November 3rd, 2008

carole lombard 01
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A Shanghai surprise



If anyone is reading this in Beijing, no slight is intended, but Shanghai is arguably China's most cosmopolitan city. It now has skyscrapers sprouting all over the place, creating a nighttime splash of color rivaling New York's Times Square, London's Piccadilly Circus or Tokyo's Ginza district. And even back in the 1930s, when the above photo was taken, there was a substantial international presence in Shanghai. British, French, Americans -- people from all over the world conducted business in the city.

It thus shouldn't shock anyone that one could find Carole Lombard movies in Shanghai -- and now there's proof.

A program from Lombard's 1934 film "Lady By Choice" has just surfaced. It's mostly in English, with one page in Chinese. Here's what it looks like:






It's a foldout program for the session that premiered Friday, Dec. 7, 1934, with promotions for upcoming films ("Mrs. Wiggs Of The Cabbage Patch" and "Peck's Bad Boy") Reminders to the audience ("Beware of hat thieves!"), reservation information, and more. All in all, a fascinating artifact.



The film was shown at the Cathay Theater, which had opened on New Year's Day 1932 with the Norma Shearer-Clark Gable film "A Free Soul." The Cathay, catering to English-speaking western audiences, was built in an Art Deco style, seating more than 1,000. And, believe it or not, it still operates today -- although, according to the Cinema Treasures site, it was divided into three theaters in 2003 and now mixes Chinese and western fare.

This is certainly a rarity, and if you're interested (it's in fair condition), you can buy it at eBay for $19.99; go to http://cgi.ebay.com/1940-Shanghai-LADY-BY-CHOICE-Movie-Flyer-Carole-Lombard_W0QQitemZ310093591612QQcmdZViewItem?hash=item310093591612&_trkparms=39%3A1%7C66%3A2%7C65%3A1%7C240%3A1318&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14. It will be available for purchase until 5 a.m. Nov. 19, although under the "buy it now" provision it may not be around that long. (And if any of you are well-versed in the Chinese language, could someone please translate what that page says?)

We'll leave you with a still from a classic Hollywood film set in China that was initially banned there because of its portrayals of the Chinese characters -- Josef von Sternberg's "Shanghai Express," with Anna May Wong and Marlene Dietrich:

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