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Tragic destiny of a screen beauty - Linda Lin Dai (1934-1964)
A heroine for diasporic Chinese fans 1/1 - Page 3
Author(s) : Gina Marchetti
Date : 10/11/2004
Type(s) : Analysis
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However, strength is tinged with melancholy in Linda Lin Dai's films as well as in her off-screen life. As the three costume films in this retrospective (DIAU CHARN, BEYOND THE GREAT WALL, and THE LOTUS LAMP) indicate, Chinese audiences, after decades of bloody civil wars, revolutions, invasions, and colonization, welcomed a vision of Chinese history that unified its audience and allowed it to fantasize about an “imaginary” nation that transcended physical borders. Although these tales often ended tragically for the heroines who sacrificed themselves for the greater good of the Chinese nation, these fantasies also offered hope to people displaced by war, revolution, economic upheavals, and social unrest. A beauty who could transcend the limitations of historical time and physical space, Linda Lin Dai could serve as the cynosure of all the unfocused longings, regrets, doubts, and desires of her diasporic Chinese fans.

At that time, Hong Kong cinema had quite a bit in common with its close competitor Japan. Hong Kong and Japan hoped to draw in a regional audience to films that would speak first to an ethnic Japanese or Chinese audience, but also manage to find a niche on screens across Asia. Like Japan under the American Occupation and post-Occupation American influence, colonial Hong Kong modeled its industry on Hollywood (another export industry with a large local base) and on the increasingly popular Hollywood-style films being made in Japan. Just as Japan revived the samurai film after the American authorities allowed costume dramas to be produced after banning them as promoting “feudalism” and Emperor-worship, Hong Kong helped to cash in on the popularity of historical films among Chinese audiences by producing lavish Chinese opera productions and huang mei romances. Also, taking a cue from Japan, Hong Kong studios began to make a series of highly successful Mandarin musicals patterned on the Japanese version of the Hollywood standard.
The Kingdom and The Beauty, the most acclaimed Huangmei diao with Linda Lin Dai.

modern musicals

Although the genre is most often associated with the Shaws’ archrival, MP and GI/Cathay (under the leadership of Dato Loke Wan-tho until his death in a plane crash), the musical also formed a staple part of the Shaw Brothers’ output during this era. In fact, a former MP and GI director who had begun his career in Shanghai, Tao Qin, directed the two modern musicals featured in this retrospective, LES BELLES and LOVE PARADE, both starring Peter Chen Hou and Linda Lin Dai as a romantic team. (Tao Qin also helmed Lin Dai’s best known melodramatic epics, LOVE WITHOUT END and THE BLUE AND THE BLACK.)

Linda Lin Dai and Peter Chen Hou.

Both Les Belles and Love Parade showcase Linda Lin Dai’s formidable talents as a comedienne. Les Belles, for example, features Chen Hou and Lin Dai in a love-hate relationship in which they “hate” each other in person as they work together as part of a musical theatre troupe with very different opinions on how things should be run and “love” each other through a series of anonymous billets-doux in which they court. Love Parade offers a similar storyline with the Chen Hou and Lin Dai characters disliking each other at first, marrying, suffering through a trying honeymoon, and finally reconciling at the end. Both films offer spectacular musical numbers, cosmopolitan references to Japan, America, and Europe, and elaborate fashions that showcase Linda Lin Dai’s beauty, grace, and poise.
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