Ruan Ling-Yu: The Goddess of Shanghai (With DVD of The Goddess 神女)
by Richard J. Meyer
University of Hong Kong Press
149 pages, 49 illustrations, DVD of The Goddess 神女, 2005
Publisher website: https://hkupress.hku.hk/pro/319.php
Ruan Ling-yu: The Goddess of Shanghai tells the story of one of the greatest Chinese movie stars of the silent era from humble origins to tragic death at the height of her career.
Shanghai between the two world wars was a city of intrigues, political change, corruption, vice, social disparities, and creativity. It was here in the Yangtze River Delta that Chinese movie-making reached its peak. Feeding off the decay of their ancient civilization, and inspired by the frenzy to build a new one, the Shanghai filmmakers captured a crucial transition in Chinese history. Shanghai films of this period established the basic tones, themes, and techniques that would affect the future of the Chinese film industry. In order to appreciate Chinese cinema and its most famous actress, it is essential to understand this rich, formative period when the industry established its standards for creativity and social commentary. The individual whose films best reflected the turbulent times of the period was Ruan Ling-yu (阮玲玉). Her life and work symbolized the social currents of Shanghai and the tragedy of China during its long downfall.
This book provides context by describing the political and social conditions of life in Shanghai during this period. It covers Ruan’s production company Lianhua and her directors as well as touches upon her fellow performers. The conclusion discusses the legacy of one of the most important actresses of the silent screen.
The book contains photographs from Ruan’s most creative films that demonstrate the visual sophistication of her work. It also includes a complete filmography of all of Ruan’s films, a bibliography, a list of film archives that have her films, information about where to obtain film copies and pertinent websites.