This is an interview about film history before 1960s. I will upload the essay requirement, questions and answers.
The interviewee is my father who was a film director and actor in China. He was born in 1935. He worked in film industry since 1958. He has won Chinese Oscar rewards for three times (Gold Rooster Award once, Flowers Film Awards twice).
1, When did you start to watch film? The films that you have watched during that time, are they silent film or sound film? When did you started to work in film industry?
I started to watch movie since 1944. Those were Chinese movie. Since I was lived near Shanghai, most movies that I have seen were made by Shanghai film studio. They were all black and white, sound film. Most of them were about lower class, war and drama. Barely about politics.
2, what did Chinese film industry looks like? Did it have same formation like Hollywood, such as vertical integration, actor’s contract? Did Chinese film also have production code?
There was only one film distribution company in China, called Chinese film distribution company. Unlike production code in America that allowed film studio regulate by themselves, China has a governmental department that works on examine and verify film. Once a film was made, the film studio has to send the film to the local department to examine and verify, then sent to the centre department. If the film is not qualified (Before 1960 (even until a few years ago from now), all the pornographic, anti-government and violent film were banned in China.
), the studio has to re-make the film until it is qualified. The Chinese film distribution company will buy the qualified film with same price 80,000 dolor (before 1960) for black/ white 90 minutes film (100,000 for color film), then the movie theater will choose which one they want, how many copies they want and buy it from the Chinese Film Distribution Company. Basically, an actor has to work for the studio that he sign in with, unless other studio sent request and pay extra money to the studio. The studio will decide if they can release the actor.
3, Did China join World War II? Do you have any impression of WWII? When did Japan invade China? Did Chinese film industry have any influence by Japanese invasion or Japanese films?
Japan invaded China in 1931s. Japanese films didn’t have much influence to Chinese people, because only a few movie theaters in big city would exhibited Japanese film. During the period of Japan invading China, Japan didn’t allow China to make any film about the war.
4, were you able to see U.S. movies where you lived? If not, why were you not able to see American movies? If yes, what were your favorite actors, genre, or director? Have you see any animation?
U.S films and Europe films were mostly showed in big city, like Beijing or Shanghai. Hollywood film entered Chinese market since 1920s. After Japan surrendered in 1945s, most films exhibited in China were about WWII, such as Gone with Wind and Waterloo Bridge. Also some drama from Europe, such as Hamlet and King Richard III. Not so much action movie. The first movie that made in China was a drama documentary in 1905. Before that, China did not have our own film. All the films we could watch were from Europe our America.
5, except for going to theater, were there any other ways you can receive information about American movies? What kind of information?
Foreign films were only exhibited in big cities. There were a few tabloids about American films, but only could be found in big cities, like Shanghai. Since there were many American movies input, most Chinese people enjoy American films better than Chinese films. The magazines were about brief introduction of American film and actors.
6, which country’s film that you can access the most? What kind of? Were they dubbing or have subtitles? How did those films compare to Hollywood films? Which film had made indelible impression on you? Why?
Before 1949, most films that Chinese people can access to were American films. However, after 1950, most films that people can access to were from Soviet, which were mostly about war, such as Lenin in October and Lenin in 1918, which reflect the life of working class. We also could see some Soviet historical film, like Peter the Great. And also some films that based on literature, such as, Resurrection, Anna Karenina and War and Peace. Before 1949s, most films were from U.S, people could barely saw Soviet films. After 1949, American films were banned by Chinese government. Instead, China give great impetus to Soviet films, because China has the same political system with Soviet—communism. After 1980s, China re-open the market to American films. I love American films better than Soviet films, because I think American films are more realistic from storytelling to acting. Soviet films are more like a living theatre.
7, which country you think has the most influence to Chinese cinema? What kind of influence? Why this country?
Before 1950, American movies have great influence to editing, directing and acting on Chinese film industry, because America has more advanced technique, ideas and system. Between 1950 and 1960, Chinese film industry mostly influence by Soviet films.
8, before 1960, what were the movies theaters like? Where were they located? How much for the ticket? Could anyone go to the movie theaters?
Before 1960, most movie theaters were located in downtown of big city. The ticket was from 1 cent to 5 cent (equals nowadays 20 cent to 1 dolor). Unlike U.S, Chinese film industry does not have production code, every movie has to be examined and verified by the government. Any inappropriate scene or shot(pornographic, violent, etc.) will be banned. It makes every Chinese movie is suit for any age, everybody could go to watch movie. Instead of indoor fancy movie theater in big cities, the movie theaters were simple and crude in countryside. People simply hung up the screen and connect the power. There was no charge in countryside movie theater. Before 1940, no foreign movies had subtle or Chinese dubbing. People would have to figure out what’s the movie about by their imagination. Even like this, people still enjoy American movies.
9, is there any fan magazine at that time? Have you received any fan letter? What did they write about?
There were some film magazines after 1950. I have received plenty letters from the fans. They were talking about how much they enjoy the film and what they want to see in the future.
10, is there anything special that you think I should know about the movies before 1960s?
11, how did film going differ compare to now?