A Fan of the Chinese Opera

vlcsnap-00044

Chinese opera star Gui Mingyang (1909-1958) in performance at Vancouver’s Jin Wah Sing Theatre. (Digital frame grab from BC Archives V1990:06/001.02 item #2, Royal BC Museum)

See the original 2014 article and the 1944 film clip here: A Fan of the Chinese Opera

This story looks at a fascinating amateur film showing scenes from a Chinese opera performance in Vancouver. Local filmmaker Oscar C. Burritt shot it 75 years ago today.

Assuming that he shot the film in the same place he took the related photographs (“the Chinese theatre at the foot of Columbia [Avenue]”), the film shows the interior of the Jin Wah Sing Theatre at 546 Columbia, between East Pender and Keefer. On the other hand, The British Columbia and Yukon Directory, 1944 (p.1336) indicates that this theatre was “not operating” in 1944—and throughout the Second World War, in fact. In earlier years, the building had been known as the Sing Ping Theatre and the Orient Theatre.

According to Robert Trio of the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, the banners or curtains in the film indicate that the opera was being staged by the Jin Wah Sing Theatre (振華聲劇團) , and featured Gui Mingyang (桂名揚), Wen Huamei (文華妹), and Lu Xuehong (盧雪鴻) in the cast.

In describing the photo shown above, Oscar Burritt says: “This star is Gui Mingyang, who would be one of the greatest, probably, next to Mei Lanfang—who was considered by many to be the greatest, although I don’t necessarily agree.” (This is another quote from the film clip [Oscar C. Burritt introduces The Lady from Shanghai] (CBC, 1969), V1990:06/001.02 item #2, description AAAA2510, BC Archives.)

In introducing Orson Welles’ The Lady from Shanghai to his television audience, Oscar talks about the film’s Chinese theatre sequence, set in San Francisco’s Mandarin Theatre. Here are two stills from the sequence, which I found at the website ReelSF: San Francisco movie locations from classic films.

LFS_chinese_opera_still_1LFS_chinese_opera_still_2

My article appeared in the Royal BC Museum’s online publication Curious, no. 1 (Winter 2014).

1 thought on “A Fan of the Chinese Opera

  1. Pingback: The Pier D Fire (Vancouver, 1938) | Seriously Moving Images

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s