[left, Li Pingqian at mid-career]
For some reason, among the filmmakers of China's classic era, the name of Li Pingqian 李萍倩 seldom turns up on Chinese film historians' lists of top First or Second Generation directors. This is surprising, as Li was one of the most prolific directors of his era, with a career spanning five decades, with an output that included several of China's cinema classics, such films as《A Modern Girl》(1933),《A Bible for Girls》(1934) and《Pleasures of the Dance Hall》(1931), one of China's first all-sound movies. He was also one of the more frequent adapters of literary works for the screen, both Chinese and Western, the latter encompassing Shakespeare, Conan Doyle and Maurice Leblanc, among others. His career path could have been an on-the-job training model for aspiring young filmmakers, starting out with cinematography, then going on to acting and writing, and only after this "apprenticeship" assuming a director's overall responsibility.
[right, Li Pingqian in his later career in Hong Kong]
Li Pingqian was born Li Chunshou 李椿寿 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang in 1902. He enrolled in the University of Shanghai's Department of Sociology in 1919, but left a year later to enter the Mingxing (Star) Film Company's new film school. Shortly after that he was hired by Mingxing as a cinematography assistant, usually working with French-trained cinematographers Wang Xiangchang and Xu Hu. When in 1924 Wang and Xu left Mingxing to form their own studio, the Shenzhou Film Company, Li Pingqian went them. Although his entire movie career to that point had been behind the camera, in the fledgling studio's first productions《Unbearable Memories》and《There's a Full Moon Tonight》(both 1925), Li appeared as an actor, with the male lead in the latter. His first directing effort came the following year, the popular《Disaster for Younger Sister》, after which he concentrated on writing until 1927, when Shenzhou ceased operations. While the studio's productions had significant critical and popular success, its earnings were insufficient to satisfy its founders, who disbanded their company to pursue other business interests. Li Pingqian then joined the Shao (Shaw) brothers Tianyi studio, and for the next six years was one of that company's mainstay directors. In 1932, he rejoined the Mingxing studio, this time as an experienced and respected director, and the following year directed such successful films as《Children of the Times》and《Year of Plenty》. From 1936 on, he worked for a succession of Shanghai studios, continuing active filmmaking through the war and after. After leaving Shanghai on the eve of the Communist takeover, he continued his career (often credited as "Jack Li") making Mandarin movies in Hong Kong until his retirement at the end of 1965. Li Pingqian died November 18, 1984.
Li's filmography (with links to films) follows after the bump.