Actor & Actress

 

Introduce Actors & Director

Actor Jin Yan (金焰, nicknamed as ‘The Emperor of Cinema’)

Jin Yan (in Chinese 金焰, April 7, 1910 December 27, 1983) was a Korean-born actor who gained fame in China during that country’s golden age of cinema, based in Shanghai. His acting talents and good looks gained him much popularity in the 1930′s. He was dubbed “The Emperor of Cinema” and “The Rudolph Valentino of Shanghai”.

The 1930s matinee idol Chinese audiences knew and adored as Jin Yan 金焰 was a Korean, born Kim Duk-lin 金德麟 (pronounced Jin Delin in Mandarin) in Seoul in 1910, one of several children of a doctor. At that time, Korea was under Japanese rule. Working under the underground code name “Golden Flame,” for which the Chinese characters are 金焰,

Dr. Kim was one of the founders and leaders of the Korean national independence movement. When the authorities ordered Dr.Kim’s arrest in 1912 for his activities, the family made its way north to the Yalu River in winter, then fled into exile in China, eventually settling in Tianjin. The family thrived in China until the father’s death in 1918. His impoverished widow, unable to support her children on her own, found homes for them with various relatives living in East China. Little Duk-lin was taken in by an aunt who lived in Shanghai, and later Tianjin. He grew up healthy and strong, and was a star athlete in school. In 1927, after graduating from middle school and just 15 years after fleeing Korea, he boarded a steamboat back to Shanghai and found work as an apprentice technician at Xinmin, one of the smaller studios. But before long his good looks, personality and willingness to work hard moved him out from behind the camera.

Sun Yu gave him an important supporting role in the movie “Knight Errant.” This was the real beginning of his film career, and for his career Kim Duk-lin officially changed his name to his father’s revolutionary code name—Jin Yan.

When the Lianhua Film Company was formed in 1930, it attracted considerable talent from other studios, especially younger performers who felt ready to move up from supporting roles to leads. The most notable names among the new studio’s recruits were two that would become box office magic over the next few years: Jin Yan and Ruan Lingyu.

Their first onscreen pairing was in the Sun Yu-directed “Wild Flowers”. It related the story of two young lovers, the scion of a wealthy family and a flower seller, struggling against family and societal opposition to their relationship. According to its writer-director Sun Yu, he was heavily influenced by two other movies, 1924′s “Tea Picking Girl” and 1927′s American production “Seventh Heaven.” “Wild Flowers” was a popular success, especially with young urban Chinese, and the two young co-stars were soon matinee idols.

In the period 1931-32, Jin Yan played the lead in 10 motion pictures, portraying a wide range of characters, from rich young playboys and college students to farm hands and sailors. His athletic build and good looks combined with an unaffected and natural manner on screen made him a natural to portray virile young men. He had a huge following, especially among young people, with a fan magazine poll dubbing him the “Emperor of Cinema”. A young immigrant with only 7 yuan in his pocket had made it to the top of China’s motion picture world. In one of his starring movies, 1932’s “The Peach Girl”, Jin Yan met Ruan Lingyu’(阮玲玉), who became already the most prominent Chinese film stars of the 1930s.

When full-scale war erupted with Japan, he decided to stop performing, which resulted in the Japanese occupation authorities putting him on a “blacklist” of those under suspicion. They employed various tactics ranging from subtle to outright intimidation in the attempt to get him to collaborate and join a front film studio they were setting up. However, the actor stayed firm, and refused. To make a living, he moved to a more remote part of the city, where he and Wang Renmei, his wife and star, lived in seclusion and he changed his vocation to building design. But his reputation as the “Emperor” would not let him live in peace: the Japanese kept after him, repeatedly sending Japanese agents or Chinese collaborators to persuade him to join their plan to make movies on the theme of “Sino-Japanese cooperation.” He remained steadfast in his refusal.

The Japanese stepped up their pressure, now threatening the couple with physical force. By the autumn of 1938, the now-dangerous situation called for escape. His friend. director Wu Yonggang, suggested a “bait and switch” tactic for this, with a minor film actress named Hu Jia and her husband Chen Weiguang providing the opportunity. Chen Weiguang worked for a foreign insurance company, free to make regular business trips to Hong Kong, so when he announced he planned to take his wife along on his next trip, no one thought anything of it. But when it came time to board the Dutch postal packet that would take them there, it was actually Jin Yan and Wang Renmei who boarded, embarked and fled Shanghai.

In 1940, after experiencing many hardships and dangers, the now-destitute couple finally arrived in China’s wartime capital of Chongqing (Chungking), where they both appeared in “The Vast Sky,” a patriotic film about Chinese aviators that featured an all-star cast drawn from the large number of Shanghai film community refugees who had made it safely to Chongqing. The couple had now been married for over half a decade, and cracks had begun to show in the relationship. Both were very strong-willed people: Wang Renmei was outspoken and aggressive, a woman who relished social life and the interaction with new people it provided; Jin Yan’s emphasis was on his close friendships with old friends, mostly other men who were former colleagues in the film community, and these different approaches to dealing with others led to differences of opinion between the two from time to time. Complicating this were the added pressures on their marriage from poverty and the constant upheaval in their life: they began quarreling over trivial daily matters, and a gradual change in their feelings for each other finally led to a breakup.

