After its several years of dormancy, by the early 1930s the Hong Kong movie industry was slowly coming back, helped in no small part by the well-funded and talent-rich Lianhua (United Photoplay) studio setting up a HK branch. This was a popular release from Lianhua, a silent era murder mystery.
Yeban Qiangsheng (1932) 夜半枪声 (Gunshot at Midnight)
Lianhua, produced at the Hong Kong studio. B&W. Silent. Released May 29, 1932. Direction: Guan Wenqing, Chen Wu. Screenplay: Cao Xueyu. Executive Producer: Luo Mingyou. Cast: Wu Chufan (Qian Ruming), Huang Manli (Qian's daughter), Tang Xingtu (Qian's concubine), Li Tie (Zhou Huaiyuan), He Dasha (the cousin), Hu Yixing (the nephew), Chen Wuchang (the butler).
A whodunnit in the classic British style, complete with spooky mansion, a variety of suspects, and a sinister butler lurking about. Late one night, a shot rings out at the mansion of millionaire Qian Ruming, and when the lights come on the wealthy man is found murdered. Among the various suspects with motives are Qian's concubine, his nephew and the concubine's cousin. Everything appears to center around the concubine, and the investigation focuses on her. Eighteen years earlier, she was a young beauty with many suitors, but she fell for scholar Zhou Huaiyuan. Although Zhou was the one she loved, she decided to follow her ambitions for status and money rather than her heart, and became the millionaire's concubine. Years later, she and the scholar happened to meet again, and rekindled their romance. It turns out Zhou was the one who killed Qian.
Note: this was the film debut for Wu Chufan [Cantonese: Ng Cho-Fan] in the role of the middle-aged murder victim, although Wu was only 21 years old at the time. Before his retirement in 1966, he made more than 250 movies in Shanghai and Hong Kong, portraying a wide variety of roles and becoming one of the most familiar character actors in Chinese movies.
[right, although no stills from this film are known to exist, a publicity photo taken about that time featured two of its actors, Wu Chufan and Huang Manli, both of whom went on to distinguished careers for several decades to come]