldn't find a bus, and at that time it was a long trip, a very long trip back to Beijing. When I did find a bus, on the way back I was terribly tired, so tired that I had to lie down on the floor for a while. Finally, I thought that I couldn't go home yet because I had to get to class. On the way, I began thinking about this, and I remembered that once before there had been a rope on the table and that may have meant he was preparing for this beforehand, and that was why the rope was on the table. That time, I picked up the rope and put it in my purse on my way out. Later on, I believed I could muddle through but he felt he couldn't go on living, and I sensed that.
Li Lili's vague premonition tragically became reality. In January of 1970, the coldest season in Beijing, Luo Jingyu at last decided he could bear the constant attacks on him no longer, and took his own life. He was not yet 60 years old. Only 10 years earlier, while abroad on a business trip at the time of the couple's 21st wedding anniversary, Luo Jingyu had written a letter to his wife, in which he included the following lines of poetry:
21 years filled with joy
Like a river's current flowing by
All is well in the universe
Under the red flag's delicate song
With writing that expresses so vividly one's love of country, how could one expect that just a decade later, he would leave this world in the way he did?
In 1978, Li Lili was now an elderly woman of 63, and at a time when the whole country had finally rid itself of its nightmare, she began the twilight of her life longing for some happiness in her later years. In that year Li Lili remarried, to the famous artist Ai Zhongxin, who was the same age as her.
CHEN: How did you get to know the Professor?
LI: Jiang Qing wanted to shut down the film academy, and had us all transferred to the opera institute. One of the faculty there lived with Mr. Ai, and he introduced us. The result was, he came to my home to visit me, and on the weekends when I wasn't working I would visit him. And we got to know each other that way.
CHEN: That was after the smashing of the Gang of Four, in 1978. It was 1978, wasn't it?
LI: It was 1978, after the Gang of Four (was smashed).
CHEN: In his youth Mr. Ai must have been a fan of yours. Had he seen many of your movies?
LI: Yes, he'd seen many of (my) movies. When I first met him, I knew he was agreeable. Later, others said, "But he has so many children," but I told them that a lot of people didn't scare me. That's just how I am, I can bear it, I can handle this sort of situation. All I ask is they be good people.
CHEN: The facts prove your foresight was correct.
LI: Really, they're good people.
Everywhere in her bedroom, there are pictures that Ai Zhongxin painted of her. The details and the words are deeply emotional, a record of their 26 years of a full life together.
Although she will be 91 this year [sic], Mrs. Li has an especially good memory. In 2001, she produced a book, and while she now recalls much of the book's content, the language she uses differs quite a bit from that written in the book. However, her current mood is not good because her husband passed away less than a year earlier. The two old people had a very deep attachment to each other, so Mrs. Li is now grieving deeply.
CHEN: What memories do you have most now?
LI: I recall my husband, so good a person gone now. But then I think, everyone has to travel this road, and this comforts me. There are other hardships people suffer that are worse than this, but I still think of him. At night when I can't sleep, I always think of him. He was my dear one. My relationship with him was very close, the best, and he was so special.
Losing her companion of so many years as she entered her 90s, Li Lili's life seemed to have lost its focus. But her feisty spirit rose up once again to confront the blow of losing someone so dear to her.
LI: Now ... everyone seeks me out, but I'm reluctant, and perfunctory. My mood ... it's probably been seven months since he died, and my mood right now is pretty low, my spirits are down. I don't sleep well, my blood pressure is not normal. But it will soon be the 100th anniversary (of Chinese films), and I just can't ... people seek me out, and I can't refuse them, so my mood is especially bad.
CHEN: The two of you lived together for 26 years.
LI: Yes, 26 years.
CHEN: Now it is time to take care of yourself, and not think of sad things.
LI: Yes, one can fool oneself that way.
So many events from the mists of time are etched in Li Lili's memory. The only surviving witness of our silent film era, she is in the evening of her life, and time has taken her husband from her. Fortunately, she has a home full of grandchildren to warm and comfort her.
[Editor's commentary: it was stated at the outset that there were several points in Li's recollections which conflict with other sources, and the voice-over narration notes there are conflicts with her 2001 book. These may or may not be attributable to age, but in any case readers should be aware of their existence.
The first such discrepancies lie in her recollections of childhood: she recalls it as not being unhappy, but her biography in the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) describes it as "a miserable childhood – she was a child maid, and adopted daughter, learned Beijing opera, was admitted to an orphanage". While a wiki publication such as the IMDB is heavily reliant on the knowledge and accuracy of its contributors, the author in this instance is a respected Singapore film scholar, and presumably correct, although Li herself does not mention having been a child maid, and says only that she had thought she would be put into an orphanage, not that she actually was. (I also question whether learning Beijing opera was necessarily a miserable experience.) Her later adoption by the musical troupe leader was factual, but this might have been done in order to afford her some political protection after her father's underground political activities made him a wanted man.
Not so much in conflict as it is curious is the motion picture she was invited to make during her time in the USA. In the interview, she gave the film's title only in Chinese, as 八小时游历世界, literally "An 8-hour World Tour". A careful search turned up only one movie with a title approaching that, the 1943 Kay Kyser musical called "Around the World", a global tour entertaining US forces in various allied countries, including China. The film did come from RKO, which could be regarded as a minor studio when compared with MGM, Warner Brothers, etc. And it was owned by an individual – Howard Hughes. So "Around the World" is most likely, although the scene she describes is not in the print shown from time to time on Turner Classic Movies.
But if "Around the World" is the movie Li discusses, it raises the greatest and most curious conflict of all: exactly when was she in the U.S? All the sources which discuss her, including the Chinese Cinema Encyclopedia (Shanghai, 1995), the IMDB bio, and the numerous Li Lili obits in the Chinese media in 2005, state that she was in the U.S. in 1946-47, after the war, not during it. This would make sense, as there was a State Department program in the immediate postwar period designed to help rebuild the arts in countries devastated by war. According to at least one source, during her North American sojourn she studied drama at Catholic University, language and music at Columbia, makeup and costume at Cal-Berkeley, and visited film studios in Hollywood and Mexico. The Chinese Cinema Encyclopedia itself is conflicted: its article on Luo Jingyu says he went to the U.S. in 1942, returning to China in 1945. But if that article and her recollections are accurate, and she and her husband did sit out World War II in the U.S., it begs two questions: why and how? It would be highly unlikely for the couple to just decide on their own to move to America for the duration: if that had been possible, most of Asia and Europe would have joined them. She mentions earning a living by teaching poetry; what was he doing during this time? (The Encyclopedia article says he was "studying at a university in Washington.) Too many things just do not add up. It would be easy to attribute these discrepancies to an elder's faulty memory; but the nagging question of the American movie keeps getting in the way of a final decision.]