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Wang Renmei

The Wildcat of Shanghai

authored by Richard J. Meyer

Publication Year: 2013

Wang Renmei was on a fast track to become one of China’s leading film stars in the 1930s. Her early films were received with magnificent praise by audiences and critics alike, though she later lamented that she became famous too early and never had a chance to properly study acting. The film Song of the Fishermen in which she sang and played a major role was the first Chinese motion picture to win an International Award in Moscow in 1935. Wang’s personal struggles reflected the turbulent period from the end of the Qing dynasty to the rise of Deng Xiaoping. This study explores her artistic achievements amid the prevalent anti-feminist and feudal society in China prior to the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949—attitudes which contributed to the downturn of Wang’s promising career and forced her to accept various bit parts among the more than twenty films in which she appeared. In addition, personal problems as well as the Anti-Rightist Movement and the Cultural Revolution led to her hospitalization for mental illness. Wang’s life is emblematic of the experiences of many left-wing and Communist Party members from the Shanghai film community who were viewed with suspicion and enmity by the Yan’an clique headed by Mao and later the Gang of Four. Wang’s performances in World War II for the Nationalist troops as well as her work with the US forces in China had a dire effect on her career after 1949. Yet today, her films are being discovered again.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-xii

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pp. xiii-xvii

There are two positions one can adopt when introducing a speaker or an author’s work: one can speak or write from a position of authority and expertise, full of knowledge and nuance about the topic, or as a generalist, eager to learn about an area in which he or she has no special knowledge. I have had ...

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pp. xvii-xix

Although I write about the life and work of Wang Renmei, it has to be noted that her life was intertwined with Mao Zedong, one of the most influential Chinese leaders of the twentieth century. Her family was early supporters and followers of the man who led the Communist Party of China ...

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pp. xxi-xxii

I first saw the film Wild Rose in Pordenone at the world’s largest silent film festival. There, with screenings of other films from the Golden Age of Chinese Films, I discovered this masterpiece film from the Hollywood of Asia. Over the next decade and a half, I proceeded to seek out and view, in depth, those magnificent motion ...


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pp. Plate 1-Plate 20

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CHAPTER 1: Land of Fish and Rice

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pp. 1-8

The poem, “Changsha,” written by Mao Zedong about his days at the First Normal School in Changsha was a poem of nostalgia. He remembered the experience that he had under the leadership of math teacher Wang Zhengshu (Li’an) at the First Normal School in Hunan. The future leader of the world’s most populous ...

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CHAPTER 2: The Bright Moon Troupe

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pp. 9-18

Dressed in a crisp new school uniform with a gray shirt and a black skirt, 12-year-old Wang Renmei looked forward to her first year at the Hunan Provincial First Female Normal School. She aspired to do better in mathematics because of the influence of her father. She learned Guoyu, the standard oral Chinese used nationwide similar to ...

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CHAPTER 3: Overnight Stardom

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pp. 19-32

Wang Renmei was excited that the filming of Double Stars Shining in the Milky Way had been completed. When she saw the finished film, she was horrified to discover that most of the sequences she had filmed were eliminated because of technical problems. Another disappointment for her was the dismissal by Lianhua of ...

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CHAPTER 4: Song of the Fishermen and the Creation of Wildcat

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pp. 33-50

The year of 1933 was to become known as “Chinese Film Year.” Jin Yan was named “Emperor of Film” and Wang Renmei, because of her triumph in Wild Rose and The Morning of a Metropolis, was about to embark on a motion picture which would have international implications. This new film for her that Cai ...

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CHAPTER 5: Exodus from Shanghai

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pp. 51-80

All of the Shanghai movie actors were upset with the Japanese invasion. They decided to put on a play and work jointly to present Defending the Lugou Bridge. Both Wang Renmei and Jin Yan played parts in the production which was about the incident at the Marco Polo Bridge on July 7. Thousands of Shanghainese swamped ...

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CHAPTER 6: Chaos in China

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pp. 81-94

Returning to Beijing, Wang Renmei was delighted to become a part of the Beijing Film Studio and joined R the Chinese Movie Association. At a celebration, the members of the group went to the Forbidden City to meet with members of the government. Mao Zedong entered, took one look at Wang Renmei, motioned for her ...

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CHAPTER 7: Wang Renmei in the End

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pp. 95-100

Wang Renmei was keenly aware of events taking place in China during the 1980s, even though she was ill. She was very impressed with the work of Deng Xiaoping, and how he had assisted those who had suffered, including himself, under the Cultural Revolution. He had to intervene numerous times to mend differences ...

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Interview with Qin Yi July 4, 2009

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pp. 101-112

RJM: I became very interested in Wang Renmei after we had that discussion in Shanghai. Do you have any names and addresses of people who are still alive and knew Wang Renmei? QY: She has no immediate family. She had a brother who played the violin but he passed away last year. Her brother might have children who may still be alive. ...

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Interview with Dr. Wang Yong March 26, 2010

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pp. 113-124

RJM: Dr. Wang, I appreciate that you had time to grant me an interview. WY: Here is a book about my grandfather, Wang Renyi. My grandfather was Renmei’s older brother. He was four years older than she. ...

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Interview with Yuhua Dong June 12, 2011

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pp. 125-134

RJM: How long have you lived in Beijing? YD: 16 years. RJM: And where did you move from? YD: Hohhot, Mongolia.

Filmography of Wang Renmei 1914–1987

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pp. 135-140

Sources for Wang Renmei’s Films

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p. 141-141


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pp. 143-153

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About the Author

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pp. 155-157

Richard J. Meyer teaches film at Seattle University and is a visiting scholar at the New Zealand Film Archive. He was a distinguished fellow at the Center for Film, Media and Popular Culture at Arizona State University in 2007 and the Distinguished Fulbright Professor at I’Universita’ del Piemonte Orientale Amedeo ...

E-ISBN-13: 9789888180950
Print-ISBN-13: 9789888139965

Page Count: 144
Illustrations: 43 b/w illus
Publication Year: 2013