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CHINOPERL Papers No. 29 (2010)©2010 by the Conference on Chinese Oral and Performing Literature MANDARIN DUCKS AT THE BATTLEFIELD: OUYANG YUQIAN‘S SHIFTING RECONFIGURATIONS OF NORA AND MULAN CAROLYN FITZGERALD1 Auburn University In his memoir Dianying banlu chujia ji 電影半路出家記 (Memoirs of a Film Career Begun Midway; 1961), modern playwright, actor, and drama theorist Ouyang Yuqian 歐陽予倩 (1889–1962) recalls his experience writing the film script for his 1939 film Mulan congjun 木蘭從軍 (Mulan Joins the Army). After the outbreak of the War of Resistance (1937–1945), Ouyang left occupied Shanghai and arrived in Guilin in the spring of 1938, but then returned to Shanghai in the summer of 1938. He was paid a visit by Shanghai producer Zhang Shankun 張善琨 (1905–1957), who asked him to write a movie script for a costume drama to be directed by Bu Wancang 卜萬蒼 (1903–1974) for Shanghai‘s Xin Hua gongsi 新華公司 (New China Film Company). In response to Zhang‘s request, Ouyang suggested that they make an adaptation of the Hua Mulan 花木蘭 legend, and Zhang agreed. Subsequently, Ouyang began to read through Ming and Qing unofficial histories of the Hua Mulan legend, including one version in the Jiangnan tongzhi 江南通志 (Jiangnan Gazetteer; 1736), which recorded that Mulan committed suicide after the emperor ordered her to 1 I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers and the editor David Rolston for their helpful comments and suggestions on how to improve this article. Also, I am particularly grateful to Feng Jin for all her helpful comments on different versions of the article. In addition, Miranda Brown, Jing Jiang, Lydia Liu, Jianmei Liu, Benjamin Ridgway, Morris Bian, Ulrike Middendorf, and Shuen-fu Lin gave much needed feedback during different stages of my research on Ouyang Yuqian. Finally, Su Guanxin was very generous with his time in answering my questions about Ouyang Yuqian and helping me find materials at the city library of Guilin. CHINOPERL Papers No. 29 46 become his concubine.2 Moved by this account, Ouyang writes that he initially planned to write his film script as a tragedy about ―a woman who opposes feudalism‖ (yi ge fan fengjian de nüxing 一個反封建的女性).3 However, as he thought over his script, Ouyang changed his mind. In order to better promote the war effort, he concluded it would be best to write a movie script that ―boosted people‘s morale‖ (guwu renxin 鼓舞人 心) and produce a version of Mulan that was not tragic, but rather emphasized her ―bravery‖ (yingyong 英勇) and ―wisdom‖ (zhihui 智慧).4 Instead of sealing Mulan‘s fate with her eventual suicide, he therefore depicted a romance between Mulan and fellow soldier Liu Yuandu 劉遠渡, whom she marries at the end of the film. With its romantic plot and happy ending, Ouyang‘s film rendition of the Mulan legend was well received by wartime audiences. Upon its release in the spring of 1939 it netted a gross profit of sixty thousand yuan, and played for eighty-five days straight in Shanghai (fig. 1).5 Also, in 1942, Ouyang adapted the film into a Guiju 桂 劇 (Guilin opera) under the same title (fig. 2). The opera played to packed audiences in Guilin6 and was staged again in 1944 at the first ―Xinan juzhan‖ 西南劇展 (Southwest Drama Exhibition).7 2 Ouyang came across the Jiangnan tongzhi version of the Hua Mulan legend as cited in Yu Zhengxie 俞正燮 (1775–1840), Guisi cungao 癸巳存稿 (Manuscripts from 1833). See Ouyang Yuqian, Dianying banlu chujia ji 電影半路出家記 (Remembrances from a Film Career Begun Midway), in Ouyang Yuqian quanji 歐陽予倩全集 (The Complete Works of Ouyang Yuqian), 6 vols. (Shanghai: Shanghai wenyi, 1990), VI: 390. 3 Ibid. 4 Ibid. 5 For information on the reception of the film Mulan congjun see Ying Sun 鷹隼, ―Guanyu Mulan congjun‖ 關於木蘭從軍 (About Mulan Joins the Army), Wenxian 文獻 6 (10 March 1939): 1939): F32‒F35. For the film script, see Ouyang Yuqian, Mulan congjun 木蘭從軍 (Mulan Joins the Army), Wenxian 6 (10 March 1939): F1–F31. For an English translation of the film script, see Shiamin Kwa and Wilt L. Idema, Mulan: Five Versions of a Classic Chiniese Legend with Related Texts (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2010), pp. 53–102. 6 For information on the reception of the opera Mulan congjun see Hong Shen 洪深, Kangzhan shinian yilai Zhongguo de xiju yundong yu...


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