Jin Yan was also nagged by personal guilt that he was not doing enough for the national defense effort. Inspired by his appearance in “The Vast Sky,” he applied for pilot training in the Chinese Air Force, but was rejected as too old. By this time Jin and Wang were living in Kunming, where she had found work as an English language typist at the U.S. air base there. For Jin Yan, whose views of male-female marital roles were very traditional, his wife being the source of support was too much to take. He contacted a theatrical company touring southwest China staging patriotic plays, and when they invited him to join them, he demanded she go with him. When Wang Renmei refused to quit her job and follow, a divorce was suggested and agreed upon (sources vary on which of them first broached the subject), and the couple who had been the Chinese movie community’s dream marriage parted in 1944.

At war’s end, Jin Yan hurried back to the Shanghai movie community he had been away from so long, and by 1947 he had fallen in love and remarried, again to another famous star, Qin Yi 秦怡. The two had first met in Chongqing in 1940 during the filming of “The Vast Sky.” Qin Yi later recalled having been totally in awe of the “Emperor,” and when he turned up on her Shanghai doorstep several years later, she found his interest in her overwhelming. But while they grew closer together, she was puzzled by his reluctance to make known his intentions for the relationship, until one day he suddenly turned very serious and disclosed to her the reason he hadn’t proposed: he had been approached by Hollywood interests to possibly make a movie there, and he had been agonizing over his decision. “If I accept their offer, then we would have to part. But if I stay, we could get married.” To Qin Yi, this was proof that Jin Yan was a man who would put love ahead of career, and that parting even for a short while was unacceptable. Since this meshed perfectly with her own feelings, she accepted his proposal. In the winter of 1947, Qin Yi was invited to make a film in Hong Kong, and Jin Yan accompanied her. While they were there, the Yonghua Film Studio in Hong Kong wanted to sign them both to long-term contracts, but Qin Yi was very close to her family back in Shanghai, and wanted to return there immediately after completing the picture. Jin Yan had by now abandoned the idea of Hollywood, and in a turnabout in attitude from his first marriage, decided to follow her back to Shanghai. On the eve of their departure from Hong Kong, 37-year-old Jin Yan and 25 year-old Qin Yi were married in an exuberant but simple ceremony. In the second year of their marriage they had a son who they named Jin Jie.

Actress ‘Ruan Lingyu’(阮玲玉)

Ruan Lingyu (Chinese: 阮玲玉; pinyin: Ruǎn Língyù; April 26, 1910 – March 8, 1935), born as Ruan Fenggen (阮凤根), was a Chinese silent film actress. She was one of the most prominent Chinese film stars of the 1930s, whose early and tragic death at the age of 25 have led her to become an icon of Chinese cinema.

She was born in Shanghai in 1910, and made her first film at the age of 16 for the then prominent Mingxing Film Studio. She was brought up by her mother who worked as a house maid to bring her up. Her first big break came in Spring Dream of an Old Capital (故都春梦 or Reminiscences of Beijing, 1930). A massive hit, it was her first major work after signing for the newly-formed Lianhua Studio.

Thereafter Ruan became the company’s major film star. Her best works came after 1931, starting with the melodrama Love and Duty (戀愛與義務, 1931, directed by Bu Wancang), and ‘The Peach Girl’(桃花泣血記, 1932, directed by Bu Wancang). Beginning with Three Modern Women (三个摩登女性, 1932; dir: Bu Wanchang), Ruan started collaborating with a group of talented leftist directors; most of her subsequent films have a strong socialist slant to them. In Little Toys (小玩意, 1933), a film by Sun Yu, Ruan played a long-suffering toy-maker. Her next film, Shennü (神女, The Goddess, 1934; dir: Wu Yonggang), is often hailed as the pinnacle of Chinese silent cinema, with Ruan’s portrayal of a sympathetic prostitute bringing up a child one of the classics of the era. Later that year, Ruan made her penultimate film, New Women (新女性), with director Cai Chusheng, where she played an educated Shanghai woman forced to death by an unfeeling society. A final film, National Custom (國風) was released shortly after her death.

Following the completion of New Women, Ruan’s life began to unravel. The film opened in February 1935, Shanghai. Cai Chusheng, under massive pressure from street tabloids, who were retaliating for a scathing depiction of them in New Women, was forced to make extensive cuts to the film. Even then, Ruan’s private life was mercilessly hoarded upon by tabloids and her on-going lawsuit with her first husband became a source of vindictive coverage. Faced with these public issues as well as with intense private problems, Ruan poisoned herself with an overdose of barbiturates in Shanghai on March 8, 1935, at the age of 24. Her released death note apparently contained a line which says “Gossip Is a fearful thing”, although some have doubted the note’s authenticity. Her funeral procession was reportedly three miles long, with three women committing suicide during the event. Even China’s preeminent intellectual Lu Xun was appalled at the details surrounding Ruan’s death, and wrote an essay denouncing the tabloids.

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