Grandview Films: Cinematic Crossings with Joseph Sunn Jue chronicles the remarkable life and times of transnational filmmaker, Joseph Sunn Jue/Chiu Shu-San 趙樹燊, producer of groundbreaking American and Chinese films during the early days of cinema spanning the 1910s-1950s.
Currently in development from American Book Award-winning author and Oscar®-nominated filmmaker Arthur Dong, Grandview Films: Cinematic Crossings with Joseph Sunn Jue will be an image-filled coffee-table book inspired by Jue’s photographic archive that traces his personal and professional life. The author has also obtained files from Jue’s technical collaborator, Clifton Skinner, that illustrate their innovations. A selection of photos from the private collections of actors who worked with Jue adds yet another rich visual layer.
This treasure trove of images, mostly unpublished, will be enhanced with passages from Jue’s own writings to reveal a far-reaching creative journey — a journey set against parallel chapters of pivotal geopolitical shifts and the history of cinema, from the silent era to the onslaught of a technology that threatened the business of film: television.
Jue emigrated from China to America at the age of five in 1905 during a time when anti-Chinese bias was widespread, including xenophobic US immigration policies and discriminatory labor practices. After a brief stint in Hollywood, he rejected its racist methods and worked independently to produce films by, for and about the Chinese and Chinese Americans. Jue was among pioneer film practitioners who championed cinematic developments, including claymation, live-action sound, color, 16mm, 3-D, stereophonic film tracks, and anamorphic wide-screen projection.
In 1933, Jue co-founded the Grandview Film Company 大觀聲片有限公司 in San Francisco Chinatown with filmmaker Moon Kwan 關文清. The studio then established a Hong Kong branch and became one of the region’s leading producers during a transitional period in Chinese cinema, when China was undergoing a rise in nationalism propelled by the Sino-Japanese War.
Among celebrated artists who traversed the Pacific Ocean and worked with Jue and Grandview, many getting their start in the film industry at the San Francisco Chinatown studio, were producer/actress Marianne Quon/Lai Yee 麗兒, director/actor Wong Hok-Sing 黃鶴聲, director Esther Eng 伍錦霞, and actors Patricia Joe/Chow Kwun-Ling 周坤玲, Kwan Tak-Hing 關德興, Wong Chiu-Mo 黃超武 and Luk Wan-Fei 陸雲飛.
A recurring theme in these profiles, and in Grandview’s productions as well, is Cantonese opera. Originating from the Guangdong region of southern China, Cantonese opera was a vital cultural outlet for an earlier generation of Chinese American immigrants. This unique overlap of two art forms in Chinese American history, Cantonese opera and film, will be a motif in the stories of Grandview Films and its participants.
Grandview Films: Cinematic Crossings with Joseph Sunn Jue will be Dong’s third in a trilogy of coffee-table books that spotlight little-known stories of Chinese Americans artists, beginning with the first in his series, Forbidden City, USA: Chinatown Nightclubs, 1936-1970. For a preview of Grandview Films, see an abridged profile of Joseph Sunn Jue in chapter eleven of the author’s most recent book Hollywood Chinese: The Chinese in American Feature Films.
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Photo captions, top to bottom:
On the set of The Twelve Wives 金屋十二釵 (1937, Grandview Film Company 大觀聲片有限公司). From left: actress Nancy Chan Wan-Seung 陳雲裳, producer Joseph Sunn Jue 趙樹燊, and actress Lam Mui-Mui 林妹妹.
Joseph Sunn Jue, far right, directs his first Hong Kong-made film, Brother 難兄 (1934, Lianhua Film Company 聯華影業公司).
Flyer for Black Market Bride 黑市夫妻 (1948; note: this Chinese title differs from the flyer), produced in San Francisco Chinatown by Grandview Film Company.
Scene from White Powder and Neon Lights 金粉霓裳 (1947, Grandview Film Company) features Wong Hok Sing 黃鶴聲, center, in a heated moment among members of a Cantonese opera troupe in San Francisco Chinatown. Besides being a cast member, this film also served as Wong’s directorial debut.
Filmmaker Joseph Sunn Jue near the corner of Stockton and Clay streets in San Francisco Chinatown, ca. 1947. Work-in-progress cover design by Arthur Dong, © 2021 DeepFocus Productions, Inc.