This was one of China's first films to have an accompanying sound track. Shao Zuiweng, the eldest and founding brother of the siblings who later gained international reknown as The Shaw Brothers, was the first Chinese filmmaker to include extensive non-acting functions in his films' credits. While his original motive in doing this was to give credit to his several brothers who participated behind the camera, those involved in researching Chinese motion picture history owe Shao Zuiweng a debt of gratitude for making this the Tianyi studio's standard practice, and this is especially so for those (like myself) who have a particular interest in Chinese and American cinema interactions. Without these extensive technical credits, we would have little idea of the extensive interactions between Hollywood and Shanghai during the classical film era.
It is known that in their own run-up to the sound era, Shanghai studios (at least those with the financial resources to make the changeover) brought in experienced filmmakers from the West to train Chinese filmmakers in this new form of the media. Tianyi brought in several Western experts for this movie: Bert Cann was an experienced cinematographer who for much of his career was closely associated with Douglas MacLean, the American silent film comic who later brought Fei Mu's《Song of China》to the US, and by doing so made it the first Chinese-made film to be distributed and exhibited by American commercial interests. In addition, foreign experts are credited for their contributions in the film's musical score, sound direction and sound (understandable) and editing. It is interesting that Shao Zuiweng himself was credited as one of the editors (in this case read: trainee), which for the studio's chief director would seem a natural skill to acquire. It is also noteworthy that for its first sound effort the Tianyi studio made a splash by casting so many of its contractual players, including stars, in the film. For example, several of the studio's leading ladies portrayed dance hall hostesses, relatively minor roles, but sure to draw audiences' notice.
Gechang Chunse (1931) 哥场春色 (Pleasures of the Dance Hall)
alternate English title: Romance of the Opera
Tianyi. B&W. Mandarin. 8 reels. Premiered October 29, 1931 at the New Light Theater in Shanghai. Direction: Li Pingqian, Qiu Qixiang, Shao Zuiweng. Screenplay: collective work by Yao Sufen, et al. Cinematography: Bert Cann. Asst. Cinematographers: Yan Chengheng, Zhou Shilu. Music: Henry Nathan. Lyrics: Li Jinhui. Editing: Joseph G. Smith, Michael Pavloff, Shao Zuiweng. Adaptation: Qiu Qixiang. Dialogue: Chen Dabei. Stage management: Yan Duhe, Zhou Shoujuan, Ren Jinping. Sound Direction: Leon Britton, Chas Hugo. Sound: Byram C. Gurein. Sets: Shen Xiqin. Program notes: Gao Tianqi. Titles: Cheng Luzhang. Cast: Xuan Jinglin (Li Huifang, the singer), Chen Yitang (Zhang Xiaorong, the coachman's son), Zhang Yongcui (Zhu Guibao, the wife), Wang Huijuan (maid), Wu Suxin (Madam Wu), Xu Qinfang (Madam Xu), Pu Jinghong (Fanggu, the maid), Chen Yumei (woman in charge of entertainment), Chen Peilan (Madam Chen), Lu Jianfen (Madam Lu), Tao Yayun (Jiang Lixia), Xu Jingzhen (customer), Fu Guifeng (maid), Zi Luolan (Madam Ma), Yang Naimei (Madam Yang), Jiang Naifang (Madame Jiang), Qin Haha (Zhang Rongsheng), Ma Dongwu (Ma Zhensheng), Sun Min (customer), Zhang Zhenduo (Wang Xiaomao), Qi Zhengmin (the customer’s servant), Fu Jiqiu (waiter at the restaurant), Ge Furong (Chen You), Xiao Zhengzhong (Chen Houzhai), Wei Pengfei (entertainer). Also: Lu Lixia.
Although married, a young man, son of a coachman, begins frequenting a dance hall, where he falls for a popular singing girl. He sets up a secret love nest, where the two begin cohabiting. After squandering his own limited resources to maintain his double life, he steals and hocks his wife's jewelry, a dowry from her father.His family soon discovers this, and it results in husband and wife becoming estranged.
Their quarrels grow more frequent, and one day erupt into violence, ending with the wife fleeing, with him following after her in his car. He accidentally strikes and kills her, but the circumstances make it look like he killed her intentionally. He is arrested on murder charges, tried and sentenced to death.
During their relationship, the singing girl had begun having misgivings about her way of life, complicated by her meeting an earnest (and unattached) young customer who also falls for her. After the tragedy, the conscience-stricken singing girl is overcome with remorse.
[Some "ladies of the dance hall" actresses gather for a group photo. I do not recognize the two women seated at each end, but second from left are: Xu Qinfang, Xuan Jinglin, Yang Naimei (seated), and Chen Yumei. Click on image to view full size.]