Hong Kong Filmography Volume II (1942-1949) - Preface
Immediately after completing the publication of Volume One of The Hong Kong Filmography, the Hong Kong Film Archive's research unit got down to the business of working on Volume Two.
This volume of the Filmography documents all the Hong Kong films produced and released in Hong Kong in the 40s (from 1942 to 1949). The texts cover the title of each film and such basic information as year of release, production company, credits, synopsis, a scene still, and reviews.
First, an explanation is in order: since Volume One documents all the films produced in the pre-Pacific War period (i.e. all the films produced before the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong), the films of the early 40s (from 1940-1941) were thus included in Volume One.
During the occupation of Hong Kong (from December 1941 to August 1945), Hong Kong did not produce any films apart from the Japanese-produced The Battle of Hong Kong*, shot in the territory, and a handful of newsreel documentaries. About a year after the Japanese surrender, the Hong Kong film industry began its postwar recovery and Hong Kong films started to show up in the local market in December 1946. Thus, Volume Two of The Hong Kong Filmography documents the films that were released from 1946 to 1949.
Since we follow the rule that the year a film is produced is denoted by its date of release, we have included in Volume Two many films which were produced before the Pacific War but were released after the war. There are a total of 12 films that have their years of release marked under 1942 to 1945.
The process of compiling Volume Two is as follows:
Firstly, we compiled a list of all films produced in the 40s, based on previously published filmographies, such as the filmography of Cantonese films in the 11th Hong Kong International Film Festival's (HKIFF) retrospective catalogue and the filmography of Mandarin films in the 13th HKIFF's retrospective catalogue. In addition, we made use of 'The Filmography of Hong Kong Cantonese and Mandarin Films Produced in the 1940s', compiled and arranged by myself over the years. A more or less complete filmography was thus compiled in draft form after some arranging and proofing.
Next, we went to the Shek Tong Tsui Public Library to research into Hong Kong-published newspapers such as the Kung Sheung Daily News, Kung Sheung Evening News and Tien Kwong Morning News to compile a list of materials from primary sources (including newspaper advertisements, pictorial titbits, introductions of production crews, reviews and stills, etc). Thanks to South China Morning Post's kind assistance, we had the access to screen through the many boxes of Wah Kiu Yat Po and Wah Kiu Man Po which were kept in their warehouses. Following this, we researched the libraries of Sing Pao and Ta Kung Pao; we stepped into the library of the Hong Kong University to research old issues of the Sing Tao Daily and the Wah Sheong Daily. Newspapers published in the 40s in Guangzhou were examined at the Zhongshan University Library in Guangzhou for relevant information on Hong Kong films: these newspapers included Zhongshan, Jianguo, Guangzhou Lianhe, Yuejiang, Yuejiang Evening News, Liangyou and Daguang, etc.
Aside from newspapers, film magazines of the period such as Film Tribune (Dianying Luntan), Grandview Movieland (Daguan Huabao), Ling Sing (Lingxing), and the catch-all magazine Liangyou, were thoroughly researched. Books such as A History of the Development of Chinese Cinema, Anecdotes from Chinese Film History and Autobiography of Ng Cho-fan, etc, were also researched for relevant information on the 40s' Hong Kong cinema.
A great majority of the films produced in the 40s are lost. We were able to collect only 10 film prints. We collected 118 special souvenir programmes from the period, and 21 handbills. The information contained in these resources form a part of the texts in the Filmography, after being written and translated by the editorial team.
In the process of compiling Volume Two, we discovered that the recovery of the postwar film industry was rapid indeed. Production soared from some 90 pictures in 1947 to 143 pictures in 1948. In the third year of the recovery (1949), 179 pictures were produced.
Another outstanding development of the postwar recovery of the film industry was the dramatic increase in the production of Mandarin films. A total of 65 Mandarin features were produced in the postwar 40s, compared to only 20 features produced in the whole pre-war period. The main reason for this was the migration into Hong Kong of Mandarin film talent from Shanghai. Producers such as Zhang Shankun, Li Zuyong, Jiang Boying, etc, were no doubt responsible for the rise of the Mandarin film industry in Hong Kong.
However, Cantonese films still predominated in the 40s and many belonged to the genre of 'critical social-realist' films. Classics of the genre include Tears of the Returned One (1947), Everlasting Regret (1948), Dead End Case (1949) and so on. Other notable works from this period were The Fearless (1947), The Unfinished Story (1947), Fishing Village in the War (1948), As Time Goes By (1948), No More Retreat (1949), A Desperate Woman (1949), Love and Hate on the Sea (1949), etc. The Mandarin cinema produced notable pictures in the same period such as Gone Are the Swallows When Willow Flowers Wilt (1946), Three Women (1947), Road to Success (1948), etc.
Social realism in Hong Kong cinema was an offshoot of the influence exerted by Mainland Chinese films such as The Spring River Flows East (aka The Tear of Yangtze) (1947), and Myriads of Lights (1948), which were big successes at the box-office.
Though the compilation work on Volume Two was not as difficult as on Volume One, it was nevertheless a hard slog. This was due to the scarcity of basic research materials. The great bulk of our information was sourced from newspaper advertisements and isolated bits of published film information gleaned from reviews. Thus, we cannot claim to be comprehensive or complete. It is our hope that further research may be made to uncover more information to fill in the gaps or correct what is published here.
In preparing Volume Two, we have been invaluably assisted by the China Film Archive's Ms Zhu Tianwei who was able to retrieve over 20 film stills and synopses from Beijing - a rare feat. I give heartfelt thanks to Ms Zhu and the research unit's Janice Chow, Winnie Yuen, Angel Shing, Janet Young and Elvis Leung for their assistance.
*Editor's Note: The Battle of Hong Kong was the only film made in Hong Kong during the Japanese occupation. Directed by Tanaka Shigeo and produced by the Dai Nippon Film Company, the film featured an all Japanese cast but a few Hong Kong film personalities were also involved. Since this film is not a Hong Kong production, it has not been included in this Filmography.