Lianhua Film Company aka United Photoplay Service Film Studio, registered in Hong Kong 1930
HF: York Lo’s recently posted article, Fung Tang: The Firm, the Family, the Transpacific Metals Trade and Tin Refinery includes the following: Another high-profile business which Fung was involved in was the major movie studio United Photoplay Service Ltd (聯華影業製片印刷有限公司), which was created in 1930 as a merger of several studios led by Lo Ming-you (羅明佑), the scion of a prominent comprador family. Fung was a member of the 14 members inaugural board of the studio which included luminaries such as Sir Robert Hotung as chairman, Siemssen & Co comprador Chan Haupo (陳厚甫), Lo’s uncle Lo Wen-Kan (羅文幹, who served as finance, justice and foreign minister of the Chinese republic at different times) and the wife of Young Marshal Chang Hsueh-liang (which might be the reason why some Chinese sources online mistakenly referred to Fung as a general in Manchuria).
HF: I asked Philip Edward Kenny if he knew anything about United Photoplay Service Film studio which I hadn’t come across before.
Phil replied: I don’t know anything about this company. My knowledge of these older Chinese ones is quite limited and I can only point you to the wikipedia entry for what I assume is the same company. Doesn’t sound like it was HK-based though.
The Lianhua Film Company (simplified Chinese: 联华影业公司; traditional Chinese: 聯華影業公司; pinyin: Liánhuá yǐngyè gōngsī; literally: “United China Film Company”) was one of the three dominant production companies based in Shanghai, China during the 1930s, the other two being the Mingxing Film Company and the Tianyi Film Company, the forerunner of the Hong Kong-based Shaw Brothers Studio.
The original name of the company was Lianhua Productions. It is also known by a large number of translated names, notably China Film Company, United China Film Company and United Photoplay Service. The full name of the limited company later on was called “Lianhua Film Production and Processing Company, Ltd.”
Lianhua was formally registered in March 1930 in Hong Kong by Luo Mingyou (Law Ming-yau) and his partner, director Li Minwei (Lai Man-Wai). In order to resist the invasion of American films that dominated the box office in Shanghai and other cities, Luo realized he would have to produce films that were equally attractive artistically and equally rigorous in the business of production and distribution.The Company put advertisements in movie trade journals that proclaimed it was a modern company that aimed to create a Chinese Hollywood. Luo’s plan was to build studios in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, to open a school to give up to date training for both technicians and actors, and to integrate the management of all these elements into a vertical organization on the Hollywood model.
1931, the entire enterprise transferred operations to the bustling city of Shanghai. That same year the Bright Moonlight Song and Dance Troupe, founded by Li Jinhui, would integrate with the film company. It is the first time a Chinese popular music group of any sort becomes part of the movie industry. The company would later prove to be instrumental in the rise of the first generation of shidaiqu music. Among the company’s leading stars were the actresses Wang Renmei, Li Lili, and Chen Yen-yen, who appeared in many box office successes.
The studio itself consisted of four branches studios: Minxin (China Sun) (which was also founded by Li Minwei), Dazhonghua Baihe, Shanghai Yingxi, and Xianggong Yingye; all four had been independent studios during the 1920s before being co-opted by Luo in the early 1930s.
By the mid-1930s, however, Lianhua’s fortunes had declined, as the war with the Japanese took its toll on both the company and the city. Japanese bombardment destroyed numerous Lianhua holdings including its Studio No. 4, and soon the company was losing money with each film produced. By 1936, Luo had left Lianhua’s management, and Li Minwei had reformed Minxin as an independent studio using Lianhua’s Studio No. 1. When the Nationalist forces withdrew from Shanghai in late 1937, it signaled the final collapse of the company. By the end of the war, Lianhua had generally been supplanted by other film companies, notably the Xinhua Film Company.
With the end of the war, several of Lianhua’s directors returned to Shanghai from Chongqing, Hong Kong, and other cities. Most notably was Cai Chusheng, who returned in 1946 and set about to revive the Lianhua name. Thus, the Lianhua Film Society was formed. Eventually, this new Lianhua would turn into the Kunlun Film Company (崑崙影片公司), which would go on to produce many of the most significant films of the 1940s, including The Spring River Flows East (Dir. Cai Chusheng, Zheng Junli, 1947), and Crows and Sparrows (Dir. Zheng Junli 1949).
- Lianhua Film Company – wikipedia
This article was first posted on 13th February 2018.
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