Cantonese Opera and Grandview Films

Scene from Joy and Peace 娛樂昇平 (ca. 1947, Grandview Film). From left, Wong Hok-Sing 黃鶴聲, San Chu 新珠, Leung Bik-Yuk 梁碧玉, Wong Chiu-Mo 黃超武, and Tang Pui 鄧培.


Grandview Film Company’s first production, Blossom Time 歌侶情潮 (1933, also translated as Romance of the Songsters) was centered on Cantonese opera performers in America. Shot in San Francisco Chinatown, the film starred Wu Dip Ying 胡蝶影 and Kwan Tak-Hing 關德興, who later appeared in a series of popular Hong Kong movies as the kung fu character, Wong Fei-Hung 黃飛鴻.

Cantonese opera 大戲 continued to play a key role in future Grandview productions. The artform was a vital cultural outlet for an earlier generation of Chinese American immigrants and Grandview’s films featured both actors and storylines that drew from the tradition.

On the set of Joy and Peace 娛樂昇平 (ca. 1947, Grandview Film). Far left behind the camera is Joseph Sunn Jue 趙樹燊, and far right on stage is San Chu 新珠.

Pictured below are just some of the Cantonese opera performers who collaborated with Grandview Film, most getting their start in the movies at the San Francisco studio. These stories, along with a treasure trove of images that chronicle extraordinary transpacific careers, are featured in Arthur Dong’s book-in-development, Grandview Films: Cinematic Crossings with Joseph Sunn Jue.

Chow Kwun-Ling 周坤玲 | Patricia Joe

Wong Hok-Sing 黃鶴聲

Wong Chiu-Mo 黃超武

Luk Wan-Fei 陸雲飛

Wong Kum-Oi 黃金愛

Kwan Tak-Hing 關德興

Lai Yee 麗兒 | Marianne Quon

Wai Kim-Fong 韋劍芳 is pictured in this flyer for Cantonese opera performances at the Mandarin Theatre 大舞臺 (San Francisco, May 31, 1939).

Recordings of Cantonese opera performances were big sellers in the Chinese diaspora. The 78rpm, 10-inch shellac records pictured above were produced by American companies, from right, Victor Talking Machine Company in Camden, New Jersey, and headquartered in San Francisco, Golden Star Radio Company and Audiosonic Associates Records (mid-1900s).