Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Chinese national holiday

October 1 is a national holiday in the People's Republic of China and Hong Kong, marking the anniversary of the day in 1949 when the Communists won the civil war, pushing the Nationalists to what is now Taiwan. It got me to thinking about China in the movies, since the stuff on TCM is either stuff I've already recommended, or stuff I haven't seen. Hollywood has an interesting relationship with China, going all the way back to Anna May Wong. Wong had a difficult relationship with Hollywood, since she couldn't always get the roles she wanted and felt she deserved. Over the summer I came across an interesting radio documentary about Wong's 1939 visit to Australia, something I can't imagine any big star doing if she wanted to keep her career going.

I've discussed the way in which Hollywood cast whites as Chinese before, with some interesting results, as with Edward G. Robinson and Loretta Young playing Chinese-Americans in The Hatchet Man. Once World War II came, Hollywood was rather more sympathetic to occupied China, since both countries shared a common enemy in the form of Japan, so even though somebody like Gene Tierney is miscast in China Girl. Some of the most egregious miscasting would be Katharine Hepburn and friends in Dragon Seed, even if it was clearly on the side of the Chinese.

After the civil war, there wasn't all that much dealing with mainland China for quite some time. I can think of a couple of films dealing wiht the end of the civil war, both of which I've blogged about: Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing and Satan Never Sleeps. With the coming of the Korean War, and the PRC fighting on the North Korean side, there were some films dealing with China's part in the Korean War, notably The Manchurian Candidate. And I can think of a couple of movies with Chinese spies in the western world, such as Thirteen Frightened Girls and Fathom. One other notable China-set western film I can think of is Gregory Peck in the ludicrous The Chairman.

This post is not meant to be an exhaustive or authoritative topic; more a collection of links to old posts and other stuff I've found interesting. Any good post-1949 China-set films I haven't mentioned?

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