Playthings 小玩意 (1933)

The film:

Xiao wanyi
Alternative English titles: Little Toys, Small Toys
Written and directed by Sun Yu
Lianhua Studio
Date of release: October 10, 1933
Cast: Ruan Lingyu, Li Lili, Liu Jiqun, Yuan Congmei, Luo Peng, Tang Tianxiu, Han Langen
English subtitles translated by Christopher Rea

Ruan Lingyu and Li Lili star as mother and daughter, artisan toymakers whose livelihood is being ruined by mass-produced foreign imports. After her son is kidnapped, Sister Ye leads the community in supporting soldiers defending Shanghai against the Japanese invasion of 1932. Director Sun Yu harnesses the charisma of two screen goddesses in this parable about China’s urgent need for military and economic self-strengthening. Ruan’s final scene is a tour de force.

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Watch other films starring Ruan Lingyu:

Watch other films starring Li Lili:

Playthings is discussed in chapter 2 of  the book Chinese Film Classics, 1922-1949.