The Rudolph Valentino of Shanghai tells the remarkable
story of the "Emperor of Film," who dominated the golden age of
Chinese silent movies. Jin Yan (金錎) achieved his greatest stardom
in the 1930s, when women literally threw themselves at his feet.
Married first to the Shanghai actress Wang Renmei, his movie roles
with "the Goddess" Ruan Ling-yu spurred public demand for more of
them together in films made by the leading studio, Lianhua. It was
Jin who made Ruan aware of film's awesome power to portray social
problems while evading the censors with melodramatic soap opera
Jin's life spanned the most turbulent period in modern Chinese
history - a childhood escape from Japanese-occupied
Korea, through the long civil war, the bitter Cultural Revolution,
and Deng Xiaoping's reformation. Jin's embodiment of the
modernizing May Fourth ideals of the 1920s and 30s added a new
layer of sexuality to the liberal movement. But the Communists
later cast Jin aside in their campaign to "learn from Lei Feng," a
humble young soldier. As Jin's second wife Qin Yi rose to new
heights in the politically charged film world, the sick and aging
star languished in obscurity. Reproducing dozens of beautiful
stills from the personal collection of Qin Yi and the China Film
Archive, Richard Meyer contextualizes Jin's tragic transformation
with riveting details on many fellow performers.
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