Module 8: Long Live the Missus! (1947)

Long Live the Missus 1947 production still

A Chinese take on the screwball comedy, featuring an over-eager-to-please upper class housewife, her unreliable spouse, and a glamorous seductress in Civil War-era Shanghai. Shangguan Yunzhu steals the show as the homewrecker “Mimi,” as does Shi Hui as the hilarious Old Mr. Chen. The tightly-plotted screenplay is by Eileen Chang, one of modern China’s most celebrated writers and author of the story “Lust, Caution,” and followed on the heels with her first cinematic collaboration with director Sang Hu, Love Everlasting (1947).

This module corresponds to chapter 10 in the book Chinese Film Classics, 1922-1949.

The film:

Taitai wansui 
107 minutes
Directed by Sang Hu 桑弧
Screenplay by Eileen Chang (Zhang Ailing 張愛玲)
Studio: Wenhua Film Co.
Cast: Shangguan Yunzhu 上官雲珠, Shi Hui 石揮, Wang Yi 汪漪, Zhang Fa 張伐, Lu Shan 路珊, Jiang Tianliu 蔣天流, Han Fei 韓非
English subtitles translated by Christopher Rea

Video lecture 1: The rise and fall and rise of the missus


14 minutes

Contents:

  • Cinematic collaborations between screenwriter Eileen Chang (Zhang Ailing) and director Sang Hu
  • A stylish, urbane commentary on gender relations and the institution of marriage
  • Plot summary
  • History: Civil war context, and references to current events in the film
  • Gender representation: what is a taitai?
  • Relations between men and women, husbands and wives, and between women
  • The theme of deception

Video lecture 2: Bitter backstories and (somewhat) happy endings


12 minutes

Contents:

  • Themes of bitterness (ku 苦) versus happiness
  • Genre: Twists on the Hollywood genre of the screwball comedy, aka the comedy of remarriage
  • “Little reunions” 小團圓: The ambivalent, ironic ending
  • Resonances with screenwriter Eileen Chang’s backstory

Learn more

Scenes from Long Live the Missus!

Read a translation of the full film Long Live the Missus! (1947), with images.

Animated opening credits, which use a fan motif:

Chen Sirui and Tang Zhiqin meet in a shop, each seeking to purchase pineapples:

The first appearance of Shi Mimi:

Chen Sizhen visits Mimi’s apartment and calls her bluff:

The last “missus” seen in Long Live the Missus!:

Comparisons with other films

See how the theme of a woman caught in an impossible domestic situation is developed in the first collaboration between director Sang Hu and screenwriter Eileen Chang, which was released earlier the same year, Love Everlasting (1947). This copy of the film is accompanied by a discussion of the film’s cinematic and literary context, featuring Professors Renren Yang and Christopher Rea (see the chat replay on the film’s YouTube page):

Compare the bowl-hiding routine in the opening scene of Long Live the Missus! with the hat-hiding scene in the Hollywood screwball comedy The Awful Truth (1937):

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